If your attempts at composting seem to take forever to break down to a useable product, try building your next compost heap with straw bale. Remember to get organic straw bales if you have an organic garden.
The idea is to use bales of (organic) straw as the external structure of your compost heap – it will hold your composting ingredients. The straw bales allow air to flow through your heap and because they are organic material themselves they contribute to the heating up process of the heap. Eventually you can use them as ingredients in a future compost heap.
1. Wheat or pea straw are the best types of bales for composting. Start by building one compost pile, then if you have the space you can create a row of composting “bins”. Build the structure two bales high, with three sides, covering your joins with the second row for strength. Leave the front section open and have the working area about 1.5m square.
2. Layer organic materials directly on the bare soil base. Build with alternate layers of nitrogen rich materials such as animal manures, grass clippings, comfrey or yarrow and high carbon materials such as kitchen scraps, straw, shredded paper etc.
3. To allow better air flow you need to place a pvc pipe into the middle of your heap, on an angle as you build. Your heap will start to compact with the breaking down process. You can jiggle the pipe every week or two, to let in more air, then remove it after about four weeks.
4. Continue layering ingredients around the pipe. Make sure you water each layer (unless it is really wet already) as you go to help speed up the composting process. Always include as much variety of ingredients as possible for an excellent final product, including generous amounts of animal manures.
5. When your layers have reached the top of your straw bale structure, cover the whole thing with biscuits (small sections of a bale) of straw. This will further help retain heap which give you a fast-burning heap. Give it another good watering.
6. To generate more heat enclose the front of your structure with more bales. Water twice a week during dry or windy weather. When the ingredients start to collapse (about four weeks) you can remove the pipe.
You can quickly create compost that will enrich your soil, improving the health and vigour of you plants.