Tuesday 5 May 2015

Composting Week

It's International Composting Awareness week! 
Not sure if the timing is someone's quiet joke given it's UK Election week. But it is actually part of the United Nations Year of the Soil - see www.soils.org.uk/international-year-soils-2015-0 - which is raising awareness of the importance of sustainable soil management as the basis for food, fuel and fibre production and essential ecosystems. It's also highlighting the role of soils in adapting to climate change for future generations. So pretty important.

At Froggarts Cottage we take composting very seriously. We have three 6ft square wooden compost bays built on soil and we use them in rotation. So we are using one to put the new vegetable matter in, the second is covered and processing nicely turning it over every couple of months and the third, now full of pretty good stuff, we use for topping up the veg beds, greenhouse and for re-potting things. It takes about 18-24 months to generate good compost for use.

We also have a couple of those "dalek" plastic compost bins which we bought for our previous house (with postage-stamp garden). We use those for rotting down leaves which take longer than other waste. From time to time we'll mix some well-rotted leaves into the main compost.

The only difference I can see between our compost and what you buy in shops is that ours still has weed seeds in. I guess the commercial stuff is heat-blasted to get rid. In fact our compost has a better mix of soil to vegetable matter which makes it better for potting or sowing big seeds like beans. Some of the shop stuff just looks like wood chips.

What do we put in? Grass chippings, weeds (but not couch grass or bind weed which I consign to a fiery end on the bonfire), ashes from the bonfire, trimmings from herbaceous plants and shrubs, vegetable waste from the kitchen, egg-shells, shredded paper, card egg-boxes, toilet roll middles and other light cardboard. Occasionally we get a boost from passing horses or a bag from the local stables.

I do worry that some of the waste from bought-in vegetables may not be too healthy. I never put in potato peelings - there's too many bugs and viruses - and since the allium leaf miner I don't put in onion or leek peelings either. Those bugs may well have come in from foreign farms. Obviously using waste from bought fruit and veg means our compost isn't organic.

There are lots of theories and advice about composting, but generally it all works out OK if you keep it mounded up, not too wet or dry and turn it over every couple of months. Let the bugs, worms and bacteria do the hard work!

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