Aussies Living Simply

making compost – advice please

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    I have been reading this thread and found the link useful.

    I have some questions.

    I made some compost using backyard variety compost bins.

    I used the layering method where I layered hay/grass clippings/manure and then a sprinkle of water. The bins heated up beautifully. They have now cooled ~ 4 days later. Should I now turn them/water them?? What is the process now to get this compost moving along quickly??




    Turning compost is too much hard work. (unless you have a backhoe)

    I have a great tool which i’m sure would be easy to make, it cost $15 from the hardware store. It’s a two foot long metal rod which a two inch long upward facing “L” hook on the end, at the top is a nice yellow handle which is good as you can get some hard bits to punch past some times.

    All I do is punch 10-20 air holes in the compost a few times a month, this also helps mix up the grass clippings as they can act as barriers in the compost if they are added to thick in the layers.

    Remember to keep your layers thin and make sure you go carbon/nitrogen/carbon etc.. Adding old yoghurt, molasses and worm juice plus some compost from your last batch mixed through the layers.

    I also wet down my manure the week before I add it to the compost to get it composting before I add it to new compost batch. It can be quite dry after being left out in the paddocks for a week.

    I water my compost to keep it moist not wet, I punch the holes first then water it, If you compost does not fire (heat) up, mix up a bucket of water with a cup or two of molasses.

    Good luck.

    Lyn Bagnall

    baringapark wrote:

    What is the process now to get this compost moving along quickly??

    Composting is quicker if it occurs aerobically which means the microbes need oxygen to do their work. Turning the compost aerates the heap and speeds up the process. Once every four days in the beginning is enough for fast compost-making. It is only hard work at the beginning as the heap reduces in size as the composting process develops. Once the microbes have done their bit and the heap cools down, earthworms, slaters and other microorganisms move in to complete the job, then you only need to turn it every week or so.

    Anaerobic compost heaps (that just sit there) take a lot longer to get a finished product, and can develop an umpleasant smell instead of the lovely rainforest smell you get with aerobic compost.

    Lyn 🙂


    Once you’ve filled the bin right to the top when you make it (all in one hit), it will drop significantly over the next 4 days and then needs regular maintainance. I keep adding layers to mine, ensuring a variety of coarse and fine material to ensure air flow through the heap without turning. I always finish with a carbon layer to keep odours at bay. I also only use the BMW brand bins which have a huge number of holes on all sides, so air flow is assured and I regularly lift the lids to ensure a wick effect keeps it nice an aerobic.

    Regular watering, top ups, activators and keeping the air flowing are the secrets. Ours turns to quality humus in about 12 weeks in our systems here in the subtropics without turning.

    Good luck!



    Bumping an old thread because my compost aint dong much!

    I think in the past i haven’t had much to put into the compost, except for kitchen scraps, so i always ended up with stinky muck in the bin.

    This time I bought a bin with lots of side holes, and I layered it with food scraps, tree prunings, waste from the guinea pigs, weeds, and shredded paper, all in layers.

    Problem seems to be that I didn’t put enough green/nitrogen stuff in there! NOthing is getting hot, it’s all just sitting there drying out.

    Anyway, i bought one of those corkscrew turners from the hardware yesterday to punch holes all the way through the middle, and gave it a good watering .

    What esle can I add to help it get going? I asked Master 12 to pee on it this morning because I’m sure I read somewhere that that helps.



    Lyn Bagnall

    You are right Ali, urine (providing the donater is not on medication) is a great source of nitrogen for the compost heap. Horse manure is also a great compost starter and produces a lot of heat. Mix some through your compost heap and dampen the heap, if necessary. Grey looking compost heaps are too dry and don’t do any thing. Black, wet ones are slow because too much water excludes oxygen and anaerobic decomposition sets in – the trick is to keep it just damp. Next time it needs watering, use some seaweed liquid at weak black tea strength. Seaweed contains alginates that assist compost breakdown. The smaller the pieces the faster it will break down too. Bacteria work on the surfaces of ingrediants. Smaller pieces mean more surface area. 🙂


    I too use a ‘corkscrew’ metal think that I bought at a plant store. It was the best thing I did for my black plastic compost bins. I screw it all the way down into the compost and pull it up. It will have a fair amount of compost in the middle of the corkscrew bit, which I shake on the top. I do this about 4 – 5 times around the compost bin and I repeat this weekly. I also stopped adding sooo much food scraps (need that worm farm asap!! :|) and this too helped in the carbon / nitrogen mix. I have heaps of beautiful worms in it (on the cooler side of the bin) and my 3 1/2 year old loves to play with the worms!!:tup:

    I hope this helps.

    I am soon to build a compost bin system in my chook run and intend to throw the scraps on it for the chooks to enjoy and then the rest can rot down. I realise it does need a shady environment for the worms to enjoy (correct me if I am wrong here :confused:)




    I remember this thread!

    My compost piles were duds. I am now sticking to the ‘piling up manure and stuff and leaving it ’til next year method’ for me :tup:


    Well after a few dismal failures I decided, along with the current vegie garden challenge, to get some more compost happening.

    It is some years since I tried making compost in a bin or pile (tried a few versions) and none of them really worked. Since then I have composted everything either through the chooks or straight into the garden somewhere in a hole.

    I realise that it’s no doubt Operator Failure, however here I am again, with a bin piled high with all the right stuff in all the right layers, failing to heat up.

    I thought it was a bit dry so watered them again last night. I’d like to get on top of it early so I have a good result this time.



    I haven’t had much success in the past either, but I think I’ve may have been adding too much manure.

    Using Nick’s compost calculator ( I’ve now got a couple of bins cooking and I’m hopeful of getting some good results this time.


    my compost bin is revolting at the moment.

    It’s purely a case of neglect, and I know it, so I can’t really blame anyone for that.

    I’ts just had nothing but food scraps added to the top for a few weeks now and it’s smelly and full of vinegar flies again.

    It’s on my list to get the corkcscrew out – and some lime – and play with it today.


    Ali_celt do you add layers of shredded newspaper between your layers of food scrapes? I tend to do that and it seems to inhibit the vinegar flies.

    I wet the newspaper down a little and that seems to get the heat going again. Still experimenting however at least I am not chucking out so much in the garbage each week, which is a great feeling. I add a little lime which certainly seems to help.




    I run regularly composting demonstrations here on the Sunshine Coast and just ran one yesterday at the sustainability expo (which was REALLY well attended too).

    We have a couple of composting systems here at home. The big bin systems where big chunky stuff goes, very much the pile up, water and turn occasionally and wait a while type of compost.

    The other type is using black bins (BMW brand) they have open base, lots of holes around the sides and a small door at the base on each side.

    Place the bin near the house (so you remember to maintain it), near water (so you can easily keep it wet enough) and in the sun.

    Here’s some tips for common problems;

    When you make the compost, make it fully to the top in one big hit.

    Gather all the materials (nitrogen – fresh stuff and carbon – old stuff) and break those piles into two types – fine (eg lawn clippings or sawdust) and coarse (big chunky stuff – we use a lot of Qld Arrowroot stalks and leaves here)

    Chop everything up so you increase the surface area so the microbes can get in

    Gather a variety of activators – things like liquid from the worm farm, diluted molasses or kelp, urine (but as Lyn says avoid it from anyone medicated), solid worm castings, sour milk, or humus from another compost, or a handful of mud from a dam wall. All of these when added to your nitrogen layers will get the microbial life off and running.

    Gather all these things – either from your own property or whereever you can beg steal or borrow them from.

    Make the compost right to the top in one hit and finish with a carbon layer.

    nitrogen, activator, carbon, water… keep going until it’s full.

    Put the lid on and leave it for a couple of days. Then start adding daily kitchen scraps etc, but always add a handfull of carbon to cover that up – this will prevent flies and bugs coming out at you when you lift the lid off.

    It will sink a lot, and you’ll need to do top up days. Just keep the carbon, water, nitrogren, activator rhythm going.

    Make sure it doesn’t get too dry either. Keep it maintained – treat the microbes like any stock on your property and keep them fed, watered and secure.

    It will eventually – depends on temp, environment, how much energy and effort you put it – turn to beautiful soil for you – guaranteed. You’ll end up with a couple of wheelbarrows of humus you can use directly in your garden and plant straight into.

    Hope this helps – I should get organised and do a series of photos and add them here…



    jennifer g

    Sonya, you are so helpful. I will print this out as to keep a reminder for myself. Thank you.


    That’s good information, Sonya. Great to hear the Expo had a large attendance too…

    I’m pleased to be able to say I seem to be having more success with the composting. I’m checking them every day (was given two bins after I bought an initial one, so have got them all on the go), turned and filled them this morning and, fingers crossed, it’s working.

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