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Compost – Making the most of waste – technical tips from Kim Morris, RIG News, April 2013

2014 January 3
by anthea

compost pileComposting or Green Waste – Making the most of waste… Story kindly provided by Kim Morris, Cairns for RIG News, April 2013.

 We create a lot of garbage around us. Most of this is useful in many forms and with little effort can be made into a very useful organic compost.  Australia has the most ancient soils in the world.  This is a great claim to how long the land has been here and how it has evolved, but sadly much of this old land is lacking in organic matter to grow good plants, bush, foods and shelter.

The red soils out west that sit over limestone have very little nutrition. In fact much of the former rainforest soils of the coast were only ever about one to 2 metres deep at best, they too are lacking in organic matter.

Soil is basis of all we do.  A big claim? Yes, but you think of it. All that we do is influenced by soil.  Good deep soils with plenty of water retaining matter are what we need to grow plants successfully – shade, building materials, food crops, shelter belts, creation of humidity, oxygen and reduction of carbon in the atmosphere that finishes up in the soil.

We can change dry red crumbly sand soils to rich productive soils that will hold moisture and nutrition and grow a big range of plants, but we need to get organic matter into the soil.

Shredded cardboard, packing, newsprint, dust, hair, vegetable scraps, grass clippings, weeds, prunings from trees and wood chips all combine to make a compost when mixed together.

Compost can be just about anything at all (except road kill and meat which will cause other problems).

Start with a small heap of anything you can find, keep adding to the pile while also adding some sandy soil (not much).

Make sure you turn it over to distribute the heat as it will get to about 60 or 70 degrees in the middle of the pile and this is what causes the compost process. Use a fork, rake or a bucket on a tractor to turn the compost as you get more of it.

You will notice that the volume you finish up with is about one fifth than when you started, so you will need a lot to make a large pile.

When the compost turns black and most of the ingredients are no longer recognisable, you can start using it in making garden beds, holes for planting trees mixed with local earth and as a top dressing on existing plants like fruit or bush food trees.

The more organic content of the soil the better the plant will perform. You will use less water and food for the plants which will stay in the soil instead of leaching and wasting water.

So composting, or what is called ‘Green Waste’ is a very useful by product of our lives.

Pictured at top: A stockpile of green waste – ready to use as mulch or to use with other green wastes to make compost.

Kim Morris, Registered Horticulturist, Past President, Australian Institute of Horticulture.

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