The Compot is unique. It does not need to be dry to work. If fact – wet and slushy is perfect
Putting grass clippings or hay or straw or sugar cane mulch on top on your Compot keeps the hot sun and air from drying out your waste in summer and keeps the cold air out in winter keeping it warm inside the pot over winter. Worms need moisture to survive so if you are filling your pots up with only worm friendly waste you will mostly have only worms inside your pot, then you must cover it so the contents don’t become too dry or hot inside the Pot, otherwise, the worms will leave. Bacteria and soldier fly larvae will continue to decompose the waste and the worms will live in the surrounding soil picking up all the leftovers from the other bugs and spreading their castings into the surrounding soil. Exactly as they do when you fill your Compot up with ALL your kitchen waste and not just worm friendly waste.
The Compot is unique in that it does not need to be dry to work. In fact – the wetter the better with this system (unlike other above ground composters which generally need to be dry). This is where your wastewater comes in handy. See next tip.
Keep a container on your kitchen bench for your food waste. When rinsing out a tin or milk container etc. don’t throw this waste down your sink. Rather, add it to your container of food scraps. The water will soften the scraps and produce a liquid that can be poured around your plants before you fill your Compot with the remaining waste. So not only are you watering your plants with water you would normally throw down the sink, you are making a solution of nutrients to feed directly to your plants while aiding the decomposition process. The water in your container means your waste won’t smell if you are like me and only dispose of your scraps once a week. But if you don’t have time to spread the water around your plants just toss it straight into the Compot. It will still get to your plants’ roots.
Soaking your scraps in your wastewater will make the waste disappear quicker as well as allowing you to add a lot more waste to your pots than you would otherwise be able to do. Especially if you are on water restrictions.
If you have a problem with roots in your garden just twist the Compot around occasionally when you are filling it – if possible. The roots will then grow around the pot rather than in the pot. Though I have never had a problem and I confess I rarely turn mine. Generally speaking, if you are looking after your garden (that is keeping it moist) the roots will not grow into the pot as long as there is activity in the pot from you continually topping them up. See below tip also.
You might find roots growing into your Compot because the surrounding soil is so dry that the plants are finding their way into the pot because that is where all the moisture and nutrients are. Keep the water up to your plants or you might find it easier to move the pot to a better spot. Alternately add water retention material to the soil (such as Zeolite) to make water available to the plants when the soil is dry. If it is a big tree you might need to add soil conditioner as well until your pots have improved the soil sufficiently to retain water and not require further assistance.
Diatomaceous Earth can also help with water retention as it holds 200 times its weight in water. Plus it is a good bug controller. But it can, of course, kill your good bugs as well. So use sparingly.
If you have big dogs I now recommend that you do not put meat in your Compot. But if that is the only thing you have to throw in your council bin then it’s not such a bad thing. Most people feed their meat to their dogs. See the below tip.
To the best of my knowledge fermented food waste deters dogs, so you could try the method of filling your scrap bucket with your wastewater and letting it sit overnight or for a few days (if you have the time and space) before you empty it into your Compot. The mixture of all the odours and the fermentation smell will keep most dogs away. You may need to experiment with how long you need to soak your scraps for your dogs to stay away. I have had dogs in my yard on numerous occasions and they have never gone near my pots but I do let my scraps ferment in water (mainly because I am too busy to empty them every day, plus this saves me time – I only have to do it once a week)
Another option is to put some of your dog’s poop in with your waste. Many dogs don’t like the smell of their own poop so will not touch the Compot. But don’t do this in your veggie garden. You can use the Compot just for disposing of dog poo also. It works a treat, but be sure to moisten the dog poo as the worms will not eat the dry waste and neither will the Soldier Flies. But the Compot works better if you mix your kitchen waste with your dog waste because it seems to give the bugs a variety of food to eat. So you can use your Compot for ALL your kitchen waste and animal excrement. The choice is yours.
Another option is to put some beer in the Compot as the dogs don’t like the malt or fermented smell of the beer. But I think that is a waste of good beer. Maybe use old wasted beer.
Someone has told me that citronella oil will also deter the dogs. They apparently hate the smell. Spray some or pour some around your Compots and see what happens. Let me know if you have any adverse results. I have not had time to try this method yet.
-Or there is always the pepper and chili method. Not very nice for the dogs though, as it burns their mouths and gives them diarrhea. And appears to be only a temporary fix. Soaking my scraps for a few days so they ferment works for me and I am sure it will work for you.
Plant a Compot in your chicken pen. As the soldier fly larvae move in and out of the pot they will provide great food for the chickens. Nearly Pure Protein. Or feed the larvae to your fish if you have any. Best to get the larvae when they are white and not encased in their black shell ready to pupate into an adult or hibernate. Try them for fishing bait as well. I have a customer who swears by them.
Propagate Wheat on top of your Compot while in your Chook Pen. Remove the Top when the wheat has grown and let the chocks help themselves. Experiment with other greens for chooks as well. Or plant the wheat directly on the ground or on top of a pot plant holder; cover with the Top; hold in place with the stakes; and uncover when the greens have grown. Great if you can’t let your chickens run free in the yard. Experiment with different greens. With wheat-grass, if you let the seed ‘just’ sprout it is said to be full of protein but if you let it grow big and green it is said to be good for their eggs. Check out the video in Martine’s garden with her chooks.
When propagating in Summer it is best to do it under a nice cool shady area and water every 2 to 3 days. I have found it too hot in Queensland to propagate in the sun and it dries out too quickly. But it does depend on what you are trying to propagate. Of course, in winter it doesn’t matter whether you propagate in the sun or the shade as the warmth from the compost below warms up the environment inside the TOP creating its own climate on top of the Compot like a glass house.
If you are finding little critters are digging around your pots it may be because you do not have them planted into the ground properly. They should be level with the ground but if you have really bad soil and are not able to plant them level with the ground then place some chicken wire around the pot on top of the soil. This idea came from Shay. The other thing, of course, is to soak your scraps so they ferment. I know it keeps my bush turkeys away and Antechinus. I have never had a rat or possum or anything dig up, or dig around my pots, except for one time when I put fresh pineapple skins in a pot that was not fully buried in the ground. I learned my lesson. Fermenting your waste will even keep raccoons away. Though we don’t have them in Australia. A Canadian customer told me this little tidbit.
Remember if you are putting meat in your pots you must cover the Compot with grass clippings or hay so the odours are filtered. There should be no odour unless you are uncovering your pot to refill it and this is usually only within the first week. If you are just using veggie scraps you may find you don’t need to cover it at all. However, I recommend it be covered to maintain the nice environment inside the Compot for all the little critters that are working away composting your waste.
Remember to keep your soil as moist as you can so the worms can move around your garden. They will die if the soil dries out and if there is no moisture around your pots. Be sure to cover your garden (and your pot) with something to keep the moisture in your soil.
Worms don’t like being in the pot with the soldier flies (in most instances) but they will come back in winter when the soldier flies have vacated after summer or are hibernating over winter. But if you only want worms in your pots then you have to selectively feed your pots much the same way as you would with other composters, with only worm friendly waste. Put all your other waste in another Compot and let the soldier flies live in there. This way you can continually have a pot or two producing worms that you can move around your garden if you want or transplant somewhere else. And remember they will take longer to decompose the food than the soldier flies as worms do not decompose food – they eat decomposed food.
Some people add cow manure to their pots to keep the worms happy. I personally think you should add the cow manure to the surrounding soil so you don’t waste space in your Compot for scraps. Experiment to find out what works best for your garden and conditions.
If adding worms to your Compots (especially baby worms) dig down the outside of your Compot and bury the worms gently in the soil. If they are too close to the surface the birds and other critters will devour them as a delicious tasty snack. You can put them directly inside the Compot if you are only feeding your Pot with worm friendly food and not all your kitchen waste. Worms will eat anything that has decomposed enough – even citrus and onions. They just don’t like this waste when it is fresh as the acid can burn their delicate skin. And they will overeat meat and die if you are using your pot just for worms and you are putting meat in them. Best to leave this to the soldier flies.
When designing a new garden or replanting a tree somewhere, plant a Compot in the hole first. Feed it for a month or two then let it sit for two weeks to partially decompose. It should look like a big slushy mess and be full of Soldier Flies. Remove your pot from the ground, upend the contents into the hole, toss in roughly an inch or two of dirt on top of the partially composted waste, and then plant your tree on top. The waste will now start to decompose slowly acting like a nutrient bomb under your plant for the next few months. The Soldier flies will find their way out by themselves and if not then they will become further compost. And remember to water your plants.
If you have really bad, sandy or clay soil, you will need to dig a slightly bigger hole and add some cheap potting mix in the base of the hole. Plant your Compot, then back-fill with cheaper potting mix around the Compot. Add worms to this soil and fill your Compot up with ‘ALL’ your kitchen waste. As the worms move in, out and around the pots, they will mingle the bad soil in with the cheap potting mix and their castings which will over time improve the soil. It is very important to fill your pot up with ‘ALL’ your kitchen waste in this instance because if you fill it up with just worm friendly waste, the worms will live inside the pot where the food is and not move around the surrounding soil. Therefore this is less effective at improving your soil. Check out the video on the video page.
If you are a large family and don’t want to buy a lot of pots then you can get more out of less pots by getting one of those big white buckets (about $8.00 at Mitre 10 , or free from many stores that throw them away) and collect your scraps in that daily along with all your wastewater so the scraps are always covered with water. This should allow you to soak your scraps for probably 3 to 5 days or more (depending on the amount of waste you produce) so your scraps are fermenting and softening the whole time. Then once a week go and fill up the pots that you have (you would need a minimum of 3 to 5 pots) and you will find they will hold a lot more waste when it has been soaking than when the waste is fresh and firm. Make sure though that you keep the lid on the white bucket when you are collecting your scraps as you do not want this attracting house flies. I personally don’t like these big buckets because I find it hard to get the lids off once you get them on. Some people have tried them in the garden like the Compot but they are too difficult to remove the lids – though a dog can rip the lid off easily. Go figure. Perhaps find a larger container with an easy to remove lid. But when you are collecting that much waste all at once it can get too smelly so it is really not the best solution. I find it better to just have more pots around the garden.
When using your Compot for your doggie doos or other animal excrement, (cats for instance) try and place it near a big old tree or dead space in your garden. Rake all the poo in and make sure there is some moisture in the poo or it will just dry up and not decompose making it virtually impossible for the worms to eat. You can add food waste to this if you want as well but make sure you have soaked the waste and fermented it to stop the dogs from digging it up. And, like the Compot in your garden, cover it with some grass clippings to filter any odour and to keep the contents moist for the worms.
If you go away on holidays and come home to find your pots full or half full of dry soil, simply fill the Compots up with water to moisten the soil. It will turn back to beautiful friable soil that you can scoop out and toss on your garden. You now have an empty pot you can start filling again.