Minor Heat: Crickets come into walls

January 15th, 2012
by Jo Law

This pentad ended on a very wet Sunday. The sound of rain pouring out from undersized gutters in the early hours of the morning woke me. I was sure that if I held a rain gauge out the window I could easily record over 1 m of rainfall over a 10 minute period. The recorded rainfall at Bellambi AWS is 33.2mm, the monthly highest to-date. As I laid in bed I tried not to worry about the clothes hanging on the cloth horse out on the ineffectively-covered back deck. Instead, I was visualising how the copious rain was soaking into the compost, freshly laid out at the base of the growing plants, and allowing nutrients to seep into the soil below, asborbed by the roots.

Our friend, Margaret, a fellow compost enthusiast, instituted a new system near the old wooden compost bins (now re-purposed as wood storage). This setup only requires two star pickets to keep the pile in place. The absence of barries makes the heap easy to turn and aerate. Compost provides most of the soil we use to grow food plants in the garden. It is used to rejuvenate spent soil in raised beds after cropping as well as feeds for fruit trees and top-ups for plants grown in containers.

The soil types in the Illawarra region vary a great deal and the characteristics of the soil in any given area is highly dependent on its geography as well as its geological history. The escarpment plays a major role in this diversity and so does the weather. According to R. W. Young, the general high rainfall in the region means that most soil here is acidic. He writes: ‘[The] complexity [of soil types] can in part be attributed to variations in the types of rocks on which the soils have weathered. For instance, the volcanic rocks break down to clays, but the sandstones undergo little real chemical alteration. Moreover, even on the sandstones, four or five types of soil can normally be found.’ Young classifies the soil type around Austinmer as ‘Podozolic on landslide debris’. It is composed of around 20cm of grey loamy sand, followed by red clay loam to up to 1 m, beyond which is simply mottled landslide debris. Young speculates that the formation of the grey loamy sand topsoil is the result of an initially clayey layer being destroyed by weathering.

In the past, European settlers rejected sandstones and coastal sandy soils for agricultural use and instead sought after Kraznozamic soils derived from volcanic rocks, rich in iron or aluminium and alluvium soils near coastal streams. The past few decades saw much of these once highly desirable farming lands given over to residential development. The main problem faced by urban landuse in the Illawarra is that of land stability, caused by soil erosion as a result of weathering and land clearing.

2 Responses to “Minor Heat: Crickets come into walls”

  1. 1 D
    January 16th, 2012 at 22:15

    As I understand it adding paper waste to your compost adds carbon and thereby reduces acidity. I have made reasonable compost from gums leaves and other acidic rubbish by the addition of straw, paper and a bit of regular compost (ie made from dirt straw, kitchen scraps and paper). I find brown paper excellent but mostly use newsprint, I have been told the ink is modern and does not pollute.

    I walked along the cliffs south of Wattamolla following Sunday’s rain the waterfalls were stunning and weird, I can recommend it!

  2. 2 Jo Law
    January 21st, 2012 at 14:43

    It’s always great to hear about good results from different formulae of composting. I too use newspaper as a foil to overly wet kitchen waste, although I do find that shredding is particularly important when using the materials as wet newspaper can form inpenetrable clumps. The use of gum leaves is an interesting idea. Margaret pre-soaks the leaves before building the compost heap to ensure adequate water is distributed throughout the materials. There is so much to talk about when it comes to composting!