Composting is a way of speeding up the natural process of nature. Our fertile soils have been built over thousands of years of through the slow decay of organic matter deposited on the ground, such as leaves, plant matter, branches and manure. In autumn and winter plants and trees shed leaves or die back and natures recyclers break down this bounty and return it to the soil.
We can speed up this process and reduce what we put in our bins by composting a huge amount of waste. I recently went on an excellent course run by Richard Higgins based on the scientific research of Sir Albert Howard.
Richard has refined this further to produce unbelievably refined and nutritional compost in just 90 days. The system has been proven in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake to destroy all pathogens in human waste making it safe to return to the soil as compost.
The key elements to this process are :
- The balance and mixing of the constituent parts.
- The inoculation of the pile
- The maintaining of initial temperatures
- Correct moisture levels
- Air – without air the decomposition becomes an-aerobic (this is when you get nasty smells)
We have larger windrow piles outside and we are trialling a box system inside the green house, by composting in the green house in an insulated box we hope to keep the temperature high enough to start the process (below 5 degrees centigrade the reaction won’t start) and that once the temperature in the box builds it will warm the green house. We are using a mixture of straw from the animals bedding, hedge cuttings (mulched), leaf fall, horse manure (mixed to a slurry with lake water) green kitchen waste from the house, weeds and other green cuttings, wood ash, crushed biochar.
The compost is used in our vegetable beds and once we have perfected the process we hope to be making enough to start spreading it on the fields.