The Vege Patch – it’s time to get composting

Gardening corner - Alan, profile A compost heap is indispensable to every home gardener, and a means of utilising all waste material from crops to their best advantage.

It is, in effect, putting together certain materials so that they decompose and can then be applied to the garden as a fertilising agent.

The most compact and efficient form of a compost heap is to make a receptacle or bin about 1500mm long x 10000mm wide and 700mm deep. Build it with no base as the refuse material must come in contact with the soil.

Because the preservatives can be toxic, do not use treated timber. I use a combination of corrugated iron, bricks and concrete. Untreated timber is fine but will need replacing as it rots.

There are various methods of making compost: we use lawn clippings, leaves of veggies, pea straw, tree leaves and animal manure with kitchen scraps. Build up layer after layer in this way. Keeping the heap damp will help speed up the decay process and avoid any unpleasant odour.

Sprinkle a handful of lime along with some sulphate of ammonia and super phosphate, then fork it over and your compost will be ready to use when autumn arrives.

As the garden – vege or flower – becomes empty, it is time to dig in the compost. Gardening corner - compost

There are two ways to apply compost. Firstly, start by digging a trench: shovel the spoil over the garden and put compost in the trench; the next trench, shovel the spoil over the compost in first trench, and soon the whole garden will be dug over and the compost buried.

Secondly, you could spread a layer about 7cm over the beds and dig well. Leave for the winter, and your garden will be ready for spring planting.

Any diseased plants or trees and weeds not suitable for the compost should be dumped or burned.
Happy composting – try it – you will be pleased with the result!

By Alan Jones (Jonesy)
Jonesy is the 2010 New Zealand Gardener of the Year. He looks after Leeston Consolidated School’s veggie gardens and keeps school parents up-to-date with tips for home gardens.