Not perhaps the best images – but this is a European Green Woodpecker that was in the garden yesterday morning alongside the other birds, like the female blackbird in front of it a ways. The image quality is poorer than normal because Suze caught it from the window in my office through the glass on her mobile phone so it is somewhat blurry – but woodpeckers are not that social and would not tolerate us outside. But it’s lovely to see them when they visit. Yesterday we had a busy garden in so far as bird life.
[Taken from my office through window] Before l started in the garden, we had blackbirds, wood pigeons, woodpeckers, starlings, wrens, robins, sparrows, tits and chaffinches all in the garden on the feeders and all playing nice with each other.
For Greater Satisfaction, The Wetter, The Better!!
Season 3 – Autumn/Winter 2019/20
It was a good few years ago now, hell we are talking decades when l got that advice – “For Greater Satisfaction, The Wetter, The Better Rory!!” The advisor was not referring to gardening or for that matter composting! Well l am pretty damn sure she wasn’t anyhow as the situation and environment for that advice back then was …. way different! But strangely enough it applies here for this post.
So, l am going back to my roots with regards composting prior the big pallet system and taking on board the learned experiences when using the method above – which was smaller, tighter space, warmer and wetter. [mm ha ha]!
With the new trio of composters which l have set up recently and currently have two of the three in location. These units measure 3 feet by 3 feet by about 30″ tall so not a bad space whereas the 2016 300 litre system above measured at 2 feet by 2 feet by 30″ so hardly surprising that the new units are going to work in a similiar fashion to the system from three years ago. I will be reusing that older system later on this season but for leaves and not actual compost.
So l started to work on the compost heap yesterday in so far as transferral of content to the new system. I decided to transfer differently this time which was to transfer the entire heap by hand and bucket ONLY and not pitchfork it across. I did this because l really wanted to understand what made my compost pile tick? If l want to improve and increase the speed efficiency of the pile and in so doing ensure that l am able to have a richer production yield of ready to use compost – then l figured it would be a small price to pay to basically ‘hand ball it’ for the first move to the new system.
I had questions of my own that when pitchforking the content you tend to not have addressed because of the very method in which you are employing to turn and till the compost itself.
5″ of compost into Unit 1
Where is the heat? How dry is the centre? Where are the worms? What type are they? At which stages is the compost in with regards the decomposition process from added content weekly? How can l speed up the composting and decomposition process? Is there a similiarity between the two styles that l can adopt? How well does the kitchen waste breakdown and what speed? What’s the smell like? Is the compost heap balanced? Is it too wet or too dry? There were many, many questions and many of them, l got the answers l was after.
5″ of compost out of old unit.
I was actually really impressed with the progress l made yesterday, and l am now about two thirds through the heap and the content that is left, l originally thought l would be sieving for compost, but decided against that on the grounds that when l injured my shoulder in January 2018, the last time l actually turned the compost pile was in April of 2018 – then Suze in late March 2019 sieved some of the older and stagnant compost out and we used that for the gardening this last season gone. I think that was a bad move for our garden this year, no one’s fault – just life.
However l didn’t feel comfortable using the 2018 winter/spring compost third that had been sitting for mostly a year despite a small turn 8 months ago for anything for this coming 2020 season, even for mulch, so decided to turn it over into this season’s compost heap and what l will do is turn it a couple of times and mix it with the 2019/2020 compost heap to ensure it is thoroughly turned and tilled.
The method l applied for this compost creation was principally just transfer of composting material so no need for green, brown and bracken layering – but from this point onwards l will not be adhering to that layering system anymore as what l will be doing is just putting garden waste and kitchen waste in as one layer – irrelevant to whether it is brown, green or bracken, it will all just go into one layer.
Now with the transfer of material from the old system to the new system, l applied the following:
5″ mixed content, layer of coardboard, assorted scrunched egg cartons or cardboard strips, firm up as in press down to seal any air pockets in the soil, 1″ compost layer and any kitchen waste or vegetation and then water down, then wash , rinse and repeat the process all the way to the top.
That was the process for unit one, as that holds two thirds of the old system and top two thirds happen to be the active part of the newer 2019/2020 heap. The last third is really a dead heap as that would be ready to simply sieve, but as discussed l am not doing that just yet and am choosing to make it part of the new 2019/2020 heap.
With the hand balling of the heap, l could also at this stage really fine tune the new season heap, by removing stones and strappy vegetation and this would in turn make it much easier for me come the turning phases which will not begin until the first week of December and then continue to be turned until roughy May 2020.
Whilst l was hand balling the compost, many of my questions were being answered. I was fascinated with the whole process of the inner workings of the composting process – having never really turned a heap by hand before. But even in the small space of time from the last time l had attended to the heap which had been five days previously. The heap had an enormous heat at its centre, the worms stuck to the outside for obvious reasons [as in the heat would kill them], some things simply don’t perish like you think they will such as eggshells – these need to be broken before going into the heap, all vegetables need to be cut into smaller pieces and this gave me an idea as well.
I managed to buy myself a cheap food blender over the weekend [it’s use is only for kitchen waste], which has literally just arrived whilst l was penning this post – and this will mean that all kitchen wastes can be blended down into a much smaller and finer grade of waste. The worms will be able to break this down quicker. The smaller pieces can be scattered over the heap, and this will then encourage a much wider distribution of worms into the compost.
Some of the foods turned to slush and sludge pretty quickly whilst others like the fallen pears below didn’t, proving that whilst they will eventually decompose, it helps to cut everything smaller and this in turn will speed the whole process up as well as encourage a much richer microbial balance to your heap.
Composting is exactly the same as the decomposition process as in you need a body of content, humidity, heat, mosistness, wetness, air, movement and also burial – so with these components you can see how your heap can become much more efficient in its decline.
Keep it wet, keep it hot, keep it buried, keep it moving, keep the air moving and allow the microbes to keep on coming – so encourage them in.
The worms l had in the heap were scattered mostly with the food whilst other lifeforms were found with the vegetation – so the blender will really help the worms get through the wastes quicker.
By covering every 5″ segment of compost l am allowing the content to be thoroughly compact and individual and when l come to turn the heaps each segment will have had a very unique heating experience. The carboard does no harm to the heap and will like everything else break down.
You can see on the old heap here how the process of composting travels – the bottom of this image above is from five weeks ago, whilst the top with the greenery was from five days ago. You can see what breaks down and what doesn’t and how quickly, and more importantly how balanced it all is. This image is the far left where no food was added but you can see the cardboard from two weeks ago in the middle.
This image [slightly blurry, but l sneezed – ironically l am allergic to compost – fact!] is the far right and shows the food scraps from last weekend and how much quicker they have broken up, there were a lot more worms here than on the cardboard side.
Nearing the top of the first unit – l am very enthusiastic to see how also the 5″ slicings work with regards the microbes and the worms as each slice will be balanced and richer so if the worms work on the heap like they do with a wormery, they will eat from the bottom up towards the top, and once done will then travel back down again, with slices this should show their progression. So principally l have structured this particular strategy on a giant wormery.
Unit 1 completed ….
Old System and the last third – which under normal circumstances the soils here would be sieved, but l decided to simply add them to the new heap for further turning.
Unit 2 slowly filling up with the last third of the 2019 heap – however it has been turned and freed of stones and strappy vegetations … but this unit alongside the third unit will be able to take the last residues of the old heap as well as new kitchen wastes and garden vegetations of winter this year.
Second unit closed down for the time being …
Old heap covered till the next time l can get to it to finish off the process, but it’s been raining since 5pm yesterday and set to stay here till Wednesday or something silly, so this will be delayed again.
But the whole process is now underway and of all the questions l had before l started handballing the heap, many have been answered very well – l am now really aware of what makes the active and non-active heaps tick – and the smaller compost units or rather smaller spaces such as 36″x36″x36″ or even the 30″ l have l think will produce a much better quality of compost…..but time’s going to tell on that. Literally.
Anyway l’ll take my leave of you now
Thanks for reading everyone, till the next time …