1. Introduction to Composting

I’ve gathered a fair bit of information, and while it’s not rocket science, it’s too boring to read all at once, so I’ll be posting it in three instalments.

And as I’ve never composted before, I’ll be learning as I go, so bear with me.

Why Compost?

We have a lot of garden waste, as well as smaller amounts of coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, and newspapers, and it seems “wasteful” to put it out for the bin men to cart away.

Also, I’m going to need a steady supply of compost for the vegetable bed.

As compost is fairly expensive to buy (which in turn, makes your home-grown veggies expensive), I’ve decided to try my hand at making my own.

Another thing that’s expensive is the compost bin, so I’m making one of those too.

I can’t see the point in spending a fortune making (let’s face it) soil.

Albeit nutritious soil.

Some people get very complicated when composting – but if that’s what you want, stop reading, because I’ve chosen the simplest route possible.

How Composting Works

This is a straight quote from the Better Homes & Gardens Australia website:

“Oxygen-breathing bacteria break down material in the compost heap and excrete nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen.

As the material rots, the compost pile heats up and rots away even more.

Actinomycetes (a cross between fungi and bacteria) live in cooler parts of the heap and leave a cobweb-like growth on the compost – but don’t worry, it’s healthy.

Worms also burrow away, converting rubbish into soil.

Your compost is ready when it’s black, just moist, and crumbly.”

Sounds good (and as I warned – boring!), but despite the huge amounts of digging that I’ve done over the past year, I have yet to see a single worm!

Does Mauritius even have worms?

Anyway…

Making the Bin

If you’ve got plenty of room and a lot of waste, you can make a simple compost bin out of wooden pallets and star pickets – see here for instructions.

But I don’t have either, so I’m making this one.

Basically, you cut a large hole in the base of a plastic rubbish bin:

Base removedThen you dig a hole 10-15cm deep, and a bit wider than the bin. Place the bin upside down directly on the soil, and backfill to keep it in place.

And then you start filling it with whatever material you have on hand, water it, and put the lid on to cover the hole.

The lid lets in air, but stops critters from getting in – around here, mice, rats, and shrews. Not that I ever see them – the only reason I know is that Tipsy the cat occasionally brings a dead (and mutilated) one home.

Yuk!

Alf – get rid of it please – she’s hidden it behind the couch!

I did see a tang, or tenrec (a type of hedgehog originally from Madagascar) once. They’re cute but very shy – I tried to take a photo, but it kept running away and hiding it’s head in piles of leaves.

Apparently it’s not just cute, but also delicious if you like that sort of thing.

Think we’ll just stick to steak – we’re definitely not throwing a tang on the BBQ!

Anyway, the bin’s a bit of an eyesore, so if the composting works, I’ll think up a way of disguising it.

I’ve decided that it won’t have a permanent spot in the garden – as the waste rots down, I presume the ground underneath benefits.

So I’ll move it around each time I empty it out and thereby spread the goodness around.

If, that is, I can actually turn waste into garden gold!

Ready to roll

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5 thoughts on “1. Introduction to Composting

    • I don’t know, Samuel, but try asking on the Mauritian forum on expat.com I think I read something on there a while ago about it.
      If you do find out, would you please post another comment to help anyone else who’s looking.
      Good luck!

  1. Hi! I have just found your blog and will sure come back to it as I am also trying to set up a garden. I am also putting up a compost bin and am currently looking for… worms! Have you more information on those since your last post? Thanks a lot in advance!

    • Sorry for the tardy reply, Eleonore – I haven’t been checking my blog.

      I’m afraid I can’t help you regarding worms – even after improving the soil in my garden, and starting the compost bin, I haven’t seen any. Nor have I seen any for sale anywhere.

      Despite this, the compost does break down.

      You could try checking with your local council office – periodically, they sell subsidized compost bins to the public, and hold composting courses, so someone there may know.

      Once again, sorry for ignoring you!
      Veronique

  2. think I’ll try to follow this up – when I get time. At the moment I just throw everything around the base of the mango tree.

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