Wednesday 12 June 2019

Unclean unclean

<Insert bell emoticon> [if you believe in emoticons . . . and have leprosy]. Last week was a bit slack, between the end of exams and the meeting to allocate final marks. I went in to The Institute only once to save the planet from the carbon footprint of several 80km round trips. There is only so much bloggin' a fellow can do at home without turning into a Shawshank Redemption extra, so I did some outdoor work. The real driver was to find some compost to fill the bottomless buckets to plant out the beans and courgettes that we started from seed 3 weeks earlier.  We have a parallel composting 'system' made with walls of 10cm concrete blocks; which would be more functional if there were more people to create kitchen waste.
  • A row of three 'domestic' bins [as above]: for kitchen peelings, 'good' garden weeds and some lawn-mowings
  • A row of three annual bins: for more pernicious weeds and enormous quantities of spoil from Autumn clean-ups
  • Fresh matter is started at one end of the row; left to rot a bit; occasionally turned . . . with a fork; when full, it is turned into the middle bin; which mixes things up and gets the top layer closer to the worms; that bin is left for a while and then turned into the last bin.
  • In order to make room in the last bin, it must be cleared. It should be then a "friable loam", full of goodness, suitable for nourishing the beans, tomatoes, chard and whatever is surviving under our 'care and attention'.
Should be a friable loam but only becomes that if the end-product is sieved out. We have a couple of garden sieves but they are a bit pathetic for high through-put. This year I used one of our collection heavy-duty plastic grocery crates. They have uniform holes in the base and are designed to be held in both hands = sieve! The result of my exertions yielded:
  • 8 bags of friable loam
  • a heap of ash-roots 
    • which strike up from the surrounding trees and penetrate the compost heaps
    • this is an excellent reason for being more active in the process of turning the compost: the heap is harder to work the longer the roots are left undisturbed
  • a couple of bags of 'lumps'
    • where do the stones come from? 
    • avocado stones do not bio-degrade
  • a bucketful of rubbish
    • where does the tinsel come from?
    • those orange paint-chips are from the last lawn-mower
    • tea-bags do not bio-degrade
One thing that I didn't really appreciate until recently is that the composting process is entire microbiological. The worms have only an ancillary mixing role - their gut flora is doing the heavy lifting. The microbes - bacteria and fungi - are chomping their way through the grass-clippings; banana skins and cabbage stalks. I make their work easier if I increase the surface area of the kitchen waste with a rough chop before throwing in the kitchen bin. It's a balance: I really want the trillions of microbes to do the heavy lifting because I'm getting too old and feeble. But a helping hand from me with a kitchen knife or garden fork is a great help to the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment