Monday, 14 May 2007


Last week I found myself putting a Busy Lizzy (Impatiens) houseplant in the microwave to see if it got rid of a nasty attack of greenfly. (I wouldn’t recommend this course of action as the greenfly seem to survive longer than the plants!) I came to the conclusion this action was telling me to get back into the garden and take advantage of the dry, sunny weather. The ground was dry enough to strim marsh reeds that have taken over the back garden as I don’t like using chemical weed killers. I could install a drainage system, but keeping them well cut down will eventually kill them off. And will prepare the area for a pond. I’ve put rotted manure on the vegetable patch, pruned the fruit bushes and warmed my hands on a bonfire that’s reducing the tree thinnings into ashes ready for the compost bin. It’s great to be working outside again.

With all the controversy about landfill sites these days, composting your kitchen waste can help for a start. It is good for the environment and good for your garden. But how exactly can this be done? The word compost denotes two different products. The first is a mixture of soil, peat and sand used in potting plants. The second is all types of vegetable waste rotted in a heap together with an activator to produce a blackish brown, crumbly material, resembling moist peat. This odourless material can be used to feed the vegetable plot, help fill containers and added to the beds and borders will help retain water and give valuable nutrients to the plants. Its this kind of compost I’ve dealt with here.

Find a space in the garden for your bottomless bin. Two sections would be better. This could be made from 5 pallets tied together to form a W shape adding loose boards at the front to add as the bin fills. Slatted timber, posts and wire netting or even bricks can be used as long as enough air can circulate around the contents of the bin. Ready made bins can be bought if needs be.

Loosen the soil at the base of the container. The bacteria and worms in the soil will start the rotting process.

Put in a layer of garden rubbish or vegetable kitchen waste. I would only include uncooked waste from the kitchen, as anything cooked or of meat origin will attract rodents. Any other material such as fluff from the vacuum cleaner, straw or well-soaked newspaper can be added.

A spade full of soil can be added. The activator is then sprinkled on top of this. The activator can be bought from a garden centre or alternatively a spade full of horse or cow manure can be used. Continue filling in this manner, adding the loose board at the front to keep things tidy, until the section is full.

Cover the bin with a sheet of polythene or board if the weather is very wet, if not leave it open to allow water in.

In early autumn turn the material from one container to the other. This speeds up the rotting process by allowing more air to circulate.

By the following spring or summer the compost is ready for use. Avoid using material from the top and edges, as the weed seeds may not have been killed. This can be recomposed for the next year.
If grass clippings are added, make sure no weed killer has been used and don’t put diseased plants into the compost bin.


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