Claire from Groovy Native Permaculture has generously shared her method for making an awesome hot compost heap at home. Claire spoke about her method at the Bream Creek Farmers Market on Sunday, and lots of market-goers also snapped up the hay bales and cow manure for sale – essential hot composting ingredients!
Claire has lots more great information about permaculture here. Thanks, Claire for a fantastic demonstration on Sunday, we love having you as a part of the Bream Creek Farmers Market!
For more information about Claire and her recipe for Creamy Quinoa Pudding (from the BCFM Cook Book) click here.
50% OF HOME WASTE CAN BE COMPOSTED
Sending our fruit & vegetable scraps to landfill creates methane gas which is 20 times more damaging to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide gas produced with home compost.
Making compost means we don’t need to buy fertiliser – compost is a fertiliser!
A 1-cubic-metre heap produces 1,000 litres of compost. Buying a 30L bag of compost costs up to $10 so you can save yourself around $300 per heap you make!
Save even more money by using this compost to make your own…
– potting mix (1-part sifted compost + 1-part coarse sand + 1-part coconut fibre)
Don’t use peat-moss as it is unsustainable, being from a finite source.
– seed raising mix (1-part sifted compost + 1-part coarse sand)
– compost tea (use an aquarium aerator to bubble a handful of compost – contained inside
an old stocking – within water for 24 hours. Spray over your garden for a microbe boost). – mulch
Quickly, but separately compost dog and cat poo using a product called ‘Shift’ which works in a similar way to a Bokashi grain – by fermenting with yeasts & fungi. It turns poo into humus within 2 months and is safe enough to use on your veg patch after 6 months.
HOMEMADE COMPOST ACCELERATORS
1-cup of Molasses in 1-bucket of warm water
Bran (preferably soaked in water first)
5-parts lawn clippings + 1-part fresh manure (buried in centre of compost heap)
Borage / comfrey / dandelion / nettles / yarrow / parsley (either separately or combination) 1-part Seaweed extract + 10-parts water (water with this when turning compost)
Azolla (from a dam)
Seaweed (not seagrass as it has less nitrogen)
BENEFICIAL ADDITIVES FOR SOIL MICROBES AND PLANT HEALTH
Rockdust – by Munash (adds minerals. Can use dolorite but is often contaminated with heavy metals) Micorhizzal Fungi – by MycoGold (adds beneficial fungi)
Seamungus – by Neutrog (mix of fish, seaweed, humic acid and manure)
Fulvic Acid (from humic acid which comes from humus. Improves nutrient uptake & moisture retention) Biochar (black charcoal. Improves moisture retention and soil structure)
Liquid Humate (from humus. Improves soil structure)
Guano (seabird/bat/seal poo. Rich in nutrients and minerals)
Kelp Chips (rich in vitamins and minerals, breaks down slowly to improve soil structure) Seasol (liquid seakelp) (rich in vitamins and minerals with a huge variety of additional benefits) Powerfeed (liquid fish hydrolosate with humus. Stimulates soil microbes)
Mushrooms (no red ones or Slippery Jacks) – adds beneficial fungi
EASY PEASY HOT COMPOST
Begin by accumulating 3 main ingredient piles;
Pile 1; Manure (high-nitrogen) (two or more types are best). Representing 25% of total ingredients.
Pile 2; GREEN (high-nitrogen) matter (fresh grass clippings, leaves, veg scraps etc). 25% of total. Pile 3; BROWN (high-carbon) matter (shredded paper, straw, old leaves etc). 50% of total.
Make everything as small as possible to speed-up decomposition and have enough of these combined ingredients to pile up into a 1-cubic-metre heap. This size is important. If the pile is bigger its weight will cause compaction and prevent air entering and if it’s smaller it won’t have the mass to generate enough heat. Plus water (ideally rain- water as chlorine kills soil microbes). And a Compost Accelerator and/or Beneficial Additives if you decide to use them. I recommend you do!
Assemble your compost heap by beginning and ending with Brown ingredients and using alternate layers of no thicker than 5cm each. Fluff them up as you go;
BROWN layer, 5cm GREEN + Manure layer, 5cm BROWN layer, 5cm GREEN + Manure layer, 5cm
And so on until you have a circle about 1-metre in diameter and 1-metre in height. Spray with water or accelerating solution as you go until it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Sprinkle Beneficial Additives throughout if using. If you have any, place kitchen scraps on a bed of manure at the halfway height, cover with more manure then continue building the pile around them. This forms the central ‘thermal core’.
Cover with a thick blanket-layer of straw and hessian sacking to prevent UV light from killing the soil microbes as well as retaining heat and reducing evaporation. Weight the hessian down at the base to stop the wind blowing the straw away, but don’t press on the heap or you will expel the air pockets.
If you have weed seeds or pathogens to kill, then monitor the temperature. Temperatures will rise to between 60o and 70oC within 5 days. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick your arm into the centre! If the temperature is right, you should be able to leave your arm there for no longer than 2 seconds. If you can leave it longer – your compost is too cold.
As soon as the temperature starts to drop, turn the heap by putting aside the blanket layer to cover with again, then taking the outer materials and rebuilding the pile placing them now within the inner core. The materials that were on the inside now go on the outside. Fluff the materials up as you do this to introduce more oxygen. Make sure that by the end of 1-month every item has been through the inner ‘thermal core’. Re-moisten if necessary.
If it isn’t getting hot enough – add more GREEN or Manure. If it’s too hot then wet it down as you rebuild it. *Frequent tossing to aerate is essential to success.*
After 28 days you should have turned the heap at least 5 times and it will stop heating up. Leave the compost to rest for at least 2 but preferably 6-months before using to allow the beneficial soil microbes to re-colonise.