Grow Your Own – Week 6

GYO - week 6

Notes by Phil Dudman

There’s no doubt – compost is a gardener’s best friend. The benefits it has for our soil and our plants are almost endless. But even more than that, making compost benefits the whole community by reducing landfill and it’s associated costs – including greenhouse emissions. It’s a simple thing we can all do. Even if you are in a flat or unit, you can recycle your kitchen wastes using a worm farm or Bokashi bin.

How compost works in the soil

  • Compost feeds our plants by returning nutrients to the soil. It also feeds earthworms and other beneficial organisms that keep soil healthy and in turn improve the health of plants
  • Compost improves the structure of the soil helping to create tiny air channels that allow plant roots to spread and let air and water penetrate more easily
  • In a clay soil, compost loosens up tightly bound soil particles making clays better draining and easier to dig
  • In a sandy soil, compost acts like a sponge holding on to moisture and nutrients that would otherwise be leached away
  • Because it enhances soil structure and increases water penetration and holding capacity, compost improves water efficiency too.

Making compost

With benefits like these, it makes sense for every household to be recycling their organic waste and turning it into compost. You don’t need a lot of space to do it. An area of about 1m x 2m is generally enough for the average household.

It’s a good idea to have a bin or bay to store the materials as they breakdown. It’s easy to make a tidy compost bin using bits and pieces found around the home. I made mine from old timber posts, decking off cuts and corrugated iron. It looks great and works beautifully. Click here to download step-by-step instructions on how I built my ‘3-bay’ composting system. It’s an extract from my book Down to Earth Garden Design – How to Design and Build your Dream Garden (ABC Books)

You can also buy bins readymade and there is a huge selection available from straightforward on the ground open base plastic bins to freestanding solid steel tumblers. click here to download our handy buyers guide to what’s available.

Making compost is easy because worms and other organisms do most of the work for us. Download our fact sheet on the 4 easy steps to making compost. It tells you where to position your bin, what materials you can compost, how to maintain a healthy heap and how to make the most of your finished product.

Worm farming

Compost worms are remarkable processors of organic waste, munching through 3 times their body weight in a week and turning it into worm castings, a nutrient rich soil conditioner for the garden. Setting up and maintaining a worm farm is a lot of fun and it’s a good recycling option for people living on a small block or flat. It’s easy to do. Our 4 easy steps to successful worm farming click here shows you how.

Bokashi

This offers a great recycling option for people who don’t have space for traditional composting. In this system, kitchen wastes are added to a small bin (that can be stored in the kitchen) and sprinkled with ‘bokashi’, a dry material that is full of ‘effective microorganisms’. These organisms ferment the material and stop it from smelling. The actual decomposition of the organic materials takes place when you add them to the soil and when you do, it introduces lots more of these beneficial organisms to the soil.

Here is a video on how the system works.

Fact Sheets

Making compost (pdf 530k)

Compost bins (pdf 225k)

Worm farming (pdf 1Mb)