Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Heap of Compost

Putting the worms back in the farm after
taking out the bulk of the worm 'poo.' 
I have recently tipped out the worm farms to extract the worms from the rich, nutritious plant food they created. The problem is that there were so many tiny baby white worms I can't bring myself to put it on the garden for fear of all the lost potential! Instead, I am going to 'seed' the magnificent compost heap my son Tom has made...when it has finished composting and is moved to some shade in the garden.

I must tell you about this compost. A couple of months ago Tom and Rossco (hubby) did a concrete contract at a cattle station up the road which involved the loader and the truck. Having unloaded the bulk bags of cement etc there was space on the back of the truck and, fortunately for us, the station people had recently cleaned out their cattle yards, creating a huge pile of manure mixed with hay and a bit of dirt. Tom asked if they would like some help to remove the pile, to which the answer was, "Yes!" He promptly transferred three loader buckets full on to the back of the truck.

We contemplated using this manure on the garden as is, but then came up with the inspired idea of mixing it with scrapings from the sheep yards (more broken down hay and sheep manure), rakings from the chook yards and the large pile of dry debris (leaves, grass clippings etc) from the garden that had accumulated over a couple of years.

A few years ago we bought a special loader bucket for mixing cement, sand, aggregate and water into concrete.
We discovered that shire councils also use them for mixing compost. So, here (left) is Tom adding water  while the auger inside the bucket churns the mix. On the right is the lovely dark, damp pre-composted mixture, before being tipped out and added to the pile. (below left)

Tom has been turning the pile with the loader about every six or seven days, spraying with water when it gets a bit dry on the surface. It is starting to cool down now but at its peak the internal temperature got up around 70 degrees, which hopefully killed any weed seeds.

I love this gardening with machines business! Imagine trying to make this quantity of compost using a spade. It'd be a Herculean task. You could do this on a smaller scale using a normal cement mixer. A compost pile only needs to be about a cubic metre to get nice and hot in the middle.

I am really excited about having such a great quantity of compost to use on the veggie garden this year. Normally I just use straight sheep manure, spread about seven centimetres thick on top of the bed and then dug in. And now that we have meat sheep rather than merinos our sheep manure supply under the shearing shed is getting scarily low.  Actually we haven't got many sheep at all now, having had to sell nearly all of them due to the impact of wild dogs and drought.

On the right is the whole pile, about 6 weeks or so into the composting process. It's hard to get perspective on the size of it without a person or machine standing next to it but it is about as high as me.... 5'7".

So, watch this space. At about the end of March I will start the veggie garden up for winter and I can't wait to plant some seeds into this beautiful stuff!

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