Autumn is a great time for making compost. There are lots of dried leaves and grass around and still some green material. Robin Fowler noticed that his Comfrey was getting hit by the frost, so decided he’d better build a heap quickly and invited Dargle residents to join him.
Comfrey is a good ingredient to add to the compost mix as the deep tap-root mines minerals from the soil which are then available in the leaves. It is a good ‘activator’ to get your compost going.
Ben, Sandile, Sanele and Sipho learnt to make a heap from scratch. First a layer of branches and twigs to allow air to pass through the heap and two poles in the centre also for aeration. “I didn’t know that air should pass through the compost” said Sipho Mthalane, “I found that interesting and I will do that in future.”
Building a compost heap is much like making a trifle – layers of different coloured materials all add up to something special. To ensure your heap heats up properly, it shouldn’t be smaller than 1m x 1m square. The bottom layer is branches and twigs for air circulation, next add brown – dried leaves or grass – for the carbon layer. Then comes the green layer, rich in nitrogen, of weeds, clippings, comfrey and old veggies. A layer of manure really speeds things up, so add this next and then repeat all the layers, watering each one as you go until the pile is at least 1m high. Rob also adds a sprinkling of bone meal to the layers. Cover with a thick layer of leaves, straw or old newspapers and leave your ‘cake’ to cook for a couple of months.
Everyone enjoyed a tour of the veggie garden and the worm farm which Rob and Tinks use for recycling all food waste. Sandile Ngubane gave Rob some advice for dealing with ants invading and harming the worms – a sprinkle of Borax does the trick.
Sandile commented afterwards “This was fantastic, I learnt a lot. We are definitely going to make good compost at Misty Meadows.”
The group was amazed to see a heap which had been made just a week before had reduced by about half already. This method of careful layering really does speed up the process. Tinks commented “On cold winter mornings we see steam rising from the heaps.”
The lovely piles of fallen leaves everywhere are just waiting to be become compost – collect them now! Of course, you need to use them to mulch your garden to keep it warm for winter first, but the rest can go into making compost.