Saturday, March 3, 2018

Autumn assimilates

Autumn is when all that decay, from the end of a long, growing season, gets assimilated, back into the soil. So right now, is the perfect time to consider the aftermath left over, in your garden, after summer.

I have been outside lately, tidying up, and contemplating an idea my mother, inadvertently gave me.

Image source, of an outhouse

It's was based on the story she told me about the old, "outhouse", her father would dig every few years. Once it was completely filled with their family's humanure, another hole would be dug. To which the outhouse would be relocated over - then a tree was planted, on the former hole.

Apparently the best tasting fruit, were always gleaned from the former outhouse, trees. I thought it was a splendid idea of dealing with waste, by moving it around. But I didn't have a compost toilet, as yet - only access to a lot of organic materials. I wanted to be more strategic with them.

After 5 months

I started this pile back in Spring. Why here? It's near our banana circle. The long grass is disguising it's existence, but it's back there. I wanted to protect the bananas from hot winds, and thought a pomegranate would make a good windbreak. Only this location, had horrible, clay soil. It seemed to me, a perfect candidate for a pile of organic matter.

With the flush of spring rain we received (back then) I cut down a lot of grass, weeds, prunings and piled it all here - along with some buckets of kitchen scraps. Then left it over summer. During that time, it's shrunken considerably.

Close up, of older materials

The cooler weather of Autumn, summoned me back to the pile again. Time to clean up, and assimilate all those decaying materials in the garden, where they can do the most good! I had acquired a myriad of of both natural, and processed items, which needed an organic solution.

New additions

We had some brown paper bags, from buying fruit at the local farmers market. We tore them open, and laid them flat, on top of the old compost material.


On top of the bags, went a full bucket of vegetable scraps. Stinky, smelly and perfect for the job of decomposition. No fussing. No turning of older materials. Just dump it all on top! The smell dissipates, quickly.

The "whatever" I had laying around

I also had a couple of buckets of old coffee grounds, and potting mix, that needed rejuvenating. They were completely baked over summer, so too dry and lifeless to use in pots again. But perfect for a pile of compost. The soil microorganisms, will rehydrate them with enough time.


We also had an old cardboard box, groceries were collected in. Lovely carbon for the mix too. It was opened up and flattened, in the same way the bags were.

There ARE specific rules for the perfect pile of compost, but I literally use, whatever's at hand. It gets dumped, like nature would dump it, on TOP of the soil. If I fuss over anything, it's trying to make a carbon sandwich around the wet layers of kitchen scraps and green prunings.

Gleaning fresh materials

I tidied up the grass, growing around the vegetable beds, yesterday - using my trusty, manual, hedge trimmers. I love those, for avoiding petrol smelling clothes, unlike the line trimmer! And all that grass, was destined for my compost pile. I've got mountain-loads to deal with, right now. Can you see it all?

Ready. Set. Decompose!

Grass topped the pile off, and being so green, you can barely notice it's existence now. Perfect camouflage, but in a week or so, it will turn brown again. If you're dutiful enough, especially in autumn, you'll always be adding new material to the pile. My hope is by next spring, I'll have better soil, to start my pomegranate in!

Like the old, "hole in the ground", technique, my forefathers used, there's no reason a compost pile, needs to be in the same location. Maybe if you're limited on space, it makes sense to organise it that way. But if you don't want to turn compost with your back, just leave organic material on top of the soil; for the worms, bugs, larvae and all manner of microorganisms, to deal with it.

Clean and tidy, again, after David mowed

If I was to make a habit of turning compost, I think I'd want to do it, with one of those compost, tumbler bins. We've had a traditional compost pile before, and while I don't have anything against the concept; if I can reduce my workload, I will. I'm glad we don't have to turn the compost, every week, like we used to. Instead, we just have to be strategic, where we want to plant the next tree.

Which is about the only complicated thing, with this strategy - deciding where the next pile will go. Will I have problems with brush turkeys, bush rats and marsupial mice, trying to dissect the pile for a me? Most likely! Which is why it's best, starting, when rains are around. It will ensure the scavengers, have a plentiful supply of food, everywhere.

And if they scratch it up - so be it. They can turn the pile for me. I'll erect a cage around the pomegranate, when it goes into the ground. Which should save my sanity.

Has autumn (or spring - depending where you live) called you back into the garden yet?


  1. I have spent some time in the garden lately, Chris. Up the back, many many months ago, I set up cylinders I'd made of chicken wire in spots where I wanted to plant new shrubs. We put garden prunings into them, layer by layer, as we trimmed. The plant matter broke down more slowly than it would in our compost tumblers but when we removed the wire, and spread out what remained, there was a lovely rich and dark "compost" to plant a few cranberry hibiscuses in. I got the idea from the Northey Street city farm. Worked well:) Meg

    1. Wow, that's awesome Meg. I remember you talking about visiting that organic/permaculture farm - how it gave you some wonderful ideas to consider. Thanks for sharing your experience with a similar compost experiment. Nice to know they work. :)

  2. Hmmm, my folks always used to dig the hole for any new fruit tree/s a few months in advance and we would throw all he kitchen scraps, manure from the cows and weed pulling down it. I had forgotten about this until this post.

    1. It's great hearing how others have experienced something similar. Truly it's a wonderful tradition to pass down. Mine came via stories, and yours via experience. Compost is amazing stuff, but there are so many varied ways to make it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great deal, your compost piles. It is so amazing the pure gold that comes from them isn't it? We keep a compost area just outside our grain bin for all the kitchen scraps. The chickens will jump in this bin made of old pallets, eat some scraps, scratch around and deposit their own gold. I can't wait to get in their this spring and use that stuff in my garden! Along with our BIG compost piles from the cow and steers.

    1. You're fortunate to have animal manure to help your composting along too. Cow paddies are the best for composting! I hope spring arrives for you, and Keith soon, to enjoy the warm soil again!

  4. Chris, no shortage of grass here either. LOL! I don't know how I am going to get rid of the kikuyu in the garden. We have a couple of those compost bins you turn with a handle but they are hard for us to manage when they get heavy unfortunately.

    1. That's something I didn't consider with those tumblers - the weight of a full one! I've seen two designs. One is long and skinny, which turns, long end to long end, over. The other design is low, fat and round - and turns on the lowest point of it's axle. I often wondered what was the difference between the two designs. Now I reckon, the lower one, might be easier to turn. Which design do you have, Chel?


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