Like most things in my life, I seem to learn some very interesting things about gardening after I’ve given something a go, gotten it completely wrong, then gone back to read the ‘instructions’.
Composting is another one to add to the list.
You will just have to forgive me for my trial and error approach to gardening. Although I am determined to contribute to a more sustainable future and have a lovely garden to boot, I have been honest and have admitted to being a pretty incompetent gardener right from the start!
Anyway, last weekend I stopped playing with the worms for a moment and turned my attention to our poor neglected and overloaded compost bin. It was so overloaded that I’m too ashamed to show a photo of it!
The compost bin we use is the freestanding open bottomed variety, a bit different to the lovely tumbler type that I secretly desire and that Noelle from Ramblings From a Desert Garden featured in her great post on “The Joy of Composting”.
I had noticed that the bin had pretty much stopped functioning. Somehow the lid had been misplaced (what is it about lids in this household?) and the bin was overflowing. There was nothing for it but to dig around in it and have good look.
You know, if there is a good incentive to think about getting your composting right from the start, it’s having to pull out all the contents of the bin to find out why it isn’t working.
At the start I was fearful that the worst had happened and the bin had become anaerobic. It had not, instead it had simply stopped doing anything much at all, as it was too dry and contained too much twiggy material. I had to dig out more than three-quarters of the bin to find anything other than dry grass, twigs and the occasional kitchen scrap. Thankfully a lot of the twigs were from the peppermint geranium, so at least it smelt pleasant enough.
Finally, in about the bottom fifth of the bin I found some good news. Here I found a few inches of rich composted material alive with worms and lots of other little crawly things that signify that all is well in the compost world. I read recently that worms live in the top few inches of compost material. Effectively the top of my compost was at the bottom of my compost bin.
It was clear that a fresh start to get things moving along again was needed. I wanted to move the bin anyway, as it was sitting at the far end of my emerging butterfly and bee garden and I wanted the space for planting more insect attracting plants!
I am now putting a bit more thought into my composting and, as advised here by Gardening Australia trying to remember the simple rule of one bucket of wet material to one and a half of dry.
I am also trying to remember that 38 degree celsius days will dry out my compost as much as it dries me out, so I should remember to add some water occasionally!
Here’s an interesting side story – In the most recent edition of the Gardening Australia magazine there was a letter from a reader by the name of Judith Caine complete with an amazing photo. It shows the family compost bin having been taken over by bees. Not just bees visiting the compost, but a bin with a fully formed hive inside. Apparently after a couple of years the family wanted their compost bin back and asked a beekeeper to come and collect the bees. The bees would not be coaxed into one of the beekeeper’s hives, so he ended up taking them away with him compost bin and all!