FAQs

How big is an Earthmaker?
The Earthmaker has a capacity of 466 litres and measures 1200mm high by 750mm diameter.

How easy is it to assemble?
Your Earthmaker is flat packed with Assembly Instructions and a User Guide. One person can assemble it with ease. No tools are required.

How do I start the continuous cycle process?
No composting experience is necessary to get started. Read the User Guide to find how easy it is.

How long will it take to make good compost?
This is a trick question! Time taken to make true compost depends on many variables, eg: amount of waste material, whether it was shredded, nitrogen/carbon balance, moisture content, time of year etc. Good mulch is made in several weeks. A few more months of bacterial action converts mulch into real compost.     
         A cold climate will slow the process whilst warm weather speeds the process.
But speed is not really important once the continuous cycle process has been established. Earthmaker takes waste at any time and provides a continuous source of mulch/compost.

Can weeds be added?
Like any other green waste, most weeds can be fed to your Earthmaker. It is mainly a heat issue. In most cases the top chamber should get quite hot, and most weeds in the leafy stage, will break down.
         Some seeds (pumpkin, squash tomato) and bulbs eg. oxalis will survive and unfortunately germinate. Wandering Willy is highly resistant in that any small piece grows. We suggest putting these difficult weeds in a black plastic bag and leaving it in a very sunny place for a few weeks to "cook" before feeding them to the Earthmaker.
         Fibrous woody weeds or plants, eg: like jasmine may survive and sprout. It may not matter because you can easily remove them late - there is little light in the lower chambers to assist their growth.
         Try to avoid diseased plants (they may spread viruses), clippings from citrus trees which have borer (best to burn this). Note that pine needless and gum leaves take a long time to break down as they are full of resin.

Should worms be added?
No problem if you do but you can leave it to nature. Vegetation eating red worms will find their own way into the upper chambers. Soil aerating earthworms will appear naturally in the bottom chamber.

Can we compost in very cold climates?
Earthmaker "traps" radiant heat from the sun in the top chamber, the black plastic even in winter absorbs heat and there will be at least a 10 degree centigrade difference between inside and outside temperatures, EVEN WITHOUT THE HEAT FROM COMPOSTING MATERIAL. In freezing conditions a waterproof thermal blanket will extend the composting season.

What proportion of garden waste to food waste is best?
Earthmaker will sort itself out whatever you put in, as long as it is an organic, non-toxic mixture of nitrogen (green) and carbon (brown) and you stir and mix material occasionally, eg monthly. Too much grass will result in slimy wet material. But in time this just breaks down.
         For speedy results a ratio of 1:5 of FOOD:GARDEN is about right, i.e. one bucket of kitchen scraps to 5 of garden waste. From the garden, 1-3 catchers of grass at a time is plenty and will fill the top chamber. If you have a large lawn, put excess in a simple bin alongside to layer over kitchen material later. Note: a large catcher is about 40 litres and a small electric mower 20 litres. An average kitchen bucket is 10 litres. Dry leaves and twigs are good for carbon content - so is shredded paper and untreated sawdust.


Is there an ‘organically correct’ recipe for making compost?

No, the Earthmaker is very forgiving, as long as the four ingredients for making compost - air, water, carbon and nitrogen - are present (which will happen if your Earthmaker is fed a balanced diet of food and garden waste), the composting process will happen. But if you would like more scientific detail read on:
         It is best to aim at a 2:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio, but in practice a 1:1 by volume mixture of carbon (dry leaves, twigs, shredded paper, etc) and nitrogen (grass, green vegetable scraps, etc).
         Note: both carbon and nitrogen occur in both kitchen and garden waste.
         Add material to the top chamber when convenient. It is useful to stir and mix it, at least when transferring material to the middle chamber (every 4 weeks or so). Let the process take its course – your unique compost recipe will reflect your lifestyle.
         Remember, the only compost you can truly trust is what you make yourself! (Centralised composting plants constantly combat contamination!)
Go to the How it Works section for a more detailed description.

How much compost will we produce?
As with the speed question this varies greatly depending on the volume and type of ingredients as well as the ambient climate.
An average household of 3 – 4 people in a temperate climate produces 10 – 20 litres of kitchen waste per week (or 40 – 80 litres per month).

         Earthmaker is a ‘busy machine’. In average use an Earthmaker may ‘digest’ 500 – 1000 kg (1100 – 2200 lbs) per year, yielding 200 – 300 litres of rich worm-filled compost.

Will it save us money?
The arithmetic will vary depending on the local, state, regional and central government policy and the volume of organic waste you produce.
         There is a trend for local governments to adopt a user-pays system for taking household waste away. Processing organic waste at landfills, central composting plants or oxygenation ponds is very expensive because of the many safety considerations, eg: managing methane and leachate. This trend will increase as schemes are put in place to discourage practices which increase global warming.
         The other side of the equation is the cost of ‘importing’ nutrients to add value to your land. Not only will you save money on fertilisers or commercial compost, you will know it is free of contaminants. And whether you are growing vegetables or flowers your garden will be more productive.

Can I speed the process of composting?
The Earthmaker Aerobic Composter is a continuous cycle process, and once the cycle is set up (approximately 12-15 weeks) the amount of material added determines the rate of compost produced. You can speed the process by adding carbohydrate such as sugar, stirring more often, and having an exact ratio of browns to greens (2:1 of carbon materials to nitrogen). Aerobic composting is faster than anaerobic composting.

Do I need to put additives, accelerators or fertilisers in my Earthmaker?
No, not at all as there will be plenty of enzymes and nutrients from the kitchen green waste. But soaking shredded paper in a solution of blood and bone overnight before adding to Earthmaker would be helpful.
         Lime should NOT be added, it is better to put this or dolomite, directly on the garden, before or with your compost, if your soil is fallow or acid and you are planting vegetables. NOTE: some plants like acid soil, eg camellias.

Can I add animal manure (rabbit, guinea pig, etc) to my compost?
         Only if there is no chance of disease or parasites being passed on. We do not recommend dog faeces for that reason. Be sure to add nitrogen and carbon etc as well, eg garden grass cuttings, leaves, prunings etc and kitchen waste.
         Horse manure can be added to the Earthmaker, BUT IN SMALL QUANTITIES (it's heavy!). There may be a problem with seeds coming through and our recommendation is to compost horse manure, with the associated hay or straw, separately in a heap in the corner of the garden.

Is it okay to put ashes and non-organic material in my Earthmaker?
NO, please do not add any ashes from coal or tanalised wood. Plain wood and paper ashes are ok, but do not overload. Anything not biodegradable ie; non-organic (plastic, metals, glass etc) will not break down. Large sheets of paper or cardboard will take too long to compost and may "clog up" your Earthmaker. Avoid anything toxic such as pesticides, paints, solvents and harsh chemicals. If in doubt, don't!

Can I catch a disease or infection from compost?
Tetanus spores can live in the soil for a very long time and may it be a good idea to ensure you have a Tetanus booster every 10 years. If sharp objects, such rose thorns, penetrate your skin and you are not immunised, serious illness (although very rare) from tetanus can occur.
         Do not store your compost in bags or closed containers; use it as you remove it from the Earthmaker. There have been cases of people catching Legionella when opening bags of dry commercial compost or potting mix. Legionella is a soil-born bacterium that can cause illness in the elderly and people with health problems if inhaled.

Please contact us if you have further questions.

Happy composting and good on you for responsible waste management!

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Trouble Shooting

Material too wet and slimy
Check that you haven’t left the top open. You may have too many grass clippings. Stir in straw, sawdust (untreated) dry leaves or shredded dry seaweed, twigs or newspaper. Ensure that the site drains well.

Material too dry and not composting
Add water or leave the top open to rain. It usually means that you are not adding sufficient nitrogen material (greens, grass clippings, green prunings).
The composting process needs a critical mass to create heat and stimulate organic breakdown. When the top and middle chambers are almost full the process should be working well.

Compost smells rotten
If the decomposing material smells like ammonia or hydrogen sulphide (‘rotten eggs’) it means that the mixing, loosening and aeration has not worked as it should. Carefully stir to let in air. Ensure that material is moved through regularly so it does not compact and 'constipate' the system.

Taking too long to reach the bottom
You may not be feeding your Earthmaker enough, or a blockage may have developed from large twigs or kitchen scraps or inadequate mixing and pushing. Remember to chop up food waste and shred garden waste where possible.

First batch does not compost fully
The first batch will take longer than sunsequent batches. Bacteria and microbes will gradually multiply and many will remain on the shelves as material is pushed through. It may be necessary to recycle the first batch of material through the continuous cycle system to establish a good composting environment.

Fruit flies are in the top chamber

At certain times of the year there will always be fruit flies (Drosophila). Do not worry - they are part of nature’s process. But if they bother you just break their life cycle by covering with wet newspaper or layer over with grass cuttings and/or dry leaves.

Ants invade
In certain areas ants may invade your composter if sweet material has been added. These can either be ignored or baited with non-toxic poison.

White grubs appear
Sometimes, in dry conditions, composting grubs may arrive in the top chamber. They are whitish, 1-2 cm long with a wriggly tail. They are not maggots. Leave them to do their job and layer over with grass cuttings and/or leaves.

Blow flies emerge
Blow flies may appear if meat scraps have been left exposed. Use a natural pyrethrum fly spray and let them decompose in the compost.

Unwanted guests
Rodents may be attracted to food or the warm nesting environment. They can be discouraged by:
- ensuring food waste is well covered with garden waste;
- keeping the lid and door properly closed;
- putting your bin on a solid surface, eg: cobbles or timber slats with narrow drainage gaps;
- putting your Earthmaker in the open (provided its not in hot sun) - rodents don’t like open space where they are vulnerable to predators.
Or attract them with non-toxic bait then leave them to decompose in the compost - they will have come from somewhere nearby, so this is way to get rid of them. It is one way of keeping rodents out of your house.