Compost: Hotbed for New Life (3/5)

Veronika Bond Humus

Photo: The Humus Project

“How much earth do humans need? All of it!”André Brie

2 – Size of Ingredients for the Compost

The smaller you chop your solid ingredients, the faster they will decompose into the desired ‘black gold’. That’s a good rule of thumb.

The decomposition of the compost seems to happen all by itself — if you wait long enough. Well, that’s a myth.

As soon as our mixed media arrive in their designated position in the heart of our garden, billions of tiny creatures get to work. Most of them are invisible to the naked eye, and we don’t have a microscope, so we have never actually met them personally. But we can see some macroorganisms: springtails, tiny spiders, woodlice, compost worms etc.

There are thousands of other species at work in the compost, and even though they are invisible to us we can be pretty sure that none of them have a big mouth or sharp teeth. So if you want to help them do their work, chop up your banana peels and avocado skins, and crush your egg shells before adding them to your composition. This helps the army of decomposers do their work.

3 — Position of the Compost

For many years we had a compost heap at the bottom of a beautiful garden in Cornwall where we would deposit all our kitchen and garden waste, and somehow it turned into perfect friable dark humus. The pile was big enough, so when one end with fresh stuff was full, the other end was decomposed and ready to use. Somehow it did seem to happen all by itself.

When we started a new compost from scratch in Portugal, the strategy we knew didn’t work at all. It produced a messy pile with the occasional pumpkin or avocado sprouting in it. We never harvested any humus from it, even though ‘we gave it plenty of time to decompose’ (several years). Finally we got the message and tried a new strategy.

The most fundamental part for the composition of a compost — literally — is the position of the pile. It needs to be on bare soil (the organisms that do all the work don’t like concrete), and it needs to be in the shade (soil organisms live and work and procreate in the dark). All the creatures living in the soil are sensitive to light, and they prefer being in contact with Mother Earth.

to be continued…

The humus revolution has begun — you can be part of it