Composting for the lazy gardener



The Berkeley method is one of several composting methods that may be used in the home garden, however there are a number of other methods the home gardener may use to create their own compost.

The Berkeley method referred to last week involved gathering together at least one cubic metre of compostable material. By turning it regularly it is possible to create useable compost in 14 days.

There are other composting methods that may be used, some being extremely efficient while others take much longer but with less physical input.

For example, the Indore method takes up to a year to mature while the rotary bin is by contrast extremely efficient although there is an initial set up cost in purchasing the rotary bin (the one pictured last week was home-built).

The commercial compost bin, the organic path method and sheet composting are all other alternatives systems that may be incorporated in the home gardening situation.

The Indore method is designed for the lazy gardener. This method involves a minimalist approach however it takes considerably longer to produce good compost.

This method can be freestanding or can be contained in a structure made from bricks, corrugated iron, wooden palettes or wire. Alternate layers of low nitrogen and high nitrogen materials need to be assembled to a depth of one to 1.5m. The heap should be 2m square at the base, tapering to around 1.2m if freestanding.

Lay a foundation layer of coarse prunings, tree branches or brush to facilitate good aeration. Layers of lawn clippings, leaf litter, animal manures, top soil, vegetable scraps, lucerne hay, vacuum lint, etc may all be incorporated into the heap. Do not however make the layers too thick with one material, you may experience problems.

Once you have established a compost heap of the dimensions as described above cover the heap with five centimetres of soil to deter any flies and to limit the escape of any unpleasant odours.

Turn this heap after eight to 10 days and again after a month. With the right blend of materials and with ideal climatic conditions you may have compost after two months. With no turning it may take up to a year.

Small commercially available compost bins are often best suited to the small garden. They are an excellent way of composting kitchen scraps and moderate amounts of garden materials, including lawn clippings, leaf litter, etc.

When using kitchen food scraps its advisable to add small amounts of garden soil to prevent the food scraps becoming a sloppy mash. The soil will also introduce a range of necessary soil microbes.

By forking the contents regularly you will speed up the process of decomposition. Also ensure the compost heap is kept lightly moist but not damp.

Fly mesh placed under the compost bin and wrapped up around the edges will prevent vermin and pests entering the bin.

Place coarse material in the bottom initially to allow for good aeration.

The pathway or trench method is an efficient composting method that requires little space and can be incorporated into the vegetable garden. Where you have pathways between the garden beds you turn them into your compost heap.

Put simply this method involves gathering materials with an average Carbon/Nitrogen ratio of 25 to 30, mixing then and laying them in trenches 30 to 50 cm deep. These trenches simply act as the pathways between the garden beds. You may top dress these pathways with wood shavings, top soil lucerne hay or pea straw to give a good surface to walk on.

These pathways are then left undisturbed and over several months the materials will slowly decompose. This composting method involves little manual labour and benefits from any fertiliser applied to the garden and benefits from the watering of the garden.

These pathways can then either be cleaned out and the material added to the existing garden beds or the pathways can themselves become the new garden beds.

This allows you to let the previously planted beds to lay fallow for a season giving the ground time to recover.

WEB images from the Indore composting method developed by Sir Albert Howard (pictured).


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