Happy days! Turning the compost heaps after weeks away
Hooray! Even though it was stinky and I got covered in bugs, getting stuck into the compost was something I’ve been looking forward to all week.
After a quick trip to the farmers market I was in the backyard and pulling apart bay no. 4 at 7:30. It’s a good thing I managed to get out there early because when I started turning bays 2 and 3 they were both hot at the centre and the day was quickly warming up.
Zoe did a great job taking all of the donated kitchen scraps from the collection bin out front to the heaps. I was concerned that the bays might fill up while I was away but thanks to many voracious soldier fly larvae the volume of bay no. 2 seemed to equilibrate, with the larvae eating materials about as quickly as they were added. I’ve heard that this is a downside to harbouring lots of soldier fly larvae in your compost. You don’t actually end up with as much compost, due to some of the organic matter flying off as adult soldier flies instead. That is fine by me though as I’m mostly interested in diverting as many kitchen scraps away from landfill as possible, rather than making large volumes of compost.
What the compost has been lacking while I was away was oxygen input via turning, however. This is also the reason why a lot of backyard compost heaps underperform, they just aren’t turned or aerated enough. It’s why I would recommend spending a little extra on a tumbler style of composter if you’d like to compost in your own backyard. Actually, one of our community members has just graduated from the HCC. Instead of donating her kitchen scraps to the HCC weekly, she’ll add them to her new tumbler instead. Great stuff!
It was evident that the HCC heaps/bays were due for a turn. While bay no. 4 was a bit dried out, bay 2 definitely had some slimy, nitrogen-rich material at the bottom that could do with some oxygen, and perhaps some more carbon mixed in too. Sorry neighbours, there was an unpleasant odour in the vicinity of HCC headquarters this morning as I uncovered some fermentation hotspots. Of course that also meant that there would have been some methane production! The main aim of the HCC is to avoid the methane generation that happens when these kitchen scraps are sent to landfill, so the fact that this happened in the HCC heaps was not optimal. Not to worry though, it was only a small amount. It’s also one of the reasons that I am asking new members* to provide a monetary contribution to the HCC, so that I can pay someone for not only monitoring the heap if I’m away but also to do the dirty and heavy work of turning.
To fix up the heaps I carried out some layering with carbon-rich dry material from bay no. 4, interspersed with sloppier (and a bit stinky) materials from bay 2 or 3. All topped off with nice dry stuff from bay no. 4 to keep some of that odour in place while it sorts itself out.
Now it’s time to start up those bucket collections again, as well as meet some new members! I’m sure that bay no. 1 will be full by the end of the day.
Speaking of new members, I’ve had some recent interest in people wanting to learn more about how the heap operates so I will definitely be running another open day soon-ish. Some of my composting technique is made up as I go along but I’m really enjoying the opportunity to turn theory into practice. This also means that I will have some compost ready to donate back to the community in a few weeks, once again. Make sure to let me know if you’d like some.
*The 60-odd households that joined in 2018 get to keep their lifetime discount as thanks for helping me while I sorted out the logistics of the whole thing 🙂