In this section we hope to debunk any myths about composting as we build up a series of articles from John and Sandy Young (our very own Master Composters) and seek to discuss the subject in greater depth, hopefully taking away any of the worry or confusion you may have on this very straightforward and highly productive process.
An Introduction to Composting by John Young (Master Composter)
Composting makes the world go round. It recycles the nutrients that plants (and Animals) grow, feeds the bugs that keeps the soil healthy and is sustainable, a low cost way of dealing with rubbish that rots. And it can be fun too.
Thinking composting should be on our minds from the first day we take on an allotment. It starts when you clear your site and when you have waste material from your crop that you do not wish to eat. All that grows has a use and the shortest distance for carrying this material is within your plot. If you take it any where else you will most probably be taking away valuable top soil with nutrients and organisms that your next crop will rely upon.
What to make Compost in. There are a number of options but make it simple and to suit you and to make it manageable. Not in a great untidy heap like my grandfather did. It made good compost over time but it was difficult to find it. Geoff Hamilton came up with a system which was a series of wood boxes each measuring 1m x 1m x 1m. A cubic meter allows the material to heat up and if you turn it from one box to the next a couple of times a year. You should have good compost to put on your plot. This could be ready in 12 to 18 months. Depending on the material you put in. It’s worth waiting for. The box can be made out of discarded wood or the favourite is to use used Pallets. 4 pallets to make 1 box and 7 to make it 2 and so on.
An alternative is the Black (Dalek) which is more for the household but it is a good starter. These are available through Warwickshire County Council at a subsidised price. The suitable size is a 330 litre. You do not turn the material, just feed it and occasionally use a fork in the top so it does not compact.
No, not what we had in mind. Much more like it.
Where to place the compost bins.There is a logic to place them in the centre of your plots but this may not be best for your garden plan or the available area. We have placed ours on a site at the bottom of our plots as it was convenient for loading, harvesting and distributing the compost. They should be placed directly on to the bare ground so that the Brandling worms and the bugs (which are part of the composting process) gain easy access the from the soil.
What you put into the bins.Try to get a mix of Greens (which composts quickly) only this gives a wet compost and Browns slower to rot (high fibre material) only this it will be too dry. The mix is ideal.
Greens: Vegetable peelings/scraps, Fruit scraps, Annual weeds (less seed heads) spent bedding plants, comfrey, nettles, grass cuttings etc.
Browns: crushed paper, garden pruning, straw, corn cob & stalks, manure from herbivores .
What not to put into the bin; Cooked food scraps, dog or cat faeces , pernicious weed roots (these can be processed by placing in a container of water for at least a month )
What benefits does compost have: It improves the soil, whatever type you have. It lightens a clay soil and gives more humus to a light one. It keeps the soil moist, so there is less need for watering. Compost fed soils tend to grow healthier crops and more resistance to pests and diseases.
When to get started and follow up information. The time to get started or check your bins is now. We will follow up with when and what to do in early Spring.
John & Sandy (plot 9) as Master Composters for Warwickshire are available for further advice either on your plot or by e-mail.
Have a good composting and growing 2018
Composting Bin Update 12th February
Further to our introductory piece we have been making best use of this early season and have been refurbishing our compost bins.
Still using some of our original pallets from 2001 and adding new ones where necessary we have extended our pallet bins from 3 to 4. See the photos below.
Sandy has been stapling on some cardboard to the sides, you can also use tacks or staples, and anything to hold it against the pallet. This stops the material falling out and helps to retain the heat that the compost will create. The cardboard over time will rot down as its one of the browns.
There is plenty of heavy duty cardboard available these days with all the packaging people receive in the goods we purchase, it is a good re-use and helps you get even more from your compost system.
John & Sandy. Plot 9