Monday, February 26, 2024

A UC student’s compost brownie recipe

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There are four key ingredients to building a garden treat from scraps, community compost educator Kaitlyn Lamb says.
Just like making a cake, a compost “brownie” has four important ingredients: air, moisture, browns and greens.
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By Kaitlyn Lamb – Lamb is a University of Canterbury student studying for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Before you shout out “Yuck, composting! That smelly disgusting pile of rotting material in people’s backyards,” let me convince you that this is NOT composting.

I am a compost consultant and community compost educator. I LOVE compost. But how could I possibly be in love with a pile like that?!

Composting has my heart because adding your food scraps, garden weeds, lawn clippings, animal manure and fallen leaves to the compost pile attracts marvellous creatures such as worms. 

The pile teems with life, and after a few months of turning the pile and adding water, I give it a final turn and what is now visible is a lovely compost chocolate brownie. 

The compost is so crumbly and smells so good, my vegetable plants are almost running up to me to get some. Just like we all do when a brownie has finished cooking in the oven.

You want to start making some compost brownie for your plants too? Yus! I knew you would! Read on to find out how to do this.

Kaitlyn Lamb at work on her layered compost creation.

My favourite way is to make a compost bin out of chicken mesh. It can be any size; 1 metre cubed is the size I try to go for. Construct the chicken mesh in a circular shape. You can tie the two ends of the chicken mesh together with some twine, or put some bamboo or metal poles through the mesh and into the soil to hold it together.

Your compost bin doesn’t need full sunlight and it can be in partial shade. Put it wherever works for you, ideally close to your house for convenience. Make sure it is on grass/soil, NOT on concrete.

Next step is to have a closed-lid container in your kitchen, where you can separate your food scraps from your trash. An ice-cream container will do.

Just like making a cake, a compost “brownie” has four important ingredients: air, moisture, browns and greens.

You create the air through aeration, by using a garden fork or compost aerator. Add the moisture by watering your compost when it’s too dry. Your brown materials are your non-smelly “dead” materials, such as dead leaves, paper, dried grass clippings, straw and sticks. And your green materials are the smelly “living” materials, such as coffee grounds, food scraps, fresh lawn clippings and animal manure.

When your kitchen container is full, it’s time to empty it. First add a few handfuls of sticks/ mulch to the bottom of your new compost bin, as this creates air flow. Then add a layer of browns, such as dead leaves. Next, add a layer of greens such as food scraps. Continue to layer your compost in this way like a lasagna, thin layers alternating between browns and greens. Always cover your food scraps with a “brown” layer to prevent smell.

You can and should compost because it is easy and you won’t have that horrible gut feeling of knowing the food scraps you chucked in the rubbish bin will never break down and will release methane gas. Plus, compost can increase the water-holding potential of soil and can reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers. 

However, if you can’t compost and would like to, use the app ShareWaste, connecting those who want to compost their food scraps with neighbours who are already composting.

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