Compost update after a brief break

Ideally the HCC heaps are turned every few days for optimal efficiency. However, Scott and I took a trip down to Melbourne this weekend just gone, and drove back up to Canberra today. I was excited to see all of the kitchen scraps waiting to go into the heap once we returned.

4 days worth!

Thanks to many hours of driving by Scott we got back with great timing and I had enough time to turn bays 1 and 2 before dark tonight 🙂

Grainy sunset compost photo

Bay 1 is now ready to receive any scraps that HCC members have been keeping aside! Thanks to everyone for being patient and accomodating to the disruptions in normal service. I’ll be looking into getting a few ‘compost monitors’ for next time I’m out of town. Especially now that the weather is heating up, it’s best to get the scraps into the heap to start degrading properly instead of just turning into a vinegar fly farm.

Whilst turning bay 2 I found the compostable packaging that Katia had given me so that I could assess it’s degradability. It was originally placed near the top of bay 1, then turned over to the bottom of bay 2. Of course the middle of each heap is where the best degradation happens, with extra heat. Now that the bag is in the middle of bay 3 we might be able to see some more noticeable degradation. It’s certainly already gone ragged around the edges. Has anyone else been getting packages sent in these home compostable bags?

The compost heaps are now back on track. Next thing to do is to wash all of the buckets!

That’s all from me for the moment, but make sure to stop by the ‘Party at the shops’ at Hackett shops this Saturday if you’d like to talk compost! I’ll be there, and happy to answer any questions as per usual 🙂

-Brook

Compost update and Open day debrief

Thanks to all of the HCC members who stopped by last Saturday to chat about compost and meet the worms 🙂 My head is now bubbling with lots of new ideas and thinking about all of the great aspects to the Hackett Compost Collective. I know I won’t be able to get all of the thoughts down here in a coherent manner but I think I can at least distill out the most important points.. perhaps over a few blog posts.

The most common question of the day had to be “How long does it take?” and the answer is – about a month or less! And that’s a generous estimate now that the weather is warming up as the degradation is going even quicker than it was over winter. And the soldier flies are back! Funnily enough we were talking about soldier flies on Saturday and today I noticed active larvae and a few adults in the heap again. I hadn’t seen them since Autumn, I’m pretty sure they don’t like Canberra winters! These little flies (well, their larvae really) are even more efficient at converting our scraps than worms are so it’s brilliant to have them in a compost heap.

Speaking of a fast compost heap, I took a video of my favourite thing to do right now:

Can you tell what that was? Yup, a corn cob. There’s just something so satisfying about picking up something that seemed so rigid a little while ago, and seeing it transform to something that can feed the soil once more so that we can once more grow tasty plants. Now whenever I see a corn cob during turning I reach in and see how it’s going. Most that I’ve seen recently have crumbled just like this one. And I haven’t even added any manure in over a week! Just lots of kitchen scraps, and a healthy community of bugs, fungus and bacteria.

And speaking of effective degradation I have to correct something. I think I may have been wrong about the mango pits! Today when I turned the heap I found two pits and they were not so impenetrable. The second one just needed a little squeeze and then I was able to crack it open to reveal the nutritious ‘meat’ (endosperm) inside. I bet the fly larvae will love it. Luckily mango season and warm weather co-occur.

This impressively fast composting is all thanks to the input from HCC members, as we all work to diverting kitchen waste from landfill. The bulk of the scraps and their nitrogen content, as well as all of the lovely juices really help to ‘cook’ the compost. The continual, small contributions from kitchens in Hackett and beyond help to ensure a constant food source for all of our buggy helpers. That just leaves a bit of tending from me to add a bit of carbon and moisture when needed, but most importantly to keep the whole heap turning.

This afternoon I turned bay 1 over into bay 2, then added a ‘blanket’ of material from bay 3 to keep it all humming. I just hope this doesn’t make it too hot for those larvae that hatched this week. Then again, maybe they will multiply and I might see even more when I turn the whole lot again in a few days. Because I enjoy turning compost so much I was tempted to then move the remaining contents of bay 3 over to bay 4 (the plastic composter). But bay 3 was still very hot in the middle, so it’s better if I keep mixing that in with layers of fresh scraps in bay 1. This will inoculate bay 1 again and keep the nitrogen levels about right. Even with this second time through the bays, and then another week maturing in bay 4 these materials will be ready for someone’s garden in less than a month from when they left someone’s chopping board.

To answer the question once more, the compost heap is very efficient and quick. This means we can take contributions from even more households! As always, tell your friends and neighbours.

I’ll have to write more again soon, but for now I think I’ll just balance out the brown photos above with something a little more colourful, and then say ‘thanks for the scraps!’