Heap refresh and new leaf store
They say change is as good as a holiday. In this case it was the main compost heap that got a holiday, while Scott and I got a work out.
Seeing as the wooden composting bays were getting a bit of a rest recently I took the opportunity to move the whole structure, just to refresh it. While the old location of the composter in the backyard was very convenient I decided to swap it with a raised bed on the other side of the garden that was having some issues. Roots from the nearby Birch tree had aggressively invaded the raised bed. Also, the metal wall of the raised bed has been getting the hottest afternoon sun. As a result the soil in this bed was not able to retain any water, so it was no good for growing veggies in. After emptying the bed of soil (no small task) I crossed my fingers that the metal ring forming the wall of the bed wasn’t concreted into the ground and then rolled the whole thing away.
Then we could empty out the wooden bays and move them across the yard. Easily done! (actually, as the wooden bays were initially built in place we didn’t know if this would be possible at all, with just two of us and a hand trolley. Luckily it all worked out and nothing at all was broken!)
Underneath the heap was a thriving community of decomposers, including some worms that I’d transferred over from the worm farm at one point. The worms don’t really like the middle of the active heap as it gets too hot for them but they’d obviously found a nice damp spot underneath the bays. Evidence of their action was some lovely castings that will enrich the soil beneath.
The wooden composter had been placed on some pavers so that it was not in direct contact with the soil. Nonetheless, seeing as the bays continually hold a warm, moist mass of decomposing organic matter it was expected that some of the wooden structure would be rotting. Also, areas where the paving stones do not make full contact with the wood will hold a little water and this will lead to wood rot also. This was mostly seen in a couple of supporting beams that brace the bays, so Scott quickly replaced a few of these. We’re happy for the structure to slowly break down though! I’d say the structure has at least another 12 months in it before it will be too wobbly and no longer pest proof. If anyone has some untreated 2 by 4’s that could be recycled to make the next one that would be tops.
Once we’d cleared the raised bed from it’s spot we realised there was more paving than we thought underneath it. This could be a great spot for a little tree! We tucked the composter behind this paved circle, nestled under the bottlebrush tree and installed the raised bed in the slightly shadier spot near the back fence.
All the hard work of digging out soil and moving a very heavy wooden composter was carried out the weekend before last. Recently I started adding scraps to the bays once again and it seems to be composting quite nicely.
The veggie bed in its new position might be a bit deprived of light over winter. At first I thought I would just sow some green manure on top of it. However, it occurred to me that it might be better used as a leaf store. I was inspired while digging decomposed leaves out of the gutter. Maybe that’s as grubby as it sounds, but there was a pile of leaves that had been sitting untouched out front of a neighbours place for about a year. The material at the bottom of this was a rich, organic soil that had formed as the leaves gradually broke down in place. The leaves that I store in the shed don’t have much opportunity to turn into this great stuff as they are protected from the weather. The new leaf store will be open to sun and rain and in contact with the soil too. I hope to fill it to the top of the chicken wire soon, and then let it sit to see how much of it transforms.
So if you see a lady in the gutters of the streets around Hackett, rake in hand, that’ll be me!