COMPOST: New year, new soil, that’s your bloomin’ lot

I want to share with you something Mr Cundall was passionate about: compost.

Gardening Australia host Peter Cundall. Photo: Contributed

The well-known adage ‘feed the soil, not the plants’ is true. You can add as many fertilisers and soil improvers as you like to poor soil but it will only just sustain your plants. To create soil in which your plants will flourish, you need to add organic matter: think of a forest floor, rich and fertile from years of leaf litter, animal droppings and the odd carcass – nature’s blood and bone.

Rich, healthy soil is chock full of decomposing organic matter. Many of us will remember Peter Cundall sticking his nose into great handfuls of compost and breathing in the earthy aroma, while telling us in his broad Lancashire accent to “get cracking”.

This is the stuff your soil needs if you want lush, vigorous plants in your garden. And it is incredibly easy to get – you just make it in your backyard.

Make your own compost beds in the backyard. Photo: Contributed

You can compost anything that biodegrades – vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, weeds, straw, manure and leaf litter. Natural fabrics are also biodegradable and will add good carbon material to your compost: cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo and even silk will all compost well if cut into small pieces first.

Beware anything containing polyester, acrylic, nylon or elastane: these fibres will never biodegrade fully but become micro-plastic environmental pollutants (a good reason to avoid buying new clothes made from them).

Teabags also contain some plastic, and the silky coffee and herbal tea bags are a definite no-no for compost.

As are meat and fish if you do not want to attract rats and blowflies.

Compost needs a mix of carbon and nitrogen to generate heat and decompose well without a foul smell developing. Carbon matter is the ‘dry’ ingredients like straw, paper and fabric, whereas nitrogen is ‘wet’ matter like food scraps, coffee grounds and weeds. You don’t need to be too exacting about proportions — if it smells bad and is wet, add some dry, if it is too dry and not composting, add some greens and a little water. Compost needs airflow, so turn it as often as possible, once a week if you can.

Manure and leaf litter are a wonderful balance of carbon and nitrogen and will break down into perfect soil on their own without anything else added – if you have a plentiful supply of these you are fortunate indeed.

Worms in your soil is a treasure. Photo: Contributed

An alternative way to get organic matter into your soil is to ‘chop and drop’ – leave any plant or weed trimmings where they are. They provide mulch and break down into great compost in situ, feeding the soil around your plants (mimicking that forest floor).

If you have poor soil, compost will transform it in a matter of two or three years. What was once devoid of life becomes full of worms, slater beetles, fungi and the many other organisms present in a healthy soil. Your plants will become more resistant to pests and diseases, your garden will thrive, and your home-grown produce will be tastier and packed with nutrition.

Thank you Peter Cundall for the joy and inspiration you brought to so many.

by Bernice Shepherd

Scroll to Top
Like an alert when we add a story? Yes please No thanks