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This week’s Mission of the Week was to build my first ever Real Proper Compost Heap. Not like the nasty useless bin thing that was here when I moved in, that you just keep adding little bits to and never get anything out of because it’s really a black hole in disguise; no, this time I wanted to do it right. (I’m not too sure that we succeeded, but hey – we put in the effort.)

This is the site I selected for the heap – down the back (north-western end) of the yard, under the sizeable lemon tree and the sprawling canopy of the neighbour’s Indian Pepper Tree, which is the most wonderful blessing in summer, as it keeps the backyard so much cooler than it would otherwise be.

I’ve been amassing what compost fodder I could, for a few weeks now. It’s mostly palm fronds, unfortunately. I’ve picked a bad time to try and set the heap up, as the garden should have been pruned a couple of months ago, but I didn’t do it then so all I had ready to hand were the leavings of the four hated sodding palm trees with which the north-eastern boundary of the property has been cursed. Then, this morning, Frog and I went around to a friend’s house and helped clean up the eucalypt branches that had fallen from her trees during the big storm front we’ve just had go through Perth. We followed that with cruising the streets of our neighbourhood, and eventually found, in the park around the corner from or house, some nice soft leafy branches that had been brought low by the same destructive winds so we helped ourselves to those, too.

Once we got home, it was time to do the hard work. First, because we built the heap under a couple of large trees, we laid a few boxes down as prevention against invasion by tree roots. Over the boxes, we laid the stripped branches from Amanda’s trees, broken or chopped into metre lengths. This is to facilitate aeration of the heap from the bottom.

To hold everything in place, I bought a wire cage from where I work. It’s designed for garden storage, but I’m hoping it makes an adequate compost bin container, even if I have to put a tarpaulin over the top during the hot, dry weather. I’m hoping, too, that this helps with turning the heap – I plan to just pull it off the top, put it back down next to the existing heap and then fork the material back into the cage.

We quickly ascertained that palm fronds do not mulch happily, unfortunately. I suspect that if this works at all, my compost is going to be sadly stringy. While Frog proceeded to demolish the fresh green waste using the mulcher we borrowed from her mum, I started building the heap, layering wetted-down palm fronds with weeds, garden soil I cleaned from the footpaths surrounding our vege beds, and the freshly mulched greens (as well as hiding the kitchen compost bin’s contents in the middle). Every now and then, I sprinkled a liberal dash of diluted Seasol over my construction, to add the minerals it might otherwise lack.

And here it is! Okay, it’s not the sexiest thing ever, but I’m frankly astonished that we got all that stuff into less than a cubic metre of space. Here’s hoping it does its thing!