Ian WintleHow to aerate a large compost heap

I love manure, the older and smellier the better. The odour is a gardener’s delight. I am lucky as there is a stable just down the road and I can fill up a trailer anytime for $10.00. It’s hard work shovelling, especially if it’s a bit wet, and my boots tend to make a bit of a mess inside the car after I have finished. My wife loves the smell, I think not.

Horse Manure Sunday morning

Horse Manure Sunday morning

Greenery ready to shredI do not put manure on the garden pure, but mix it with lawn clippings and waste I have put through the Greenfield Shredder, then let it compost.

The Greenfield Shredder is probably the most useful piece of equipment that I have, as it shreds just about everything and never clogs up. I have learnt that about the only thing not to put in are the fibrous plants like gingers and heliconias.

My ideal compost consists of manure, lawn clippings, shredded material, crusher dust, urea and blood and bone. Leave for a few months and you end up with great compost.

This is where those who complain about the garden end up

This is where those who complain about the garden end up

 

I do not turn the heap over as my heaps tend to be too big and also I do not have the space to put the turned over material, so doing it my way just takes a little while longer to compost. Instead of turning the heap over I place 90mm stormwater pipes both horizontally and vertically within the compost heap with lots of holes drilled into them and a cover over the ends. While it’s not as quick as turning the heap over it does let the air in to circulate and accelerates the composting process.

Starting of a new heap with 90mm stormwater pipes

Compost cooking away without turning

Compost cooking away without turning

 

I do not put the vegetable scraps on the heap as we have two large areas where we breed compost worms, so all the household scraps go to feed the worms – no meat or fish of course.

You realise the value of composting when you think back to what our soil was like initially, where the developers had scraped and sold all the topsoil on our estate leaving only clay top. Our soil is now a rich dark loam that grows many tropical plants, thanks to many years of composting and mulching.

Our compost bins

 

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Ian Wintle

About Ian Wintle

I retired to the garden in 2010 after 20 years in the RAAF and 22 years with the Queensland Probation and Parole Service. Judy and I have been married for almost 45 years and we have 2 sons, 3 granddaughters and a grandson, plus 2 grand-dogs. We're passionate about our subtropical garden and open it through Open Gardens Australia and for special charities. It's a great weekend and you get to meet and talk to some wonderful people. We were proud to receive a Golden Trowel in ABC Gardening Australia's 2009 'Gardener of the Year' competition and have 2 blogs - SubTropical Queensland Open Garden and Garden Product Reviews.

2 thoughts on “How to aerate a large compost heap

  1. Tom lantry on said:

    Well done Ian, yes it’s good way to aerate and certainly cuts down on the work, I find Agricultural drainage pipe works as well .

  2. Lloyd on said:

    Not being picky, just seeking clarification of the meaning of terms: how does compost become loam? I get that it turns into humus, which is dark and kind of spongy. But I thought loam was a form of sand (decomposed rock) with vegetative material mixed in over centuries. Does the activity in the compost have some effect on the clay base that converts it in some way to a more free-draining material?
    I ask because I have tried converting clay-based material – residue from excavating shale/shist for a pathway with a small component of “top soil” – by sieving out the gravel/stones/broken rock and adding in heaps of compost (rotted down but still with the structure – leaves, stems – present). The result has been quite a water retentive soil that I am still trying to steer into a more friable form.
    Quite a science! And my understanding is still very basic. So I will appreciate any thoughts/information that might help that 🙂

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