Don't Be Scared!

Overcome your fear of compost and watch your garden thrive.

In her first TED Talk, the best-selling author, Elizabeth Gilbert admitted to being scared of seaweed. Everyone has that one thing, right?

For many would-be gardeners, it is composting that throws them into a panic.

Although we’ve all been told that composting is a good idea, we have an impressive ability to conjure up an inexhaustible list of reasons not to compost:

It’s too smelly, too complicated, rats will get in, we don’t have enough space, we haven’t got time, it’s all a bit icky, there’s all that turning and rotating isn’t there, and it’s too overwhelming to know where to even start.

Fair enough. I get it.

I’ve had many of those same thoughts myself.

Some people though, are natural-born composters. In the blink of an eye they can transform last night’s potato peelings and the Sunday paper into a rich, crumbly mix that looks good enough to eat.

My partner Richard’s dad, Colin, is one such alchemist. 

 Meet CB: green thumb, artist, kitchen guru, fisherman, golfer, Olympic-level bargain hunter and all-round top bloke.

Meet CB: green thumb, artist, kitchen guru, fisherman, golfer, Olympic-level bargain hunter and all-round top bloke.

For twenty years I have been watching him work his magic in the garden, and after much cajoling, I've finally convinced him to share three secrets of his success.

Secret Item 1: the custom-made compost bins

CB has experimented with off-the-shelf bins but his current model is one he invented himself. It goes something like this: get hold of two wheelie bins, drill holes all over the sides, and wheel into place.

Voila! Scraps go in the top, the lid keeps birds out and conditions nice and toasty, the base keeps rats out, and the holes allow air circulation.

All the kitchen scraps go in, even citrus, traditionally a no-no. If it looks a bit wet, he adds some sugar cane mulch.

Occasionally, he’ll sneak in a bonus ingredient, like a few cuttlefish.

That’s it. Simple.

Two bins sit side-by-side, allowing one to be in use and the other available for harvest. And no, it doesn’t smell bad.

Secret Item 2: the experimental potions

CB lives at the beach, and has recently been experimenting with a DIY seaweed solution. We all know plants love seaweedy and fishy food, so why not make your own, right?

He got hold of some seaweed after big seas and put it to soak in a tub of water. Every so often he hives off some of the rich brown liquid, dilutes it, and waters it into the plants.

Secret Item 3: the icing on the cake

Topping everything off is a layer of sugar cane mulch. You can positively hear the plants cooing with happiness under their mulch blankies. The cane mulch is simply topped up as it starts to break down into the soil.

So there you have it. With these three simple things (and a few other tricks that I haven't let out of the bag today) The Colster is able to keep up a steady supply of salad greens and culinary herbs all year round. He also has a couple of pawpaws just firing themselves up to be productive.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or for us at least, the pictures of a healthy, productive garden. I hope this has showed you that composting needn’t be difficult or onerous, and that the rewards are well worth it.

Most of all I hope this shows that a willingness to experiment lies at the heart of many a successful garden, so go boldly into yours!

What do you think?

Is composting one of those things you think you ‘should do’ but you’ve been avoiding? What one thing do you think would make it easier to get started? Or if you are a composting legend, what’s your one sure-fire tip for success?

Let us know in the comments below.

If you know someone who might enjoy this story, we’d be honoured if you’d share it, and we look forward to catching up soon for more from the fascinating world of gardens, landscape and design.