Thursday, August 30, 2007
The science and practicalities of composting in the inner city
It just so happens that I'm studying soil science as I enter a new phase of my obsession with compost. Soil science is a subject in Agricultural Science, which I'm studying part time by distance mode at Charles Sturt University.
This week's soil science topic is organic matter as a property of the 'solid soil fraction'. This includes looking at factors affecting the rate of decomposition, one of which is that ratio beloved of all composters worldwide - the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Other factors of which we composters are well aware are aeration, water and temperature. It's quite neat to be turning my compost, adding water, then hitting the books to find out why I'm doing it.
Anyway, I'm not sure that it's improving due to my scientific knowledge - plain 'ole observation and wisdom from other gardeners would teach the same lessons about this age old art.
Due to space limitations, turning the pile is quite a business. I thought I would need two bays: one to store the pile; the other to turn it into. However, I've found that I can turn it out of my purpose built bay into our trailer and then back in again. It's not ideal in that there's a bit too much bending and lifting, but it does save space and we don't have much of that.
Plantings and maintenance
As spring has sprung, there is much to do. This weekend I cleared one of the beds, leaving only a few elephant garlics (which won't mature till November), some broad beans that are just coming into flower, some mustard, and a fence-line row of spring onions and some flowering plants whose names I've forgotten (oops!) but which have only emerged in the last few weeks. I then laid down compost, about 5-cm thick. Along the fenceline, against the spring onions, I made a small furrow, filled it with sifted compost and put down some rocket seeds (mmmmmm).
I also planted the following seeds into some trusty polystyrene veggie boxes and put 'em out on the front balcony in full sun:
eggplant (Long purple).
What I'm eating out of the garden
Lettuce, mustard greens, silverbeet and broccoli, and of course herbs (coriander, parsley, dill, watercress, vietnamese mint, shallots).
Looking forward to broad beans. I have a broadie recipe culled from the internet: lamb braised with broad beans and artichokes. I might just stick with a trusty broad bean, mint and prosciutto combination though. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
The higher temperatures have set the peas off - I love the way their tendrils seek out climbing structures. You can see them growing in mid air towards the nearest support, which may be as much as 10 cm away - amazing.
I leave you with a shot of the woolly vetch growing down in the peninsula patch.
Happy spring gardening.