COMMUNITY composting

Resources recovered: Waste is reduced; food scraps and other organic material are diverted from disposal and composted.

EdibleScapes community composting

In May 2018 EdibleScapes commenced a modest community composting program.  Its aim was to produce composted soil, fertiliser and composted mulch, for the Edible Landscape Gardens project.

This program has been extremely successful, saving from landfill 3 cubic metres of organic waste per week.  The composted soil produced comes from diverse mulched trees and leaves, surplus from local farmer markets and fruit shops, coffee grounds, water weeds, horse manure and grass clippings. It is produced by a hot compost method. The heat kills bad bacteria and most weed seeds.  Beneficial bacteria grows and, in turn breaks down organic matter. EdibleScapes’ composted heap contains in mixed layers approximately:

For a total C:N Ratio of 30:1 mix
  • 1 part(s) under 20:1:  Vegetable waste, fresh lawn clipping
  • 2 part(s) 20-30:1: Horse manure, water weeds, coffee grounds
  • 1 part(s) 30-40:1: Fruit waste
  • 2 part(s) 40-100:1: Dry leaves, dry lawn clipping, bamboo fragments
  • 2 part(s) over 100:1: Trees mulches (226:1)

In 2019 EdibleScapes plan to aim higher by establishing an on-site learning and demonstration site for community composting and organic fertilizers.  The Primary Vision of EdibleScapes is community composting; production of sufficient cultivated, organic soil to meet the needs of the edible landscape gardens project.  Other goals are to provide soil for local organic food growers, as well as provide social food for the disadvantaged in our community.  Edible Landscape gardens are experiential educational sites, open to the community, who, with the permission of gardeners, are free to taste the ripe fruits.


Guiding Principles:
  • Resources recovered: Waste is reduced; food scraps and other organic material are diverted from disposal and composted.
  • Locally based and closed loop: Organic materials are a community asset and are generated and recycled into compost within the same neighbourhood or community.
  • Organic materials returned to soils: Compost is used to enhance local soils, support local food production, and conserve natural ecology by improving soil structure and maintaining nutrients, carbon, and soil microorganisms.
  • Community-scaled and diverse: Composting infrastructure is diverse, distributed, and sustainable; systems are scaled to meet the needs of a self-defined community.
  • Community engaged, empowered, educated: Compost programming engages and educates the community in food systems thinking, resource stewardship, or community sustainability, while providing solutions that empower individuals, businesses, and institution to capture organic waste and retain it as a community resource.
  • Community supported: Aligns with community goals (such as healthy soils and healthy people) and is supported by the community it serves. The reverse is true too. A community composting program supports community social, economic, and environmental well-being.

“Well managed composting system ensure adequate microorganisms are necessary to digest organic materials, as well as adequate oxygen, adequate moisture, adequate food for microorganisms (that is, a balanced carbon to nitrogen ration), diversely sized food particles that provide pore space for oxygen to travel, and an adequate volume of material to best allow the microbial population to grow and thrive (usually a cubic metre or more).  Food scraps represent materials high in nitrogen; thus, any food scrap composting program must find adequate supplies of carbon-rich materials such as wood chips, mulch, straw, leaves and brush. In addition, compost needs time and space to stabilize and mature after an initial phase, typically characterized by high temperatures, and frequent monitoring and management”.

EdibleScapes aims to recover ‘waste’ and to do so by ensuring high-quality compost at well-managed sites that pose no public nuisances. EdibleScapes will make sure that the community composting operations comply with performance-based standards.  This means Ediblescapes will not create public nuisance odours, generate pathogens, or pollute groundwater or surface waters. For community composting, particularly in urban areas, addressing odour and rodents are a paramount issue. Adequate aeration or oxygen is essential for optimizing the composting process and preventing it from going anaerobic, which can produce nuisance odours.  A periodical schedule for turning will ensure minimal odours. The bins will be wrapped with ¼-inch hardware cloth to be rodent-proof, including the top hatch (rats will climb the sides to get in through the top). To prevent habitat formation at the base, EdibleScape will make sure to air and dry the bare earth for two days between batches and add dry mulch to the foundation of new batches.

EdibleScapes future plan is to double the value proposition of the project by further developing the community composting and adding the benefit of providing organic  fertilizers.  This model can be a valid strategy to generate local jobs though public support, if it is scaled-up by duplicating it in other sites with government support. In addition, community participation and education may be instrumental for persuading all levels of government that taxpayer and private funds are appropriately spent on community composting and communal edible landscape gardens.

Nevertheless, we are aware that government support for communal food production is a difficult proposition. This is why EdibleScapes propose a community run social enterprise structure, which will eventually develop revenue streams, which in turn, will ensure solid financial sustainability. Nonetheless, even if money is not the ultimate factor in the project’s implementation or long-term operation, EdibleScapes want to balance Social food grown with social enterprise and generate income via valuable organic fertilizers products offered to Gold Coast organic growers.

After the success of the past two years, in 2019 EdibleScapes will set up a model for a Community Composting system.  This will function as a learning and demonstration site, producing on-site organic fertilisers, which will service the needs of the edible landscape gardens as well as the local organic grower community.

Actual composting system
2019 Learning and demonstration composting concept

May 2018 Project  Milestones

Our first compostheap process, which was done in 18 days, is ready to go into the garden. This will be followed each week by 1 cubic metre of composted matter . 

The Edible Landscape Gardens projects area will be topped-up with approximate 100 cubic metres of composted made soil. The project is testing a system to produce 1 cubic metre per week, which will disperse over an area of 3 square meters of 30 centimetre thick of new garden section per week.  At this pace the project will be completed in 2 years. 

Each compost heap is built to about 1.3 x 1.3 metres to 1.3 metres high, and will be topped up in successive layers of brown (rich in carbon), and green (rich in nitrogen) organic material.   

We collect veggie and fruit scraps daily from our local fruit market “Landies Fruit World” at My Centre Nerang shopping centre and our local Farmers market “Markets Lavelle Street” Nerang on Sunday, weekly we collected about 9 tubs (42Lt bucket).  Also, we gather weekly another 42Lt (1 tub) of coffee grounds from Cadence Café; 9 tubs of horse manure donate by Healing Hooves, a tenant of the Parkland; and 4 tubs of fresh grass clippings.  This makes 7 layers of green material making up 23 tubs in total.

The 7 green layers are integrated between 8 layers of brown material.  In total 25 tubs of mixed matured mulches, dry leaves, dry grass clippings, bamboo leaf/sheath are collected in the parkland.  The collection and heaping process takes 14 hours of work per week.

As you can note, we now use a volume ration 1 to 1: brown to green tub volume. We started with the recommended ratio of 2 to 1. However, we learned that the density of leaves to veggie scrap in the tub is too loose in comparison to brown material density.  

We have not sieved the mulch and any brown and green material has not been chopped.  This is why our heap end is predominantly coarse material with less fine soil than you can expect from composting soil.  The process has pasteurised the heap content and we believe it is free from weed, has produced a very nutrient rich material, which will act as slow release nutrients and minerals to the landscape soil.  This is validated in the experience of Paul Gautschi’s “Back to Eden” deep mulch planting method. 

Hot Compost make soil in 18 day workshop 

Producing the composted material in 18 days requires 5 turns, maintaining the heat at 65° C during a least the first 3 turns.  Each turn takes about 2 hours of very hard work. 10 hours in total of making a final one cubic metre.  You can follow the process and information details in the documented photo journal at 

When we require fine composted soil, we will sieve the initial material.  When the fine composted soil is required for seeding, we will screen it.   This will add 3 and 5 respectively hours extra of work to the cubic metre.  

How do you value the social and ecological impact and volunteer contribution of this project?  In two years, the project will save 38 cubic metres (m3) of fruit and veggies scrap and 4,2 m3 of coffee grounds going to the tip.  Also, it will sustainably upcycle 38 and 17 m3 of horse manure and green grass clipping, as well as 105 m3 of brown mix material: tree mulches, dry leaves, dry grass clippings, bamboo leaf/sheath. 

In sum, the energy of 2800 working hours will be used to cultivate good soil which will be added to the edible landscape gardens for edible trees, edible plants and community to grow:  co-creating a permanent educational, social, ecological site to pass on knowledge for the future generations.   

Composting system