Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Compost happens!

I love composting - it has to be the ultimate in recycling. Everything that comes from the earth or is nurtured by it goes back, in the form of brown, crumbly, earthy-smelling compost. From the house - everything from vegetable and fruit peelings to teabags, toilet roll tubes, coffee grounds, cereal boxes and eggshells, hair and animal fur and the contents of your vacuum cleaner bag can go in the compost bin. However, these household leftovers need to be balanced by adding garden waste in the form of prunings and clippings, grass mowings, leaves and some weeds - preferably not the roots of perennials such as dandelion, ground elder, buttercup, bindweed etc. as these need a high temperature to destroy them which may not be reached in a domestic composter. Not too much in the way of twigs and brown prunings as these thake a long time to break down although this is a lot quicker if they are shredded first. Too many grass clippings will cause a slimy mixture due to a lack of air in the heap. A good balanced mixture is best that is stirred up from time to time (not compulsory but helps).
I find wood is a good material with which to make a composter or buy one ready to assemble. Wood breathes and insulates and looks good although will need replacing after a number of years. Cover the compost mixture with a layer of insulation - old potting compost bags with a few layers of bubble wrap inside are ideal.The compost bin should also be situated in the sun if possible to aid heating up.
Things to avoid in your compost bin are meat, fish, dairy and cooked foods - these are not a good idea as they can attract vermin. Other do nots are cat and dog faeces and disposable nappies.
When the compost is cooked, it can be used as a mulch throughout the garden, helping to keep down weeds, keep in moisture, enrich the soil and it looks good too. The whole process can take as little as 6 - 8 weeks or as much as a year. If all this seems like hard work then a pile of material in the corner of your garden will eventually rot down without you having to do anything to it - just leave it to nature.
Above picture shows my composting set-up.