Easy composting

Easy composting enriches the soil and saves you having to barrow the humus around the patch.

Every organic gardener knows the magic that a compost heap performs. But still it is a tiresome job and heavy work. Here are a few tips from decades of experience.

Mostly compost heaps seem to be tucked away in some corner, out of sight because they are untidy things. That means carting all your prunings, grass cuttings and kitchen waste some extra way; and when the humus is formed, barrowing it to distant parts.

Dried mealie stalks for easy composting.

Build a central compost pile

If you build a central compost pile then it saves you a lot of hard work both coming and going. It may mean sacrificing a little pride about your immaculate garden.

Choose a central garden bed that is not performing as well as it might. Or one where there is a lot of waste such as corn stalks; they are heavy and carting them to a distant compost pile is a fag. Incidentally they are much easier to dig out of the ground after a rain.

Corn stalks make a great foundation to any compost heap; then pile on grass cuttings, coffee-grounds and old leaves. Traditionally one should have twice as much dry material to green but it's not critical; nature will still do its thing, perhaps a little more slowly turning garden and kitchen refuse into humus.

Above you can see how we used to build a compost heap up against a wall; now they will often be located in a central bed.

In a couple months turn the pile, harvesting the "black gold" that is your humus and move any residual stalks to an adjacent patch; starting a new heap. Needy garden beds will now be located much closer, easing the burden of barrowing that compost. 

You'll now find that anything you plant where that compost heap was located will take off; much of the humus is left behind and the nutrients penetrate deep into the soil.

"Researchers modelled the combined effects of export restrictions, increased energy costs and mid-2022 fertiliser prices which were three times higher than at the start of the previous year. Food costs could rise by 81 per cent in 2023 compared to 2021 levels."

- School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh.


A brick underground reservoir under construction.

Water is expensive and precious. During prolonged dry weather easy composting means dampening your central heap. Think about harvesting the rain; it's a lot cleaner[1] and courtesy of the heavens it comes for free if you can store it. You can even use it in the home.

However your compost heap certainly does not like being water-logged.

This underground reservoir to harvest and store the rain has certainly helped with easy composting.

Should you keep ducks a few buckets of water from the pond adds extra nutrients and bacteria for the myriad of bugs that reduce garden waste to precious humus.

Chicken litter

Lutein is the best chicken food; they love their greens.

Buying in chicken litter or better still your own birds, adds nitrogen and will greatly hasten easy composting. We routinely throw all of our weeds first to the hens before adding them to the pile; they peck and scratch at them, devouring any seeds and reducing the volume. The whole process is speeded up.

Cow or horse manure would be equally good.

No inorganic fertiliser can replace all the minerals and compounds like humic acid that aids plant growth; there are literally hundreds of these substances, perhaps thousands.

After a crop like corn it is good to follow with a legume such as peas or beans; bacteria attach to the roots providing nitrogen for the production of amino-acids, leaving much in the soil for the next generation of lettuces or spinach.

Lightning also provides smaller amounts of nitrogen for the soil[2].

Crop rotation is an essential part of organic gardening; it also limits the spread of pests and plant diseases.



Let's talk about hunger. I am not exaggerating; we have fresh fruit from our backyard every single day and grow food to the value of at least R100,000 each year in our suburban garden. The pile of beans below came from just two plants.

Broad beans from just two plants

This kind of yield is utterly depending on easy composting methods though. We have no need of the fertilisers soaring in price thanks to Vladimir the Terrible.

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Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, the family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

Here are the back issues.

  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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Hilton, KZN

South Africa