Monday, 6 March 2017

Compost progression after nine weeks

Although I've only recently let you in on my composting adventure, I've had a growing composting obsession for the past two months. I toss stuff into my YOLO Compost Tumbler, I tumble it, I stare at it and I marvel at the organisms that are doing their thing to reduce organic matter to brown, earthy compost. You just don't get to do as much looking when the composting action is happening deep within a heap.

On Sunday, I spent some time with my compost. After nine weeks, my YOLO is less than half full. The volume goes up and down as I add material and then it starts to decompose and the organisms work on it and so the level drops. I'd say I have less than 20 litres of the 45-litre volume. I emptied it out into our wheelbarrow.

To give you an idea of what is in here...

  • nine weeks of onion skins - I use an onion or two almost every night (say an average of one a day for nine weeks - that's skin and bits from 63 onions)
  • lots of crushed egg shells - from what must certainly be over 120 eggs
  • cardboard from at least six 30-egg egg trays
  • rind from a large watermelon
  • rind from a sweet melon
  • lots of peelings from butternuts and other pumpkins (at least 7 to 10 of them)
  • gem squash skins (cooked) - a good number of them
  • lots of banana peels (my household eats bananas 1 to 3 of them a day)
  • off cuts from celery, tomatoes, carrots, baby marrows, potatoes, apple cores and other bits
  • rooibos tea leaves (lots!)
  • a few tea bags (I'm still testing out the composting of tea bags - so far no evidence remains of the bags that I can see; I'm throwing in a bunch tomorrow)
  • some coffee grinds (the rest go to my worm bin - the worms are boring compared to my YOLO)
  • at least a 1/4 tumbler volume (not compacted) of dry leaves from autumn last year
  • two vacuum-bag contents
This is what I have tossed into my YOLO. My family has probably added some other stuff.

For weeks I've been reading websites about composting. Compost tumblers are definitely faster due to better aeration (from the tumbling), heat (closed container) and that new material is mixed in with old. It's more efficient. But I don't believe websites that report that you'll get compost in two weeks (yes, some do). It will actually take weeks to fill, especially if you're only using kitchen scraps. And then once it is full, you stop adding new material and then leave it to mature. That takes a few weeks more. Looking at the state of my compost as it stands now, 6-8 weeks to maturity would be fair. 

Of course rate of composting depends on environmental conditions (sunny South Africa or sub-zero Alaska) and what you've put in your tumbler. I'm torn between wanting to leave my compost to mature and an interest to see just how long it will take me to get my YOLO to the point of being almost full.

I've got a tub of new material - banana skins, mielie cobs and full tea bags - to throw in tomorrow. I'm interest to see what happens to the cobs.

Between recycling plastic, paper, glass, tins and my compost, we have less than a plastic shopping bag of trash each week for a household of four.

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