Garden – August – 2

Doin’ The Dirt was a gardening series that ran in my first blog, ‘ A Guy Called Bloke, from 2018 to 2022, when the blog closed. Willow Garden is a series exclusive to the Earthly Comforts blog only.

Earthen Tales Directory

Suze starting the hedge trim yesterday morning.

Stage 1 of the Garden trim – Suze did a cracking job yesterday! She informs me this morning that her glutes are caning her and l am not surprised considering some of the positions she was in on the ladder!

Green Breeds Green
I am in the process of transitioning the compost heap back to a hot pile. Whilst it used to have a large worm colony residing within, you may recall a couple of weeks ago that Suze and l spent a week during the heatwave, early mornings, finely sieving it all to remove eggs, baby worms and breeding worms so that it could be made again into a heated pile of compost over that of merely a warm pile.

I am used to working with three types of compost within the New Zealand boxes – cold, warm and hot. Before living here in Sandwich, l frequently ran very hot piles and produced a useable content mix in a matter of weeks. Once l was here, l didn’t have the exact requirements for the boxes due to the size of the garden here or the vast quantity of crafted compost, so I slowly made the boxes available to worm breeding.

This worked in theory as a concept so well that it encouraged me to start the worm farming business in December 2021. l then created the additional four worm farms l have today, and slowly over the last eight months, l have expanded the breeding units.

Having worm farms in compost perhaps wasn’t the best choice, but it was a good inspiration starting point for the business. However, it meant l needed to maintain a specific temperature in the NZ boxes to keep the worms breeding.

A bit like Goldilock’s porridge, not too hot, not too cold, just right. So l ran the boxes to a warm compost, and in layman terms, this meant l only needed to dig the compost twice a month. I also introduced the breeding worms to bokashi composting as a way of additional feeding.

It ran well as a set-up for most of 2020 and the majority of 2021, and in truth, despite running between two to four worm farms independently away from the compost for most of this year as well.

Yesterday’s decision to shred greens all started with Edward’s fig cuttings.

I decided, though, to cease breeding worms in the compost last June and only maintain the four leading breeding farms. I wanted to create the bedding only using the NZ compost boxes, and to achieve that, l had to separate all the worms from the pile and transition it from warm composting to hot composting again.

But that can be a complicated process considering how much soil l had in the warm compost pile. It meant sieving off the soils, taking out the debris, keeping a balanced portion, and loading up with greens. The Willow garden is not massive but produces a fair amount of green during the summer months. The worm farms that used to live and breed here had more of a soil composite present by around 75% brown material and only 25% green.

Over the last few weeks, [since the sieve off of stock], l have been slowly rebalancing the mixtures to equal amounts of green and brown materials. I follow the practice of no rules composting, so l don’t bother so much with layers, but merely throwing everything in and spinning it or forking it over frequently to build up considerable heat.

In times past, l have created a useable compost material in 20 days, but now l prefer to produce a mixture for eight weeks. With everything currently ongoing – l find l am now preparing a working compost material for the Willow garden and bedding for the wormeries.

However, the compost is only part of that bedding now as l include other components. But so too am l preparing to have a workable compost material for the allotment when we get it.

There will be ample time to produce compost on allotments we take on board as l should imagine it will be unkempt and overgrown anyway and in desperate need of cutting down. Still, it would be nice to have homemade material available regardless.

But we still have a lot of potted plants here that need compost, so the time to reintroduce a hot compost area is now.

I find the best results for composting comes with breaking down and shredding everything – be this green wastes like above, or paper shredding or even foods broken down in the blender – the smaller the better. I shredded for three hours solid yesterday afternoon and now l have a huge bag ready for the hot composting.

It can take time, but finally, l am nearing the end of the transition. I have to perform a few final sievings and siftings, one for the last bit of compost material and the other for a pile of compost trash. The latter l wish to use for the sumps of the worm farms – drainage areas at the base of the towers.

The sievings l am giving to Mike from the reserve, who is using them on his allotment and garden and gifting some of them out to his family. I have had to give away three-quarters of a ton of useable compost, and l cannot utilise it in the garden. The quantity is taking up valuable space l need to use elsewhere. He and his wife are super impressed with the quality of it.

I am not blowing my trumpet, but at my concession, l make an excellent compost mixture. I know that. Since l fell in love with composting as a hobby and a passion and became one with my heap, l dedicate a lot of time to making a good product. People have always loved working with it. One day, if l am lucky, l will hopefully be able to sell it, but DEFRA over here make people jump through hoops to be in a position to sell.

Yesterday was a windfall day for greens! It started with Edward next door, who was out before seven in the morning cutting back his fig tree, so we ended up with many quality green materials. Then Suze decided the time was right for Willow to have a hedge and bush trim. Then Terry across the way asked if l would be interested in two huge bags of green waste from his garden. Yes, yes, l would be cheers!

Last weekend and coming, Richard from one street over will let me have two more giant bags of green waste from his garden. He has been furnishing me with garden wastes for about a month now. So l am never short of green materials for hot composting, but yesterday was a special day. It just looked like green was breeding green!

It all needs shredding down, green waste will break down anyway, but for hot composting, l try and work with thousands of components rather than just hundreds. This means the pieces to be composted are all smaller, breaking down quickly and heating up faster, which means the pile is hotter for longer and burns everything up nicely. That recipe makes for an excellent turnaround as well.

For the last week l have been transitioning the warm compost heap into a hot heated pile. This is done by sifting off debris which l will use for drainage materials for the base of the wormeries and finely sieving off materials to give away, so all that l have left is roughage and brown and green waste materials and the secret then is to turn daily. I’ll not lie, it can be hard work, but the results are worth it.

All in all, yesterday was another busy day, even with a painful finger joint, which even now, as l type this out, is still dreadfully swollen. I will have to pop along to the chemist and ask for some advice.

I know l have an infection, and my hand is swollen as well, or the top part of my hand is, as it is all very puffy! That’s typical, Murphy! Swine, I wasn’t content with just getting stung many times in one location. Now l have to get an infection to boot!

All days seem to be busy at present. Weeks are busy. Months are active – digging compost heaps over daily, shredding green wastes, feeding, and checking everything!

Willow Garden Series Directory
The Country Life Style Diary

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

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