Will it compost? – mango seeds

So a while back when I was collecting kangaroo droppings from our street (yes, these are the kinds of things I do for fun!), I found the strange hairy thing that you can see in the bucket below.

It was a mango pit and amazingly it was starting to break down. I say ‘amazingly’ because with all of my composting I had never seen a partially broken down mango seed before. This one had been through the compost, and then buried in an old planter box where some tomatoes grew last summer, and then uncovered much later. Mango seeds are very tough, but more than that they are also not brittle at all, so not easily broken into!

Tearing into the seed I was confused to find a bunch of puzzle-like pieces but then I learnt that mangoes can produce polyembryonic seeds. Cool! According to this websiteΒ that means that there are multiple embryos within the one seed. One of these will be fertilised but the others will all be clones of the mother plant. Seeds are such fascinating things πŸ™‚

Anyhow, the answer to the question above is ‘no, not really’. You can see from the photo above that even after being in compost and soil the fibrous coating on the mango pit is fully intact. The seed coat bearing these hairs was also still very tough. So until the HCC gets a heavy duty shredder I’m not sure that these will be turned into compost anytime soon? Feel free to still put the pits in the buckets if you like, as the remants of sweet pulp on the outside of the pit will supply the compost with useful sugars. The pits themselves will be removed with sieving!

Good quality compost!

The current HCC arrangement of 4 seperate composting bays is quite full, now that lots of lovely people are donating kitchen scraps (and leaves, and horse manure). Therefore it’s time to shift some compost! I’ve been maturing (hoarding) the beautiful sieved product by letting it sit untouched in a 60L bin for some weeks now. But I need to make way for more of the same. Today I added some of the sieved compost fines as a top dressing to some of my favourite plants in the garden. It should give them a boost as they relax into the mild Spring weather.

Top row: compost/potting mix half/half; bottom row: potting mix only

I also carried out a little bioassay of the compost about a month ago. I added cheap potting mix to one row of a seedling punnet, to another row I added a blend of potting mix and compost, one part each. Then I sprinkled some dill seeds on top and waited. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long and the seedlings are looking great! Does anyone else want to try with a different type of seed? I set aside the rest of the finished compost so that other HCC members can use it to raise their own seedlings πŸ™‚

The rest of this finished compost was ‘divvied up’ into small tubs and buckets and is on offer to contributors to the HCC. If you’re not keen on raising seedlings then it’s also a great top dressing for indoor plants. As it has been produced with hot composting I can’t guarantee that all seeds have been destroyed so you may get some tomato seedlings anyhow! When I get around to it I’ll put a donation box out front also, in case you’d like to reward the hard work : ) but you can also donate to the HCC in general via the patreon page.

I also dug some non-sieved compost into the garden, around the base of some fruit trees. Therefore there is once again room in the first bay to keep transforming the kitchen scraps. Keep up the great work HCC!

Compost update

With plenty of collections and drop offs throughout the last week the first bay of the compost was definitely full by Friday.

The HCC is now a 4-bay system, with plenty of material coming in to keep those 4 bays nice and full. There are the 3 bays of the wooden compost bin to start the process and get nice and hot and then I’m using another composting bin as a ‘holding bay’ for half finished compost.

‘bay no. 4’

Some of this partially composted material is going back around again, starting in bay no. 1 again and cycling through. This gives it a good chance of breaking down further. This half finished compost is great to dig into garden beds though, or as a nutrient rich base layer for plantings or new beds. If you’re interested in taking some of this material then send me an email at hackettcompost2602@gmail.com.

I’ll certainly have to sieve out some finished compost and also move on some of the half finished compost soon because as at the time of writing all 4 bays are pretty full.

progress by Sunday afternoon, bay no.1 is now nearly full again!

All of this pitchforking is pretty hefty work, but it’s work that I enjoy πŸ™‚ Call me weird but I love seeing things like once-substantial corn cobs crumble in my hands, and all of the little critters enjoying the muck. Actually even the little wrens and many other birds have been loving the compost heap, it’s a pretty thriving ecosystem!

And parts of the heap not intended for fast degradation are being recycled anyway by this local magpie:

With the HCC compost bins filling up and yet more households joining I’ve had to think about adding a new ‘node’ to the HCC. Options are being explored!

In the meantime, keep contributing your scraps and I will clear out some of the current compost (finished or nearly so) to make way for them.

-Brook

 

How else can I help the HCC grow?

You can give me money! I have a patreon account πŸ™‚

But money isn’t everything, so more about that later.

First I want to stress that the HCC works because it is a community effort. As such it would be great to receive all different kinds of inputs from community members. Obviously there are the kitchen scraps, which are being turned into high quality compost, which will be returned for community use. But it’s not just about that useful product. It’s about waste reduction and moving towards a circular economy. It’s about working towards no organic waste going into rubbish trucks in Hackett πŸ™‚

I have loads of ideas about how to increase the activities of the HCC. Some of these involve getting new equipment and I’m happy to invest in various items. In fact I’ve already bought a new toy, a pH and conductivity tester, in order to assess the compost produced at the HCC*.

I actually thought that one of the first items that I might need is a bike trailer, to handle multiple bucket pick ups but at the moment I can manage with bike panniers. This is due to the fact that many lovely HCC members are regularly or occasionally dropping off full buckets right to my door. This is fantastic! I can focus on monitoring and adjusting the heap while others supply the feedstock.

Speaking of feedstock, the kitchen wastes are a great source of nitrogen rich materials but we also need carbon rich materials like dry leaves, shredded paper (including newspaper) or straw etc. So if you’d like to either stockpile or supply some of these materials that would be a huge help to the HCC. Perhaps you have a compost bin that isn’t operating, or is slowly cold composting. If you can use this to stockpile some carbon rich materials I would be happy to come collect some of them periodically.

As I said above, the HCC is a community effort. In order to do some ‘community building’ I’m planning on hosting an afternoon tea get together sometime soon (waiting for Spring!). All of the contributors that I’ve met are lovely people. My apologies if you are a contributor and I haven’t introduced myself yet! But I’m looking forward to meeting all of you at some stage. And hopefully a bunch of you will be able to come to the afternoon tea. If you’d like to help out and bring along a plate that would be great, but people will also be welcome to pop in for a quick cuppa. The tea leaves and coffee grounds will go straight into the heap of course!

Another way that people have been a great help is supplying buckets. It’s fab to see these handy little plastic receptacles be continually useful, before they eventually make it into recycling. Reuse > Recycle!

Now onto the sometimes awkward topic of money! The HCC is my hobby. Would I like it to be a small business that employs an enthusiastic team to help me make lovely compost? That would be great. But I do have a day job which I like and the HCC is still small enough that I can manage both. It’s also nice to consider that people in our community value activities such as the HCC that contribute towards a circular economy. As another example, a good friend of mine was recently proud enough of her purchase of new produce bags from Tulgeen Stiches and PrintsΒ that she happily promoted them on her social media account. I hope that I’ve shown above that the value doesn’t always have to be expressed in money, but a few dollars here and there can certainly help. So that is why I have set up a patreon account for the HCC. Patreon is a platform for supplying payments to creators who make great art or funny comics or interesting videos etc that most people these days enjoy for free. Most of the accounts looking for support are from creative artists but also some educational works. I’ve contributed to a few educational resources in my previous work and I would love to construct some of these to promote composting and all of the reasons that it is fascinating and rewarding. For the moment though any monetary contributions will support the actual composting that is already occurring at HCC. And I will be completely transparent about where those funds are being spent.

If you’d like to see the HCC grow then please support me in any way that you can. It can be as simple as taking a minute to tear up some paper to add into the bottom of your collection bucket πŸ™‚

https://www.patreon.com/hcc2602

*I’ve also looked into commercial testing for the compost, but I don’t think I can justify the cost at this stage, although it would be very interesting!

thanks for the scraps! – Brook

Keeping up with demand

The HCC got a mention in the Hackett Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter! Thanks very much to Barb who edits this great little periodical, for helping to share the word about the compost collective.

The newsletter is certainly well-read and has led to quite a few new members contributing kitchen scraps to the HCC. Welcome all!

This coincided with an impromptu holiday on my part so unfortunately I couldn’t be as responsive to new members as I would normally like to be. Hopefully waiting a few days to receive a bucket, or to have a bucket swapped, didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for waste diversion.

Thanks very much also to some regular contributors who dropped off their waste on my front steps, it was lovely to come home to these degradable goodies πŸ™‚

With all the new members the 3-bin compost system is now mostly full most of the time. That makes for an efficient hot composting system that can break down waste in a matter of weeks. The HCC can still accept new households into the fold as long as I keep up with clearing out the finished compost and keeping it all turning over.

The efficiency of the system relies on maintaining the right mixture of carbon and nitrogen rich materials. The veggie wastes from everyone’s kitchen provide a great consistent source of nitrogen rich materials. Nevertheless, I couldn’t say no to another rich feedstock material when Ceri from the Hackett Agistment paddocks let me know that there was horse manure available.

Lovely fresh horse manure, thanks Ceri!

Funnily enough, before the HCC had all of it’s new members I was scouting around for a local source of manure so that I could heat up the compost heap. Now that so many kitchen wastes are entering the heap the manure is not necessary but it’s still great to add a little to push the degradation processes to be a little faster. Of course with all of these Nitrogen rich sources entering the pile I have to balance them with quite a bit of Carbon rich materials. Luckily I still have a stockpile of autumn leaves, allthough this is now dwindling.

Not the full bag it once was!

If anyone has some dry leaves that they would like to get rid of then I’ll happily take them off your hands!

And speaking of increased demand for composting services there is now another option for households in Canberra if they need somewhere to transform their kitchen waste. The Canberra Environment Centre has a new composting machine, the OSCA (On-site composting apparatus). Scott and I attended the launch of this great little machine yesterday. It was fab to hear from and talk to people with the same values and future positive vision as those that underlie the HCC mission. It’s all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions while transforming waste into something useful!

Ribbon cutting by ACT Minister Shane Rattenbury, Ryan Lungu the director of the Canberra Environment Centre and Karina, project manager for the OSCA

The best thing about the OSCA is that the Canberra Environment Centre is going to use it as a demonstration of waste transformation and learn more and more about the composting processes. And they’re even going to share these ‘learnings’ with composting hub sessions where anyone can go along and learn how to best manage their organic waste.

As usual thanks for all the scraps and keep those buckets coming!

-Brook