Last Sunday the Newstead Community Garden turned three and we celebrated with compost making, and rain. By Thursday the heap was at 58.5 degrees C (at 14cm depth and probably hotter at its core) and we had over 12mm in the gauge.
Building a large compost heap is not only critical for soil building but it is also a great community activity and we couldn’t do it without extra hands. Jay Smith from Mount Alexander Shire and Rosie and Ernst Gegenhuber from BD Victoria supported us and gardeners came from Newstead, Castlemaine, Taradale and other areas to learn about the basics and help build our heap. Our peppercorn tree makes a great ‘classroom’, even in rain.
Compost is the most important tool in organic and biodynamic gardening, where the focus is on feeding the soil. It’s the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that do the work for us, turning ‘waste’ into a rich resource, improving the soil and providing plant nutrients. We built our heap with successive layers of carbon (brown) and nitrogen (green) and included the biodynamic herb-based preparations of valerian, chamomile, nettle, yarrow, oak bark and dandelion. Other materials like eggshells, lime, dolomite and rockdust added minerals. Aeration, heaps of water and then a covering ‘blanket’ of thick straw set up the ideal conditions for composting.
Biodynamics also works with the wider cosmos – the rhythms and cycles of the moon, stars and planets: ‘as above, so below’. We made the most of a waning (synodal rhythm) and descending moon (tropical rhythm) and a “root” day when the moon was passing through the earth constellation or sign of Taurus (sidereal rhythm). All perfect for compost making. Now we watch and wait.
We also stirred a batch of Horn Manure (BD500) through our flowforms and sprayed the garden and compost heap at the end of the day. We always have enough left for members to take some for their home gardens, so the preps are being spread well beyond the community garden.
Thanks to local biodynamic sheep and grain growers and other local farmers, gardeners and businesses who contributed with gifts of green material, lawn clippings, leaves and manure. Garden members catered with food and helped collect shearing shed manure and cart spelt hulls. We have so much material we are thinking about building another heap, once there’s a bit more green about, perhaps in six weeks or so. You can never have too much compost!