Sunday, September 27, 2009

Organic compost harvest

One of the challenges of an organic garden is getting enough nutrients into the soil, given that you can't use chemical fertilisers. A great way to address this problem, and reduce your waste that will otherwise go to clog up a landfill somewhere, is to compost your kitchen waste.

It's very easy: the basic rule is - no animal products (i.e. meat and dairy). This means it doesn't get smelly, and also won't attract rats and such. Basically this means all the vegetable peels, cuttings, rotten vegetables, teabags, tealeaves, coffee grounds, etc. Also use garden waste, and also chuck in some shredded newspaper from time to time. However - unless you're able to grind it up, it's best to leave out woody items because they take ages to decompose.

We use two bins - overturn them, cut out the bottom, and you're ready to rumble. Then you fill one, and leave it for about three months while you fill the other. Empty the first one and start again. The timing will depend I suppose - the high humidity and temperature of the Malaysian sub-tropical climate means that the decomposing is quicker than in Belgium, for example.
organic compost bins malaysia

Here are some photos from a 'harvest' I did in February. One thing I've noticed is that the space taken up by the compost reduces - so if you stuff it up one day with trimmings from the Morning Glory (for example), wait a week and there will be more space.

This is the result of being left alone for a few months
organic compost malaysia

One surprise here was when I lifted off the bin, there were loads of red wiggler worms! I vaguely remembered chucking in some from our vermicompost bin, and they obviously thrived!
red wigglers organic compost malaysia

This contributed to the nice quality of the compost - crumbly and moist
organic compost malaysia

but there were also some compacted parts, probably because I didn't turn it up often enough. This helps to oxygenate the parts below.
organic compost malaysia clay compacted

There were also stuff that decomposes slowly: in particular mango seeds, mangosteen rinds, and various twigs and stuff. I just put them into the other bin (and I also cut mango seeds in half now, before I put them in the compost bin).
organic compost malaysia slow decomposers

In the end, I got one bucket of compost, that was spread around the papaya trees, the jasmine bush, and the frangipani tree.
organic compost malaysia


Aynur said...

Hi Julian,

Do you need to put anything at the base of the bin before putting anything in to help with drainage (such as twigs)?

I'm asking because I'm wondering if the amount of rain we get will make the compost too wet.

Aynur said...

Another question:

Once you've filled a bin, do you still need to turn it every couple of weeks?

julian said...

Hi Aynur :)

I don't bother with that, as there is a lid on the bin, so it never gets too wet. Over all, one should worry more about it getting too dry than wet I'd say. However, having a drainage system wouldn't be a bad idea, I suppose...

Yes it's a good idea to turn it every couple of weeks - this brings oxygen in and helps the decomposing.

and as WW would say, "mother nature loves ya!"

Maya said...

Hi Julian: I am using a 10-pot compost system as taught to me by a good friend and avid recycler, Don Theseira of Using his method, you can compost anything, even meat and the compost pot does not stink at all. I am currently using this system and I compost everything - meat, fish, bones, vege peel etc. The 10-pot system is a godsend. You can find out more from this blog post of mine:
Enjoyed your blog. I also have mealybug issues. I used to wipe them off with my nail polish remover but I think your chili=garlic concoction is better ;-)