This is a great old document from the CSIRO on composting. It is written for the home gardener but also has some great scientific information like the right carbon to nitrogen ratios(C/N ratio) for compost.
Composting – Making soil improver from rubbish
Rubbish is one product our society makes very well. We make mountains and oceans of it. We dump it in holes and in the sea, bury it and burn it. But when we run out of holes, when the sea can not take any more, and when we get sick of smoke in our eyes, what do we do then?
One answer given by those who are concerned about our soils and food production system is: “Compost it and return it to the soil”. They are, of course, referring to the many organic materials that we throw away or burn – lawn clippings, leaves, weeds, sawdust, paper, kitchen scraps, seaweed, etc. The compost heap can convert this bulky “rubbish” into a soil improver and fertiliser. This booklet is about the science and art of making compost, and has a bit of philosophy too.
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There are few places on earth where plants will not grow. Evolution has enabled them to come to terms with extremes of
temperature and soil , rainfall and exposure. As a result, there are very few places where at least some plant species are not at home, while for most soils and situations there can be an embarrassment of riches.
For gardeners, the lesson must be to ‘swim with the tide’, choosing plants that are attuned to the conditions they can provide. Of course, there is plenty that can be done about poor soil , excessive exposure and so on. Nevertheless,
why try to grow moisture-loving plants in dry, sandy soil when there are so many others adapted to just such a habitat?
The first step is to assess exactly what your garden has to offer. This will provide a sensible basis for choosing plants and for putting worthwhile improvements in hand.
Sun and shade
Although a sunny garden would be most people’s choice, there are plenty of attractive shade-loving plants. The choice is widest for beds overshadowed by walls or buildings, yet open to the sky, but narrows when the area is in the perpetual shadow cast by a large tree.
Position and aspect
Gardens in hollows or valleys often get an undue share of frost. This will mean that you will have to begin planting somewhat later in spring, and some tender plants will need protection. Before planning your garden, also try to
assess which parts of the garden receive the most sun and which are exposed to any chill winds.
This is a common problem on hillsides and by the sea . However, practical steps can be taken to reduce the effects of wind.
Practically an y soil can be improved by adding humus (manure or compost, for example) and fertilizer. Acid soils can be
sweetened with lime ; clay can be broken down over a few seasons. however, poor drainage is a difficult problem to overcome, especially if the plot is surrounded by other gardens.
These simply indicate neglect, not a particular category of garden – in fact, lush weed growth usually indicates fertile soil. Nowadays, there are simple and effective ways of destroying weeds.
In one sense, a garden is well designed if it pleases the person who has created it. There are no absolutes in aesthetics, only what satisfies the individual eye, and the making of a garden is an intensely personal matter. However, individual taste aside, today’s preference is for less formal planting, for gentle curves that lure the eye to a striking focal point, and for an absence of excessive detail and geometric precision. Even so, when it comes to practicalities, there are a few ground rules about design to consider.
Ideally, a patio should be alongside the house, but this is pointless if it will be in the shade for much of the day. Choose a spot that receives plenty of sun, even if it is set away from the house. Then lay a path that provides easy access.
The compost heap and garden shed are usually consigned to the farthest corner of the garden, necessitating long journeys to dispose of mowings or to collect tools . A more central site will sa ve you a lot of time and effort. A screen of climber-covered trellis can easily be used to disguise the unitilty corner if you prefer.
Abundant light is essential, and shelter from cold winds is a bonus. If this means placing the greenhouse in a prominent position, consider the attractive hexagonal designs and also the multi-faceted domed structures.
Good drainage and ample width are both essential. Lay the path with its surface a little above ground level and preferably with a minimum width of 1m. A narrow path looks mean and is awkward when you are trying to manoeuvre an overladen barrow on it.
A gentle slope is more convenient than steps if you are pushing a mower. However, steps are unavoidable on a sharp gradient. Steps should be -designed so that the height of each is no more than about 15cm. For steps of this height, a tread depth of 30-38cm is suitable, but this can be increased if the height of the riser is reduced.
Fences and screens
It is a pity to enclose your garden with a tall barrier, unless this is essential for privacy. A low timber or wire fence is often adequate, or a low wall topped with a trellis . A flowering hedge makes an attractive but effective screen. If a taller fence is required, there are many choices, depending on whether you want privacy or wind control. The style of the fence or wall should harmonize with that of the house.