Today I thought I would talk about composting.
Composting really is the most environmentally friendly way of disposing of all your garden waste and vegetable peelings from your home and allotment. In fact it is at this time of year that I have the most to put into my compost bins at my allotment.
There are many books written about composting and lots of information on the internet too, also I am yet to go to a gardening exhibition where there hasn’t been a presentation dedicated to it. They talk of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ composting, keeping carbon and nitrogen in the optimum ratio, transferring your compost from one heap to another, turning your compost, etc. etc. and to be honest I sometimes feel exhausted just reading about it. Unfortunately, as far as compost is concerned, I am quite a lazy gardener and I really haven’t got the time or energy to mess about with it. I just want the end result without the work in between and this is how I do it:
To start with, I have two different types of compost bins on my plot. The first type of bin I have is the black dalek compost bin, I have four of these for compost (I also use more for my leaf mould too). These bins can be purchased cheaply via your local council. Leicester City Council are selling the 330 litre bins at the moment for £11.48.
I use my dalek bins just for vegetable peelings and for composting any vegetables that are past their best and I also put the outside of vegetable leaves in here before I take the vegetables home to prepare. Every so often I bring our toilet roll inners and shredded paper and put it in too.
The dalek bins have a removable part at the bottom that you are supposed to take your compost out of when it’s ready. Unfortunately, the part you remove is so small that the only practical way of removing the compost is by using a trowel, which is obviously impractical at an allotment! So when I want to use it, I tip the whole bin over and put it to one side and use all the compost in one go, however, when the bin is full I do struggle to do this. After I have tipped my bin over, anything that has not quite composted down goes back into one of my other black dalek bins.
The compost in these bins is ready quicker than the compost made in my second type of compost bin:
The second type of compost bin I use is made out of pallets. This is my favourite type of bin as it’s so easy to make. I don’t screw or nail the pallets together, as this would be too much like hard work for me, all I do is tie four pallets together with strong string and I line the inside with weed suppressant. When the compost is ready I just remove the front pallet.
I go against all the advice the books and internet tell you and I throw nearly everything else in this compost heap e.g. perennial and annual weeds, lawn clippings etc. and I also occasionally put brambles in it too. When it is full, I just cover it all with weed suppressant and leave it for three to five years. The result is wonderful, sweet smelling compost!
One thing I must say is that this bin does end up with lots of weed seeds in the compost as I am not fussy what goes into it, but as you know, I hoe each part of my plot once a week so if any of the weed seeds germinate they are hoed off before they get established.
So as a lazy gardener I don’t turn my compost bins and heaps and I am not careful about layering ‘brown waste’ on top of ‘green waste’ (explanations of both are given below). I just let nature take its own course. I will admit that making my garden waste does take a lot longer to become beautiful compost, but I have several heaps dotted around my allotment, so I always have compost to use. I am happy making it this way.
So for anyone that is fairly new to composting, here is a list of what you can and can’t compost:
Nettles and comfrey
Teabags and coffee grounds
Grass clippings (but not too much at a time)
Green plant/weed growth
Soft green pruning’s
Poultry manure and bedding
Animal manure from horse or cows
Bedding from rabbits & guinea pigs
(e.g. wood shavings, straw, hay)
Other things that can be composted:
Charcoal from the BBQ (not briquettes)
Crushed egg shells
100% cotton or wool (natural fibres)
Plants that are suffering from tomato or potato blight with the seeds taken off ( i.e. the actual potatoes or tomatoes) as the blight can only live on ‘live’ plant material which includes the seeds.
What can’t be composted:
Cat litter / dog faeces
Plants that have soil bourne diseases such as club root or white rot
Just in case there is any doubt in your mind about my lazy composting methods, below is a picture of one of my compost heaps that I opened in February. It was 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds and brambles etc. (that gardening books tell you not to compost). These plants have so many nutrients, which are great for returning back to the ground when I use the compost, as it will benefit the vegetables that grow in it.
As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left:
This compost was used all over my allotment and in my polytunnel in February and March and I think the photos I post on my blog are proof that providing you hoe each area of your plot every week, then the weed seeds are not a problem.
Thank you for reading my blog today.
I will be back at my usual time on Friday. Have a good week.