written by Jason Knight
One thing that I noticed once I had seen the garden here at Veintidós was the size of the compost, or rather the lack of size to be more specific. In my previous volunteering on a farm in Morocco, the compost that I had designed and built was about 4m x 4m in size, a huge compost area, perhaps a little too ambitious but nonetheless, big. Of course, that was on a farm, and this compost is in an urban setting, in a small space, on a sloping hillside....was small in comparison due to these many restrictions. The compost was at this time a white plastic basket about 30cm in diameter and maybe 1m in height, semi-buried in the ground. It was a FILO (First In Last Out) design, the kitchen scraps were added into the basket with straw placed on top and this made up the layers. When I arrived the basket was already full and in order to get access to the most decomposed/composted material, the entire contents of the basket would need to be dug out. I could see this was a situation in need of improving and a task in need of being created.
Compost is a necessary component when engaging in any form of organic farming or permaculture. The ability to compost organic matter, essential kitchen scraps, food waste and other discarded vegetative matter into a rich fertile humus that can then be used in the garden to enrich the existing soil cannot be understated.
"Adding compost to your garden will not only fertilize, it actually feeds your soil with a diversity of nutrients and microorganisms that will improve plant growth. Chemical fertilizers on the other hand provide a quick burst of a limited number of nutrients that can wash away into our rivers and streams. Compost also increases soil stability, improves drainage and helps retain moisture." greenactioncentre.ca
The first thing in order to improve the compost was to come up with an idea. The idea has to work within the constraints of the materials available to complete the project. In this particular case, I had access to some wooden pallets and some sheets of plywood. What I usually do is a rough sketch...ummm, a very rough sketch and see if I am able to make a viable design. So I sketched a design using 2 pallets and the plywood.
Now, 99% of the time, the sketch I make and the finished product are usually very different looking, and that's because:
- I can't draw for shit
- The sketch is just an approximate idea for me to follow
- I'm flexible in my approach in adapting the design during the construction process
After I had made the compost bin sketch, I went about and measured the area that I actually had to work with, which was about 1 meter sq. The 2 pallet approach in my design wasn't going to work, so I adapted and cut one of the pallets in half. These 2 halves were within the 1m constraints of the space. Then for the backside, I used the plywood, this would keep the compost nicely inside the space, also, I used the remaining plywood as a divider, to make 2 composting compartments.
The next part was straight forward, sawing a pallet in half, nailing a crossbeam for support and attaching the plywood backing. I had already dug out and into the terrace where the compost area is to make the ground level and ensure the new structure would fit. As there was no space to build this in the garden, I opted to build it on the rooftop, not that there was any other option. With the help of Anker, a couchsurfer who was staying here for a couple of days, we carried the new compost bin from the roof over the walkway to the garden and placed it in the area I had cleared; it fit perfectly.
The final addition to my composting masterpiece was to transfer all the existing compost from the plastic bin. This was easy, all I had to do was turn it upside down and shake it. There was some material inside which was festering, slightly rancid, so it's good that the new compost has been made. Not just for easy of use, as it is now simple to turn the compost from one compartment to the other, but also in the volume of organic matter it can handle; the old bin wasn't coping with the large volume of kitchen scraps being added to it.
Hopefully this new compost will enable the Veintidós Project to power on and plant many more delicious and tasty vegetables and other edibles in its garden....composting todo avante!!