In Search of Black Gold!
Season 3 – Autumn/Winter 2019/20
Compost Project 2019/2020
In Search of Black Gold! T4
In Search of Black Gold! T8
In Search of Black Gold! T12
In Search of Black Gold! T16
In Search of Black Gold! T20
Saturday 07th December 11am
Well the day had arrived. The start to the 20 weeks of taking garden waste and turning it into black gold! However there was and still is a huge obstacle to overcome before the 20 weeks can effectively commence. The official 20 weeks will begin in the first week of January.
The obstacle l write of is that of the three new bins – 2 contain a mixture of seasonal content from all of 2018 and the spring and summer wastes of 2019. The old compost pile which had lain dormant from April 2018 – July 2019 was not discarded but simply added to the new composting units to sit and enjoy a controlled environment [occasional forking and damping down] to bring it back into a microbial life form in comparison to a pile that was simply sitting.
You may recall, how l raised the point in a previous episode that this years vegetable growth acted kind of wierd and whilst l can attribute some of that behaviour to the ever changing weather conditions of the year, l have to equally portion out blame to the fact we used an older and unturned compost soil. But just because it’s old doesn’t mean it is dead – it just needed to be turned, wetted down and forked over and allowed to recover – well it has done that nicely, and so on the 7th l decided that enough time had passed and l would start the process of bringing the wastes into the black gold market for our garden for 2020.
This is a mini series that will comprise of six posts only covering Turn 1 and finishing with Turn 20. I’ll not be penning a post for every turn in-between the allocations above – purely the relevant turns. You can produce top quality compost soil for your garden in 20 weeks. That’s 140 days. There are YouTube videos out on the Internet that will say you can produce a working compost or mulch in as little as 4 – 6 weeks.
This is true, it all depends upon the method of composting that you are following. Most notably, hot composting techniques will yield a very good result in the shortest period of time. However the shortest period in my experience is really producing a workable ‘mulch raised /garden bed compost’ and what l am after is more of a finely graded compost soil for very specific use within containers and small raised beds.
At the end of the day, compost is compost is compost – but we all have our personal preferences and mine is the silky and fluffy end result.
I have three bins that measure 3 feet by 3 feet by 30″ in height – these dimensions being considered ‘ideal’ for hot composting. Currently l have one active autumn/winter bin, and two bins containing the older compost from 2018 and on top wastes from the early to middle of this year – 2019.
Since the bins were put together – which is only last month [Nov 10th] , the old compost has had a few aerations, soakings and dampings – in truth it wasn’t really in that bad a condition – it just needed some TLC whilst it recovered and awaited being sifted and sieved.
Bin 2 still to be sifted and sieved!
BUT, even though l knew that potentially Turns 1 – Turns 3 may have been harder, l wasn’t really prepared for just how hard some of the older compost would be to sift and sieve! It turned out to be back breaking and overall body aching tasking! I spent Saturday and Sunday at a total of 8 hours working just on bin 2 and even now l still have 36″ x 36″ x 12″ depth left to work. Never mind the contents of bin 3 – which hopefully should be easier …. as it contains mostly spring and summer content 2019 with some softer 2018 compost as a topping …. hopefully!
Suze wasn’t around on Saturday, but she was yesterday and had firmly said on Saturday for me to NOT rake the leaves in the garden [to save my shoulder and back] as she would do it, and as it was to be better weather. On Friday during the winds next doors ‘Whomping Willow’ as we call it had decided to shake its last load magically into our garden. It seems to favour us more so over the actual owners for some reason? I don’t mind as the leaves are a valuable source of deep rooted nutrient and can be added to the compost heap as carbon, but raking the gardens after the winds can be hard. Meanwhile our own Dear Hazel decided that if Whomper could get away with it, well then she may as well simply join the party!
The New Composting Station in operation.
With Suze attending to the garden it meant l could concentrate on Turn 1 Day 2, and trial out the new ‘Composting Station’ l had built. Which works really well for the task at hand. I have a number of different buckets and bags for the sifting process … this is when you are taking out waste products that you don’t want or shouldn’t be in the compost such as stones, twigs, string and bits of plastic which can easily get into the whole process. Here in this part of Kent we have very stony grounds, so there are a lot of those in the soils and these needed to be extracted which was achieved with the new ‘soil siever’.
The sieving process is quite possibly the awarder to my many aches and pains today , prinicpally because – whilst it is much more efficient than the more physical side to sieving with a hand held sieve and shaking the finer soils loose, you still have to bend down to ‘grind it’ whilst it is positioned in the wheelbarrow. It is also hard because currently l have been working with the cold composting process for bins 2 and 3 and so they are mostly damp soils that need working. Anyone who has ever shovelled damp or wet soil knows full too well, how very demanding this can be on the body.
But it is extremely effective as a bit of kit and does a marvelous job on the breaking down of the rougher soils and the end result is my desired product – light and fluffy compost.
As l sieve the soils out, the many stones we have in the soil are to then be tipped into a bag with ‘rough compost residue mulch’ [that’s the compost soils that are mixed with the stones that are too rough for final product use], which l have then been adding to the ornamental garden beds. This will serve the winter garden well, for the worms will come along and feed and rummage through it and take the nutrients back down into the soil with them, as they weave their magic with their tunnels and channelings through the under soil and more importantly the root systems of the beds flowers and bushes.
Once the winter mulch woodchips arrive l can then add a good 2″ layer on top of this compost mulch and our garden will be both fed and hopefully protected from weed growth – or at the very least – we shouldn’t see the wildfire effect of weeds we have previously enjoyed…. l am being polite with the term ‘enjoyed!’
Any twigs removed and awkward clumps are added to the watered weed bin or as Suze calls it – the outside toilet bin! [Due to its gentle aroma and hum!] But this too is also starting to pitch in. Whilst the various weeds, compost clods, roots and twigs and especially the palm fronds break down, l am awarded with a very rough form of compost tea which l have been using to act as an acceleration formula for my compost bin. A good composting system means that in essence, NOTHING is wasted despite it being wasted product! Everything has a use and a re-use or recycle element to it.
In addition to the sieving of the forked soils from bin two, the forking, flipping, turning and overall shovel work is also just as back breaking – as said l have kept all the bins in a stage of ‘cold composting’ or’wet composting’ since the bins were first erected and whilst bin 1 [the bin with all the leaves above photo ] is the active winter pile and has achieved moments of hot composting due to the content being added in both carbon and nitrogen – for the main it is simply sitting and awaiting the whole process to begin in January or Turn 4. Once the process begins in earnest, then it will only be endeavouring to achieve hot compost levels.
Getting close to capacity. I cover the heap when it’s not in use and to keep the dampness in the unit.
Before l can commence Turn 4 and onwards, l still have Turns 2 and 3 to start and finish, the end result of these Turns is to produce an empty bin. We need an empty bin to flip and turn the content from a left to right and right to left movements which will speed up the decompostition process exponentially. But bin 1 is getting very close to being filled, and bin 2 is not even empty just yet, as for bin 3 …….mm ha ha!
I have several storage bins in which to hold all the finely sifted compost ready for use where and when ever in the garden with an overall holding capacity for 1.4 ton or 1400 Kg, and at the end of the 8 hours l managed to sieve out a total of 450 KG of usable soils, but l still have a fair ways to go on this journey!
So all in all, l am not unimpressed with the progress so far, l have another two Turns left [2 and 3] to carry out before l have access to a totally empty bin. But for the time being in this particular series, l ‘ll take my leave – see you all for Turn 4.
Thanks for reading everyone, till the next time …