Learning from Mistakes Issue 19 – 29/01/14

Like buses after a long wait, newsletters are now coming thick and fast  –  here we are again, with an update to record the recent switch of active box from 4 to 1:
Date             Box 1                        Box 2                          Box 3                    Box 4

19/01           Full of very wet        Empty, ready             Half full of wet      Full of fresh
stuff, part turned      to become active      stuff; toolstore     stuff, ready to close

28/01         Empty and                 Containing only       As above, and      Closed and
now ‘active’              undigested stuff      coming along       tucked up cosy
from box 1             nicely                  under plastic

We are relative beginners, most of us, and have to learn our lessons…occasionally the hard way. Here are some we learned in the past year:
1) The design of the boxes is defective if you aim to pursue dry composting in a wet climate – it is just not possible to keep rainwater out.
2) The ‘inner tent or pitched roof’ idea works quite well – a plastic sheet tucked in around the edges to channel any ingress aside and out  through gaps and holes…. so if you bet against it working, you lost it…. and one day we’ll be producing crumbly fragrant dry compost to be proud of once again, as in the summer of 20-13 (I can feel a folk song coming on – anyone up for it?).
3) There is no need to be paranoid about water and wet compost…. many others successfully run systems open to the elements – its just that he compost tends to become a bit smelly, muddy and very heavy (as shown by aching backs).
4) Carbonaceous and dense matter takes very long to compost (particularly under wet conditions)….so avocado kernels, sticks, and thick cardboard bits hang around without disintegrating long after the rest has turned to mush. Before bagging the contents of box 1 I picked out  these bits and put them in Box 2 to give them more time to compose themselves.
5) Under wet conditions it is a mistake to lay down cardboard bits as a fresh base in an empty box (as I have been doing) because after a while it interferes with drainage.
6) I do not know if addition of cardboard is beneficial under these circumstances but until we know better, let us continue with the practice, but do please
a) add it in small pieces (postcard size rather than A4 or larger, or folded) ;
b) add only unglazed cardboard or pulp packaging; and
c) remove adhesive tape, if you can (otherwise it has to be picked out while bagging)
…and finally,
7)  Monitoring duties being undemanding, Trish and I feel that in the interest of simplicity we might try to  work with a single monitor at a time, Trish and I providing backup when the monitor cannot manage 2 or 3 weekly visits – for whatever reason – over a month..

See you soon – around the village pump.