From your garden

All normal green garden waste can be composted after all, disposing of such material is one of the main reasons for composting in the first place. Nearly all of it can go on the compost pile without any treatment, but tough stuff like brassica stalks should first be chopped up, or smashed, with a club hammer or spade. The same goes for tough kitchen waste such as corn cobs. What about weed seeds Well, they are not such a serious problem. Even a classic, hot compost pile never achieved a 100...

When is compost ready

Or, to put it another way, how long is a piece of string All the dead plant material in your garden would rot down and eventually disappear of its own accord, without your assistance, if you just left it alone. The same would happen to green kitchen waste if you just threw it out of the back door onto the nearest flower bed. In practice, this means that compost is ready when you think it is. The high-fibre heap, based on paper, card, and soft, green waste only, will produce a fine compost...

DIY is worth a try

If you are fairly competent at DIY, there are lots of materials, apart from plastic and wood, to consider. Bricks or breeze blocks make sturdy, long-lasting compost bins. Breeze blocks are cheap, quick, and easy they don't look as nice as bricks, but you could paint or grow climbers over them. Both need foundations at least 15cm 6in deep and twice as wide as the walls of the bin. Other options include corrugated iron, plastic, or chicken wire, which should be screwed to four stout, wooden...

Food for soil

A useful extra source of organic matter, principally for the vegetable garden or any temporarily unoccupied bit of the garden, is a green manure. This is any crop deliberately grown for a few months and then killed to return the organic matter to the soil. primarily, adding extra organic matter they protect the soil structure from damage by heavy rain, especially if present over the winter they retain nutrients that might otherwise be washed out of the soil -...

Finding a use for it

Chicken Wire With Cardboard Compost Bin

For the serious recycler, it's clear that the compost bin itself should be recycled. Fortunately, there is no shortage of suitable materials. Old floorboards, plastic, corrugated iron, old doors, pallets, bricks, builder's bags, and other useful junk are thrown away in ever-increasing quantities - good compost bins can be made from all of them. Ask a local supplier of recycled building materials or just keep an eye on the contents of local skips. My compost bins consist mostly of the remains of...

Strawy stable manure can go straight on the garden

While chicken manure is high in nutrients and makes an excellent compost activator. Pigeon manure, often available even in the centre of big cities, is similar. Many other sources of organic matter are useful if available locally, including bracken, sawdust, seaweed, spent hop waste and mushroom compost, and straw. All these can go straight on the garden as a mulch and will help to improve the soil structure. Bear in mind, however, that in terms of nutrient content and other properties, these...

Foreword

Few things are better for your plants and for the environment than home-made garden compost, yet why is making it never quite as straightforward as the experts would have us believe Perhaps unrealistic expectations, coupled with the modern desire for instant results, are mainly to blame. The commercial garden industry, anxious to sell us a fancy machine or secret ingredient that promises to make compost in days, merely adds to our feeling of inadequacy. But don't panic, this book is here to...

Many nutrients

Among materials you might import to your garden, straw, wood chips, and bark are also low in nutrients, while cocoa shells and stable manure are high in nutrients. Proprietary soil conditioners are very variable - always read the label for application rates. Most forms of bulky organic matter, when applied to the soil, don't seem to have a very significant effect on the soil pH acidity or alkalinity . In fact, results from mulching trials are somewhat contradictory, with the same type of mulch...

What is compost

When animals and plants die, they decompose surprisingly quickly. The body of an adult human, if exposed to the elements, is reduced to a mere skeleton in about three weeks. The bones last longer, but not a great deal. Shakespeare was right when his gravedigger in Hamlet Act V, Scene I estimated there was not much left of a cadaver after eight or nine years. Even huge trees go the same way, and about as quickly. The end product of this composting process is a remarkably resistant and complex...

The calcium factor

The basic story of compost emphasizes the carbon nitrogen ratio, and rightly so this has to be at least nearly right, or nothing will work very well. However, the C N ratio is far from the whole story, and there is one element that has not been given quite the attention it deserves calcium. Why might calcium be important in the compost pile One product of the breakdown of organic matter by bacteria is organic acids. In a well-aerated compost pile, these organic acids are themselves broken down...

A mown about grass cuttings

In many gardens, there may be a huge glut of lawn mowings in the summer. The solution is simply to stockpile surplus cardboard to make sure that you can keep the green waste paper ratio about equal during these brief periods. If you can't do this, loosely screwed-up, single sheets of newspaper will work just as well. An alternative is simply to use grass clippings as a mulch see pages 168-169 . If you have a large vegetable plot, there might be another glut of soft green material later in the...

Index

Please note the page numbers in bold indicate a significant entry for the subject those in italics indicate an illustration. acid-loving plants 32, 161 commercial composts for 51 actinomycetes 23 activators 48-9, 183 air in compost 27, 28-9 nitrogen and 26 too much 101, 182 woody waste 46 in soil 18 air pollution 15 alfalfa 176, 177, 181 alkaline-tolerant plants 33 ammonia smell 183 ammonium sulphate 49, 161 aphids 45 ash 81 axe 94 from 176, 178 bean root rot 45 beetles 23 black spot 44, 45...

Wormeries

A traditional, hot compost heap is too hot for anything other than bacteria to live in the core. But in a cool compost heap and most are cool , a lot of the work is done by worms. So naturally worms have been domesticated in a composting process that relies entirely on worms. The result is the wormery. The worms are variously known as brandlings, red worms, or tiger worms. They live in decaying organic matter and are not the same as ordinary garden earthworms, which live in the soil and would...