Waiheke Island is known for its very poor soil conditions. It's predominately a very thin layer of poor quality, dry, life-less top soil on
clay. Adding to this, Waiheke has a low annual rain fall, where its summer droughts can last 4 to 6 months. Waiheke soil is typically
referred to, as being so rock hard in summer, you can't get a spade into it, and then in winter, it is so wet and boggy, nothing will grow.
These conditions do not lay the foundation for lush gardens, therefore, improving the soil in the garden has always been important.
Good, healthy soil is full of life, teeming with living organisms. The micro organisms include the likes of protozoa, fungi, algae and bacteria. The larger soil fauna include earthworms, ants, mites, springtales, ematodes and insects.
It's a complex ecosystem, a system of consuming and decomposing animal and plant matter, and then the interaction with plants and their root systems.
Good quality compost is not only a good fertiliser for the garden, but it improves the overall composition of the soil, enabling it to retain and drain water better, and improving the whole ecosystem of the soil, that is, improving all the soil life forms. Good soil is alive.
Our compost creation is a combination of green matter straight from the garden, including lawn clippings, this is the nitrogen/green component, combined with any dry matter, for example, dry leaves, this is the carbon/brown component. It is important to have the correct balance of carbon & nitrogen matter for a successful compost pile.
We employ a 'turning method' for the acceleration of the decomposition process. That is, the compost piles are regularly turned to keep the oxygen levels high, in the compost piles.
As the microorganisms consume/break down the organic (green & brown) material, the organisms require oxygen live, and in this process heat is released. The heat benefits the decompositions of the organic matter. Ideally, a compost pile should be hot enough to cook a potato in it.
If the compost piles are not turned, the piles become oxygen depleted, the organisms decrease in population due to the lack of oxygen, and the processes of the decomposition stagnates.
We also add horse manure and sea weed into the compost piles. Several times a year the team head out to a local horse farm and collect the manure from the horse paddocks. After a big northly storm often the northern beaches on Waiheke are covered in seaweed, this is an ideal time to collect the seaweed. Adding both manure and seaweed to a compost pile adds to the biodiversity of life forms and increases the nutrients and trace elements/minerals.
The balance of the moisture of a compost pile is also important. The active microorganisms require a moist environment. When the balance is correct, to accelerates the decomposition process. Too dry and the process slows down, and too wet, and water fills the air pockets, thereby decreasing oxygen, and then stagnates decomposition. Watering little and often is more beneficial, and only when necessary.