PART TWO by GEOFF MIERS
The Berkeley Method is one of several composting methods that can be used in the home garden, however there are a number of other methods that the home gardener can use to make their own compost.
The Berkeley Method, referred to last week, collected at least one cubic meter of compostable material. By turning it regularly, it is possible to produce usable compost in 14 days.
There are other composting methods that can be used, some are extremely efficient while others take much longer but with less physical effort.
For example, the Indore method takes up to a year to mature, while the rotating container, in contrast, is extremely efficient, although there is an initial set-up cost to purchase the rotating container (the one pictured last week was self-built).
The commercial compost bin, bio-path method, and leaf composting are all other alternative systems that can be incorporated into the home garden setting.
The Indore method is designed for the lazy gardener. This method is a minimalist approach, but it takes significantly longer to make good compost.
This method can be free-standing or contained within a structure made of brick, corrugated iron, wooden pallets, or wire. Alternating layers of low-nitrogen and high-nitrogen materials must be installed at a depth of one to 1.5 m. The pile should be two feet square at the base and taper to about four feet when freestanding.
Lay a base layer of coarse clippings, branches, or brushes to allow for good ventilation. Lawn cuttings, leaf litter, animal manure, soil, vegetable residues, alfalfa hay, vacuum fluff, etc. can be worked into the pile. However, do not make the layers too thick with any material, problems may arise.
When you’ve made a compost heap with the dimensions described above, cover the heap with two inches of soil to deter flies and limit the escape of unpleasant odors.
Turn this pile over after eight to 10 days and again after a month. With the right mix of materials and ideal climatic conditions, you will have compost in just two months. Without turning it can take up to a year.
Small, commercially available compost bins are often best for the small garden. They are great for composting kitchen waste and moderate amounts of garden material, including lawn clippings, leaf litter, etc.
When using leftover food from the kitchen, it is advisable to add small amounts of garden soil to prevent the leftover food from turning into a sloppy pulp. The soil will also bring in a number of necessary soil microbes.
By regularly forking the contents you accelerate the decomposition process. Also, make sure to keep the compost heap slightly damp, but not damp.
Fly screens, which are placed under the compost bin and wrapped around the edges, prevent vermin and pests from entering the bin.
First, put coarse material in the soil to allow good ventilation.
The path or trench method is an efficient composting method that takes up little space and can be integrated into the vegetable garden. Where there are paths between the garden beds, make them your compost heap.
Put simply, this method collects materials with an average carbon-nitrogen ratio of 25 to 30, then mixes them and places them in trenches 30 to 50 cm deep. These trenches simply serve as paths between the garden beds. You can cover these paths with wood chips, topsoil alfalfa hay, or pea straw for a good walking surface.
These paths then remain undisturbed and the materials slowly decompose over several months. This composting method requires little manual labor and benefits from any fertilizer applied to the garden and benefits from watering the garden.
These paths can then either be cleared and the material added to the existing garden beds, or the paths themselves can become new garden beds.
So you can leave the previously planted beds fallow for a season to give the soil time to recover.
WEB images from Sir Albert Howard’s Indore composting method (in the picture).