After a question from a mate about compost, I thought why not write a post on Grow Eat Run and share my compost recipe with the world too. We have a clay based soil at home and it's taken me a few years to improve the soil in the herb garden and vegetable garden but it is worth the time. The seedlings and plants are healthier and the produce is fantastic. There's also a much lower attrition rate in the seedlings that I lose in the first few weeks of planting. Composting is also a great way to re-use your lawn clippings and kitchen scraps but I do follow a few golden rules that I have learnt and keep it as simple as I can.
So how did I get it started? I started the compost the same way I built my raised beds, using a mix of sugar cane mulch, manures, blood and bone and a good dose of seasol (seaweed extract). Think of it as a huge lasagna and that it needs to be done in layers. If we say the sugar cane mulch is like the pasta - the main ingredient and what is going to hold it together, the manure is like the meat sauce - where all the good stuff comes from, and the blood and bone and seasol are like the cheesy white sauce - to add some extra goodness, but you just don't need as much. If this makes no sense to you, I'll explain it another way - a layer of sugar cane mulch, add a layer of manure and top it with some blood and bone and seasol - repeat until there's no more. You should have about 3 to 4 layers. I use sugar cane mulch instead of pea straw because I used pea straw mulch once and I had peas growing everywhere! Also, sugar can mulch is a little heartier and will take longer to break down. I use a mixture of manures, what I can get from farm's close by or from any gardening or livestock feed supplier. Lastly but not least, it's important to water your compost.
Now that you have laid out the basics of the compost you can start adding to it, every day if you like. The majority of organic material that gets thrown into the compost is fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, egg shells and lawn and garden clippings. You can add shredded newspaper or cardboard too. The things I do not throw on the compost are: dog poo, weeds, dairy products, meat or bones. The dog poo is bad for the pH of the compost and do you really want it in there anyway? The weeds are self explanatory, you're already taking them out of the garden and you don't want to put them back in especially if they contain little seeds or bulbs. Keep meat, dairy and bones out as this will attract vermin, and none of us want mice in the compost. Feed the compost some blood and bone and manure every few months, top it up with some sugar cane mulch if it's looking a little wet or just full of kitchen scraps. Alternaltively add some water to it if it's looking dry. You want to create an ecosystem in there that worms will love. Don't forget to aerate the compost by turning it with a fork or shovel every few weeks and mixing it all up.
I can't guarantee that it's going to work perfectly for you, but I wish you well in your composting! I've added a few fact sheets below from the ABC's Gardening Australia - great advice!
Happy gardening! X
ABC's Gardening Australia
Fact Sheet on Managing Compost: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s2748946.htm
Fact Sheet on soil improvement: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1503292.htm