What to grow in December 2016

Do check suitable plantings for your climate zone each month before purchasing seeds or seedlings from large nursery chains as some send the same plants to their stores in all parts of Australia. I noticed while browsing in Bunnings today seedlings of peas, snow peas and English spinach. These varieties do not do well in December in our warm temperate climate and will quickly attract pests and disease. To help your garden cope with very hot weather, give your plants a drink of seaweed extract tea at weak black tea strength. This provides potassium and trace elements that help plants to become more tolerant of hot weather. Organic mulch around plants not only helps to keep soil damp longer, it reduces fluctuations in soil temperatures. In extreme conditions, some shade during the hottest part of the day prevents sun-scald of fruits and vegetables, and reduces water loss from plants with soft leaves. See Sun and heat protection.
For those who have a some time to spare this busy month, the following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during December in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2012), and e-book (Bookish 2012).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE ZONES
If your area has a wet season in the next few months, it might be wiser to not sow sweet corn this month, as heavy rain will prevent good pollination. Corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, silver beet, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cow pea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and pumpkin can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, radish, and watercress can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, lemongrass, passionfruit and dandelion can be sown or planted out, and banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, lemon grass can be sown or planted out, and mango planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, silver beet, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds. Leek and spring onions can be sown as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, passionfruit, dandelion, lemon grass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

COOL CLIMATE
In cool climates, there is still time to plant fast-maturing varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon. Seed for these can be ordered from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania (PO Box 207 Snug, Tasmania 7054).

Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, silver beet, tatsoi, dill, and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, mung bean, soybean, cereal rye, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leek, lettuce, spring onions, sweet basil and parsley, can be sown or planted our. In warmer areas, NZ spinach and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and in colder areas bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, and mizuna can be sown directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, as well as suitable varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon (see notes at beginning of post). Cauliflower, cucumber and zucchini can be sown or planted out, as well as summer squash in warmer areas only.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Dandelion, pyrethrum, sage, and watercress can be sown or planted out, and mint planted. Cuttings of rosemary, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

cmas2016

What to grow in November 2016

garlicpurple Garlic should be getting close to maturity now. Slowly reduce irrigation as bases mature. Garlic needs to be harvested in dry weather, so keep an eye on weather predictions. It will dry (or cure) more quickly if you harvest after the Full Moon when sap flow is lower in the foliage part of plants.
Give tomato, capsicum and chilli plants regular deep watering and a light application of complete organic fertiliser as they start to flower. If soil is too dry tomatoes won’t be able to absorb enough calcium for healthy skins and your tomatoes will form black patches on the part opposite the stem (Blossom end rot).

The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during November in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2012), and e-book (BookIsh 2012).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.
WARM CLIMATES
Advice to sow sweet corn in Warm climates this month will apply only to those areas that do not have almost continual rain in January – February. Pollination of corn is poor in wet weather, and the crop could be lost. However, corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soy bean or millet, Japanese millet, mung bean or sorghum. Parsley, spring onions and sweet and purple basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, pineapple, lemongrass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana suckers can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soybean or millet.
During First Quarter phase, sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, eggplant, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds. Banana, passionfruit, pawpaw, pineapple, and lemongrass can be sown or planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Leek, spring onions, basil and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, potato, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and watercress can be sown or planted out. Asparagus seedlings, banana suckers, mango, pawpaw, mint and lemongrass can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of mung bean, soybean, barley, cereal rye, millet or Japanese millet. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet, spring onions and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, cucumber, suitable pumpkin and rockmelon varieties, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown. In warmer areas, capsicum and eggplant can also be sown. In colder areas, sow suitable broccoli varieties.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed, chives, oregano, pyrethrum, rosemary, sage, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Blueberry, cherry guava, mint, and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. In colder areas, parsnip and lawn seed can be sown.

What to grow in October 2016

Check seedlings daily, as punnets, seedling trays and small seedlings can dry out quickly, especially if weather is also windy. Light applications of organic liquid fertiliser can help seedlings to establish quickly, but too much high-nitrogen fertiliser will result in too much soft growth that is very attractive to pests.
To keep tomato plants healthy, a deep watering once or twice (in hot, dry weather) a week is better than a daily late watering. As flowers start to form on tomato plants, a light application of a complete organic fertiliser will ensure good cropping.
Make sure you apply plenty of mature compost where you grow cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and zucchinis. The compost helps to keep soil pH close to the range where the fruits can absorb the calcium they need to form firm skins, and avoid the problem of immature fruit going yellow and soft. Regular, deep watering also helps calcium absorption when needed.
The following advice on what to plant in October is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs for Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, 2012.

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable grain crops, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab, millet, Japanese millet, sorghum, mung bean, or soybean. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, summer squash, tomato and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, lemongrass and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, sweet potato, marjoram, mint, oregano, and sage can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab or millet.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum and tomato can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw and can be sown or planted out. Banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruit, pineapple, lemongrass and sweet potato can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, rocket, NZ spinach, tatsoi and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, buckwheat, millet, Japanese millet, pigeon pea, soybean – or sorghum late in October. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet, spring onions, basil, dill and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon, zucchini and rosella can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, beetroot, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, passionfruit, pawpaw, potato, radish, sweet potato, chives and lawn seed can be sown directly into beds. Avocado, blueberry, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, mango, pawpaw, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf laid.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, radicchio, rocket, tatsoi, coriander, dill and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, barley, cereal rye, millet or wheat. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. In very cold areas, also sow Brussels sprouts.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, tomato and chamomile can be sown or planted out, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be started in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Also sow or plant out asparagus seed, beetroot, globe artichoke and chives. After frost, blueberry, potted grapes, cherry guava and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. Also sow lawn seed or lay turf.

Aubergine (eggplant)

eggplantwht Have you ever wondered why they were called eggplants? This variety is the reason. The small white fruit, which look like hens’ eggs hanging on a bush, has a delicious flavour but has been very difficult to find in recent years and I was delighted to finally find some seeds. Yates has ‘White Star’ and there is a variety called ‘Easter Egg’ available from an Australian grower on eBay.

Aubergines (Solanum melangena) are a member of the tomato family and require a similar position, soil preparation, and soil pH. However, they require warmer conditions for germination than tomatoes and are usually sown 1 cm deep in small pots in a warm, protected position. The small, white variety produces a compact bush and can be grown in beds or pots. Aubergines need staking because the stems are brittle, and they appreciate a light application of poultry-based, complete fertiliser as buds form. Regular harvesting increases production. Cut fruit from the plant with a 2 cm stem when the skin is firm and shiny.

What to grow in September 2016

Grnpatch Time to get busy for many gardeners. Many commercial seed retailers use hybrid seed (F1) and the seed produced from hybrid variety crops is usually sterile so there is no point in saving it. If you want to grow open-pollinated seed so that you can save seed from your crops to sow next year, these seeds can be obtained by mail order from Greenpatch Organic Seeds, Green Harvest, Eden Seeds or Phoenix Seeds in most states.
Keep a close eye on seedlings as warm weather in September can suddenly turn into a cold snap. Lots of different varieties can be sown this month if you have a warm, sheltered spot where seedlings can get a strong start before planting out when nights are warmer.

The following gardening advice of what to grow in September is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in August in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting 2006, 2009, 2012 (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009 and 2012) – now also available as an e-book.
* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase..
WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, suitable grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, millet, Japanese millet or mung bean, if water is available.
Cabbage, suitable open-headed Chinese cabbage, parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, pumpkin and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, carrot, potato (Brisbane and areas south), radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, passionfruits, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE North of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, suitable cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet and NZ spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, lablab or millet. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rosella and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit and pawpaw can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruits, lemongrass and mint can be planted. Also plant marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme where they won’t become waterlogged.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of chickpea, clover, barley or millet. Celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. Cabbage, parsley and sweet basil can be sown in a cold frame, and NZ spinach, coriander and dill sown direct after frost.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, in frost-free areas. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, tomato, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, beetroot, sweet potato and chives can be sown in a cold frame. In frost-free areas, banana passionfruit, passionfruit and tropical guava can be planted. After frost, avocado, blueberry, citrus, cherry guava, macadamia, olive, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can also be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Cool climate gardeners may still need a cloche to protect young seedlings.
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, radicchio and rocket can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, broad beans, field pea, barley, oats, triticale or wheat. Cabbage, celery, bulb fennel, leek, silver beet and spring onions can be sown in a cold frame. In very cold areas, broad beans, peas and spinach can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, cucumber, leek, suitable pumpkin, suitable rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame, or after frost.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed and globe artichoke can be sown in a cold frame.
After frost, potted grapes and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf can be laid.

Gall wasp reminder

gallwasp For gardeners on the east coast – don’t forget that it is a legal requirement in some areas to remove galls from citrus trees by the end of August. Gall wasps lay eggs in main stems or fruit stalks. This forms a swelling and gall wasp larvae weaken trees. As trees may be forming blossoms, delay in pruning may reduce next year’s crop. If you haven’t done so, check citrus trees (especially grapefruit and lemons) this week and prune off any galls before adult wasps emerge to lay eggs in new shoots. Burn affected prunings or dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. See: Citrus gall wasp

Healthy tomatoes

tmtroots A strong, healthy root system that allows your tomato plants to absorb enough water and nutrients is essential for producing a good crop and allowing your plants to produce their own pest-deterrents. Tomatoes in their natural state, grow along the ground and will form auxiliary roots along their stems, but our method of growing tomatoes tied to stakes prevents this.
However, you can give them a helping hand to produce extra roots before planting out by lying potted seedlings on their side when they are 10-12 cm tall. Leave them like this for a week or so, depending on the growth rate, and remember to stand them upright for watering. As you can see in the photo, the main stem with make a 90-degree turn, and root buds will form on the horizontal part of the stem. Plant them out with the growth tip vertical and the horizontal stem just below the soil surface. Or, you can remove the seed leaves and plant them up to just below the next set of leaves, then hill soil around them slightly as they grow.

For moon planters

Calwdgt2b

Colour-coded Calendars now available

In response to readers’ requests, Aussie Organic Gardening now has easy-to-follow, colour-coded, moon planting calendars for gardeners. Colours indicate suitable moon phases for certain garden activities and the best days within each phase. Weeks begin on a Monday, so that weekend gardeners can see at a glance which activities are suitable for coming weekends.
Our planting by the moon calendars are suitable for all gardeners in Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the southern hemisphere. The practice of sowing and planting by the moon, also known as lunar planting, has been used by farmers and gardeners around the world for many centuries.

Click on the links on the right side of the home page to purchase a planting calendar for the rest of 2016 or a planting calendar for 2017.
For readers not familiar with moon planting or gardening by the moon, information can be found here All about moon planting:

Compost – bins and tips

Compost Bins

Compost can be made in a variety of containers. The examples below show a double bin made from recycled timber, a double bin made from recycled, heavy gauge bird wire covered with knitted polypropylene shadecloth, and a commercial single bin. Double or triple bins are best as you can turn the compost from one bin into the next, with the third bin used to start a new heap.
dblcompost compostbins2
Compost tumblers (below, right) do the work of aerating the mixture. They are suitable for composting small quantities of fairly soft ingredients quickly, for people who are not able to turn compost easily, but the mixture may not generate enough heat to kill diseases.
SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503
Homemade containers don’t require skilled carpentry. What goes into the compost container is more important than how it looks. The main points to remember in deciding on the size and site of your compost container are:

  • When ingredients form one cubic metre (i.e. 1 m. x 1 m. x 1 m.), aerobic bacteria will generate enough heat to kill diseases and weed seeds.
  • Open-base bins that are in contact with soil allow earthworms to enter the mixture (when it has cooled down) and provide worm castings to the mixture while they help complete the composting process.
  • Recommendations to position compost bins in full sun do not apply to many parts of Australia, as too much heat can kill off composting organisms. A shaded spot is ideal.
  • Compost bins need a cover to prevent the ingredients becoming sodden in heavy rain.

Some Composting Tips

If you are new to compost making, don’t be intimidated by statements of the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in compost making. Most recommended ingredients contain a mixture of both. With a little practice, you will quickly learn to identify and correct any imbalances.

  • Chop up tough items using shears, a shredder, or a sharp spade (spread items on soil or grass first to prevent jolting). This assists faster decomposition as bacteria work on the surfaces of organic waste. The more surfaces you can provide – the faster they can work.
  • The secret to making compost quickly to turn it regularly to keep it aerated, and to keep it damp as aerobic bacteria that commence the process require nitrogen, air and moisture to process the carbon.
  • The secret to fast composting is regular turning and mixing of the ingredients. Weekly turning while the ingredients are generating heat will produce mature compost very quickly. As the compost breaks down, the mass is reduced.
  • You don’t have to wait until you have a cubic metre of ingredients – turning and mixing ingredients will get the bacteria working.
  • If the pile looks grey or contains ants – it is too dry. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding enough water to dampen the mixture.
  • Don’t be concerned about slaters in your compost heap. They feed on semi-decomposed organic matter.
  • If the pile is black with an unpleasant smell – it is over-wet. Air has been forced out, and anaerobic composting has begun. Turn and mix the ingredients, while dusting with agricultural lime every 15 cm, and adding some straw to the mix. Protect pile from rain.
  • If the pile seems inactive – it may need more nitrogen. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding some manure every 20 cm. If manures are unavailable, you can substitute a generous sprinkling of poultry-based, organic-allowed fertiliser.
  • Your compost is ready when it is dark brown, crumbly, with a pleasant earthy smell and ingredients, apart from pieces of egg shell, are no longer recognisable. A 5 cm layer added to topsoil provides your garden with all the minerals that plants, animals and humans need for good health.

Compost materials

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Compost is made by combining organic waste than provides nitrogen and/or carbon. The advice to make compost from waste that is green (provides nitrogen) and brown (provides carbon) is a bit confusing when manure contains a lot of nitrogen, but most of it is brown. When suitable dampened materials are combined in a heap that has contact with the soil, heat is generated and millions of aerobic bacteria get to work transforming the fuel into a compost-making factory.

Good Fuels

  • Manure from animals that eat grass (lots of nitrogen)
  • Chicken manure (lots of nitrogen)
  • Weeds without seed heads (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Lawn cuttings that have wilted (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Green prunings – shredded (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Raw vegetables and fruit – chopped for fast break down (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Uncooked kitchen waste – including tea bags and coffee grounds (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Old plants – chopped for fast break down (nitrogen and carbon)
  • Bedding straw for animals that eat grass or seeds (lots of nitrogen and carbon)
  • Straw and hay (lots of carbon)
  • Cardboard boxes and egg cartons – shredded (carbon)
  • Undyed wool, feathers and hair (nitrogen and carbon)

In Small Amounts

  • Newspaper and waste paper – separate sheets crumpled or roughly shredded (carbon)
  • Woody prunings – shredded (carbon)
  • Wood shavings – (very slow to break down and tie up a lot of nitrogen)
  • Seaweed – well-washed (helps factory work faster)
  • Herbs – comfrey, yarrow and chamomile (help factory work faster)
  • Egg shells – crumbled (keep compost smelling sweet and earthy)

Do Not Add

  • Plastic or foil containers, wrapping or disposable nappies
  • Fruit or vegetables that have been attacked by fruit fly or codling moth (larvae can pupate in factory)
  • Plants with diseases
  • Cat, dog or human faeces* (these can spread diseases through compost)
  • Rats or mice* (can spread diseases through compost)
  • Grey water (upsets pH balance and slows process)
  • Soil – makes compost heavy and harder to turn (amount clinging to weed roots is sufficient)
  • Earthworms – the initial heat will kill them. Earthworms know when to move into a compost factory.
  • Synthetic fertilisers (delays process and deters earthworms)

If you only have small quantities of organic waste to recycle, a worm farm would be a better solution. See Compost Worm Farm.
For information on how compost makes garden soil healthy, see Compost.
** Cat and dog faeces, and vermin, can be composted anaerobically in a small pit or container, but this compost should not be added to garden beds.