Imagine a substance that had the ability to cycle old life into new life. A substance that any of us could create, almost anywhere with materials
we already possessed. I am talking about Compost. It is hard to believe that something that looks so humble has such miraculous attributes. Perhaps this is why we neglect to give it the elevation it deserves. I donâ€™t want to sound morbid but when I die I canâ€™t think of a better end than being put in a cardboard box where my body can gradually decompose to the earth.
Compost offers a way of cycling fertility and important Â minerals that are essential when it comes to growing our food.
On average 40 percent of what we throw in our bins can be made into compost
Compost also helps soil retain moisture protecting another of our most valuable resources. Water.
Peter Seggar who is a British compost king at Blaencamel farm west Wales recently visited the SEKEM project in Egypt.
He described an area of desert he saw two years ago that is now full of soil and crops and how through the use of compost minimal water can be used to green even the desert. The more organic matter that is in the soil (compost) the better the structure of your soil- this means more air and more ability for retaining and preserving water when in times of drought.
This summer we have summer Â drought looming Â ahead of us after one of the driest autumns on record. Any ways of keeping moisture in our soils are hugely significant.
There are current taboo areas around cycling our waste to create our resources. Potentially cyclable sources of fertility and phosphourous lie in our human waste and even our bones. These things have to be compostedÂ in a safe way using more monitored techniqiues than we individually have available in our homes. But it is all possible and in the light of our current absolute dependence on finite resources to produce our most basic necessities, it would make a lot of sense. There may be taboos we need to start talking about. We need our leaders to help us to create systems that allow us to do this. Council kitchen waste bins are a great start.
We all have organic matter that we can compost- hereâ€™s how.
Darina Allens â€˜Forgotten skillsâ€™ has a good recipe for compost advising you to make â€˜a feastâ€™ for the microorganisms.
Recipe for Compost
Her ingredients are
Grass clippings, leaves, pruningâ€™s, weeds ( but not roots of perennial weeds),Â wood ash, straw, shredded newspaper, sawdust, hair, flowers, feathers, manures, vegetable peelings, other kitchen waste, tea bags, water and air.
Cooked food and meat may encourage rats but if you can safely contain it will
biodgrade if mixed with other organic material from list. Some councils have the facilities to do this for you. If not ask why.
You need a mix of the carbon rich (things like woody material/ paper etc) and Nitrogen rich (things like grass and veg peelings). Essentially just mix it all up. The smaller the different additions and the more mixed up they are, the faster it will break down and become compost. Covering the heap will also speed things up but donâ€™t let it dry out. Life- micro organisms need moisture and air to stay alive.
There are also things to be avoided-Â non organic material like glass, plastic, metal, glossy or coloured paper, toxic chemicals.
Pet litter and solid human waste needs to be composted under stricter conditions to make sure any harmful pathogens are killed. For this reason it is not a good idea to put this kind of organic matter in your compost at home. By all means pee on your heap though as this is perfectly safe and will speed up the composting process. Donâ€™t flash the neighbours and get me in trouble.
It may not look much but I am serious about COMPOST â€“ get involved. Think about where you send your organic waste- try not to put it in the landfill bin! This is the only time it becomes waste.
â€˜We walk on it, it has the potential to feed us, clothe us, house us. Itâ€™s the fragile membrane that goes right throughout the world and yet we ignore it, we abuse it, and we are rarely conscious of itâ€™ -Peter Seggar, Blaencamel Farm.
The link to Peters talk on soil is below