To grow the best vegetables you need the best compost. Courtesy of Jennie, Regional Director of Enviroschools in the Otago Distrcit, whom I also WWOOFed with in her off-grid home, we have a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your vegetable patch.
40-60 nitrogen-carbon – What does that mean? Simply put, for a nutrient rich compost you need a balance of 40 per cent nitrogen giving materials and 60 per cent carbon. Here is a quick list to simplify matters:
- Carbon: Shredded newspaper, wood, ash, straw, cardboard, wood chips, pine needles.
- Nitrogen: fruit & vegetable scarps, grass clippings, weeds, chicken manure, coffee grounds, tea leaves.
Give it air – Compost needs to be aerobic. It means quicker decomposition thanks to more heat created. It also reduces odours.
Do this through layers – You will need to stack layers to allow bacteria to break down all the materials at a good pace. The best way to do this is with layers of nitrogen and carbon then fruit and vegetable scraps.
Turn it – For best results use a garden fork to turn the compost every 7-10 days. This speeds up the process mentioned in the above point.
Break things up – Your compost will be ready quicker if its components can break down easily. Smashing up those egg shells, shredding those newspapers and snipping banana peels will speed up this process.
Be patient, the first batch takes 3 months – But once it’s ready then you can have a system in place so you’ll never run out. You will need three different compost sections; one that you can take from, another that is composting, and a third section where you can dump into. Shuffling around these sections every three months will guarantee a steady supply of good compost.