Here’s update seven from our facilitator Jennifer, who is creating a hugelkultur bed at her property.
Step 7 – Adding Compost
I used about half a wheelbarrow of home made compost that had been maturing for more than a year. I sprinkled it on the top of the hugelkultur bed and let it fall down the sides. Black gold!
I prefer to use my own homemade organic compost so I know exactly what’s in it. Compost can be purchased but it has been known for purchased compost to bring unwanted weed seeds on to a property.
There is also a risk of contracting Legionnaires disease from breathing in dust from compost and this is more of a risk with purchased compost that has dried out than home made compost which is usually moist.
I recommend you keep your home compost moist so it is not dusty, and stay upwind (ie wind coming from behind you) of any risky products when opening them so any dust blows away from you. Find more safety advice below.
If you don’t have any compost and don’t want to purchase it, worm castings from a worm farm would be a good alternative or start making compost now so you can add it later. Good compost takes between three months (in a compost tumbler that is turned every day) to a year for compost that is not turned.
Compost can be enclosed in a bin or built in a heap. Ideally the compost will be in a sunny spot. I recommend the south side of your vegetable garden so it gets plenty of sun and it’s easy to transfer the finished compost to your garden to feed your vegetables! Start with woody brown materials which contain a lot of carbon (eg twigs).
On top of this brown layer add a green layer which contains lots of nitrogen (e.g. fresh grass clippings, animal manure from herbivores, the contents of a bokashi bucket or food scraps). Always cover your green layer with another brown layer (eg wood mulch, ripped up cardboard).
It’s like a giant club sandwich where the brown layer is the bread and the green layer is the filling. It’s a closed sandwich so every green layer needs to be covered with a brown layer.
Safety Advice from healthinfo.org.nz
To avoid getting Legionnaires’ disease, be very careful when using potting mix, seed raising mix, compost, or other soil products. It’s very important that you do not inhale the dust from any of these products.
To keep yourself safe, follow these guidelines:
- Wear a disposable face mask and gloves when opening bags of potting mix or other soil products.
- Open bags carefully, using scissors rather than ripping the bag.
- Do your potting outside, in a well-ventilated area.
- Use a sprinkle of water to dampen down potting mix or compost. This stops the dust from spreading in the air.
- Wash your hands very well after touching potting mix or soil products, or after doing any gardening.
I’ll be adding the final layer of top soil in the next blog. If you missed the earlier blogs, here’s where to find them:
1 Getting started
2 Collecting logs
3 Preparing the ground
4 Layering logs
5 Adding turf
6 Adding compostable materials