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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Compost Rules

A previous compost fully matured.
For some time there has been a NZ compost on the horizon. That is to say we needed to make another one to keep up the steady flow of plant food for the vegetable garden. We were also building up a supply of ingredients which were starting to get in the way. The Plumbago (bloody weed) had a good haircut and the trimmings left on the ground. The pond was cleaned out all that green material piled high. One of the kitchen compost was full.

Mulch Hay

The kitchen composts contains all those things we don't want blowing around the chicken run such as scraps of paper and various woody bits, weeds and seeds. The problem with the kitchen compost is although it breaks down it is a cold composting technique which keeps the seeds viable.

Empty Kitchen Compost

I'd already started building the layers of the NZ compost using some of the material from the top most section of the previous one which hadn't quite broken down. In particular it held Couch Grass runners which hadn't been heated enough to kill them. This material was mixed with freshly mown grass to make sure it heated to the maximum.

The Mulcher

The next phase was assembling alternating layers of mown grass, mulch hay and parts of the various collected material mentioned in the first paragraph. A lot of this material was wet and some of it partially decayed making it difficult to run through the mulcher. To assist the throughput the filter plate was removed. This plate has large holes which prevent material from leaving the mulcher until it has been chopped to a certain size. By removing the plate anything going into the mulcher is hammered heavily but exits very easily. We found this technique works well with both wet material and fibrous vegetation such as palms.

Filter Plate

Mulched Kitchen Compost

The entire afternoon until dusk was spent on this project. Layer after layer of hay, grass clippings and mulched material spread in the compost box with occasional dustings of Dolomite and ash from the fireplace. Most of the material was wet and we watered only the dry mulch hay layer.

By nightfall every thing we had was used and we were at the top of the bin. The next morning it would be topped with some more grass clipping just ensure a lot of heat and then covered with some hay. A hole was poked into the centre with a steel bar to assist in aeration.

NZ Compost

The end result is a clean and tidy yard. All the piles of pruning's gone (leaving a few bald patches) and the entire yard nicely mown. In five or six weeks this compost will be turned into the other bin making sure the outer edges go into the centre and allowed to heat up again. And then we will have more nutrition for our vegetables.

Bare Patch

Mown Yard


  1. Hi John and Jean, Composting has always been a mystery to me, others make it look simple, and yet I have been unsuccessful. So, I have taken notes of the method you discuss and will put this into play. One question, do you ever have snakes visiting in your compost? Is this preventable? Thank you, Barb.

    1. Hi Barb, During the heating process snakes will stay away but maybe later they may find it an attractive spot. With the NZ Compost it tends to collapse and fill voids which doesn't give snakes much room. However the cold compost we used to make and the temporary kitchen composts were very attractive to snakes, usually of the Brown variety who would be looking for rodents having a meal. I don't think there is a way to stop them. If you kill them the territory just becomes attractive to another stray. We found them to easy to live with. They seem to stay clear of us, they are in fact timid, and we tend to watch where we walk in Spring when they are looking for some warm sun. Long time resident snakes are easy to live with as they learn your routine and stay clear. Some heavy stomping on the ground is a good way to clear the path.

    2. Thanks John and Jean, I'm a stomper alright - well the NZ compost seems the way to go on many fronts. Thank you for your great posts, I really enjoy reading your blog.