When the leaves fall, make compost.

Well, autumn is here and what a relief, the last couple of summers in Perth have just been getting ridiculous, but now with the cooler weather its time to get some things done around the property.

I have realised now after a few years that doing things in WA the same as they are done in the US or UK doesn’t really work, the heat of summer sapps all enthusiasm and makes the smallest jobs seem imposable.

I now know that the productive times to work outside are autumn, winter and spring and that the best use of my time in the hight of summer is sitting on the beach, surfing, fishing or taking a leisurely stroll through the garden harvesting the fruits of my toil in the cooler months.

So I got to work.

I need carbon,
After searching all over the place looking for an abundant supply of carbon I found out that this can be a bit tricky to find in a large enough amount to make its collection quick and efficient, I have found a never ending supply of wood chips but i want to make a bacterially dominated compost and the wood chips tend to be more fungaly dominated. And that’s when I found it!

Leaf mecca, Leaves on fence

Leaves on fence

 A whole bunch of liquid amber trees had been planted on the side of the road that runs through an old industrial area and lucky for me they had put a fence up at the end of a wind corridor and all the leaves gathered up against it, The Photo does not do this place justice, this is a massive pile of leaves!

It took about 5 minutes to completely fill this 1.5 cubic meter bag compressing the leaves as much as we could. I intend on going back to this place to get some more and will probably hire a shredder vac as I estimate this will allow me to fit about three or four times the amount of leaves in one bag.

Waiting for the wind to do the work for me!

Waiting for the wind to do the work for me!

Once I got the bag home I gave the leave a few passes over with the ride on mower to chop them up a bit, this didn’t work very well and gives me more reason to use a shredder vac next time.

Ok so carbon is sorted, now for some green stuff.

This was actually fairly easy I had spread a cover crop in the area that is to become our main garden and it was about a foot high so I just wipper sniped that off and raked it up, ended up with a pile about the size of the leaf pile.

And some poo, of course

For this I took the kids around the padlock and collected some cow poo from the two cows, about four wheelbarrow loads. I also collected about 15 to 20 litres of fish poo from one of my aquaponics set ups (this was a happy little design accident, when I built the set-up I accidentally made a section that filters out any heavy solids and makes them easy to harvest, ill make a video an the aquaponics stuff soon.)

I also collected a wheelbarrow load of wild taro that has gone crazy in the brook at the bottom of our property. (more on this soon too) I was thinking this would be a great activator.

Now I have my ingredients its time to bake!

I was not a hundred percent sure that my ratios were correct but there is only one way to find out, I personally thought it was a bit nitrogen deficient but decided to go ahead any way. I piled up all the ingredients using a bit of each in proportionate layers until I had used it all up, this is a bit of an exorcise in estimation trying to get all the layers incorporated into the pile without having any left over at the end.

Compost pile half made

Compost pile half made

When I had finished the pile and used up all my ingredients I then added water until it was thoroughly soaked and covered it very loosely with a tarp to stop it getting to wet if it rains.

After 4 days I did my first turn and I think I’m a little heavy on nitrogen, the centre of the pile was a bit smelly and it had also shrunk a little bit, I think that because the green was mainly nitrogen fixers it was a bit more nitrogen heavy than I thought.

2 days latter second turn looks good, not as “hot” as I thought, still a tiny bit stinky Ill keep informed as I go, and put some more photos up.