Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Compost Balancing Act

It took me such a long time to make compost successfully! I'd have compost that didn't break down properly or I'd have a stinky, too-wet pile that I couldn't spread anywhere. Then, after lots of researching (any excuse to watch gardening shows and DVDs) and talking to other gardeners, I was finally able to create crumbly, sweet-smelling compost that nourishes my soil. The secret was balance!

Achieving balance in a compost heap or bin means that things have to be added to it in the right proportions. Too much green, fresh material (such as veggie peelings or fresh lawn clippings) means a smelly, overly-moist mess. Too much dry, brown matter (such as leaf litter or shredded newspaper) means it takes forever to break down and you have no compost when you need it. I was often adding way too much fresh, green plant material. Soggy!

Fresh green garden trimmings ready to add to our compost bins.

I have found, within our rotating bin system, that I can achieve balance by looking inside the bins more regularly, smelling the piles inside and adding more fresh green or dry brown material depending on the level of moisture and the "fragrance" of the heap. Typically, I will often find myself adding more dry brown plant matter like the wonderful crispy fallen leaves from our neighbour's amazing plane trees. These deciduous trees drop their crunchy, crackly dry leaves every Winter and we rake them up to add to our compost bins as we need them. 

Dry, brown leaves destined for our compost bins.

The other key part of creating lovely compost is aeration. For us, this means spinning our barrels very regularly. Regular rotation stops the plant matter mixture inside the barrels from compacting and keeps the microbes, who do all the work in breaking down the composting materials, lively and happy. And, when those microbes are happy, in a compost pile with not too much green and not too much brown plant material, they will reward you with beautiful compost that you can nourish your garden with.

Compost from one of our rotating bins. 

Composting is the ultimate in recycling. All the plant matter that we direct into our compost bins would otherwise go to landfill where its goodness would be wasted. Instead, once broken down in our composting bins, it feeds the soil in which we grow the plants that feed us. 

Do you make compost at your place? What sort of system do you have?



  1. i have the same problem, my compost takes forever! i have lots of dry material not too much of the green, a little manure but i keep trying as i just pile it all up & hope that one day it will just compost! all my scraps goes to my chooks not the compost. i do like the chop chop lady with how she does it, in a hammock style compost, very clever that one.
    your gardens look lovely
    thanx for sharing

    1. Hi, Selina. I will have to read about this hammock-style composting. I've never heard of it before, it sounds intriguing! It did take me a long time to get my compost right and I now gather as much dry brown material as I can because that's what I'm generally in need of to stop my compost being wet and mushy. The bins we have are not, in my opinion, ideal but it is what we could afford at the time. They get very heavy as they fill with material and then are difficult to rotate.

      You are very lucky to have chickens. I don't have any chickens...yet! We do have a worm farm though and they are great recyclers too:)

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. Well done! Personally I've given up on compost and just use worm farms because I can't get the balance right. Fortunately the worms don't mind and do the work for me... your compost looks wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Liz. I can understand why you've given up on compost because sometimes it's frustratingly hard to achieve that balance. Worms are a great alternative though! We have a worm farm too and I'm currently on the look out for another one. My plants love diluted worm "tea":)