Friday, May 27, 2005

Compost secrets

You will typically go through a lot of compost in your Garden and to cut down on costs and help the enviroment its a good idea to start your own. First select a location, prime growing real estate is often taken in your garden so at best select a spot thats sheltered from the wind and its not too shaded (semi shade is ok but full sun is best). Make sure the postion also offers somewhere to drain off to, compost creates a waste liquid that should drain off into the soil. The soil also invites worms and other garden friendlies into your waste to help break it down. As such avoid a placing on a patio if possible.

Next select what kind of compost you create, if you have a bigh garden or a plot then a open heap is a good idea. You will generate enough waste material to maintain its size. On a smaller scale, you will need a container. A spare waste bin with drainage holes is a good DIY container but most councils now offer compost schemes with purpose made continers available at cheap prices. These also offer a handy window into the base of the container to take the compost out at will but your preferance may be to lift the container off and take out the compost that way.

What you can use in your compost is really up to you, some examples include veg peelings, cut flowers, shredded paper, animal and human hair etc. Things to avoid include cooked food and meat (attacts vermin) and weeds, large qty of grass (it turns to slime). I would start your compost with a bed of straw to ensure drainage and build up in layers. If you want to speed things along then you need plants that will help feed the bacteria. Small qtys of grass can be used but I favour nettles, young nettles are best. You can also add manure, rabit manure is something I favour but you also use horse manure. Avoid adding too much horse manure however, it contains a lot of seeds that can surive the compost process.

You can add a little lime if you wish, compost can build up acid levels and you may wish to level the pH. The trick with compost is keep adding to it, the more it builds up the more heat it will generate (and the more bacteria will be able to help rot down the material). Also avoid adding large qtys of anything, too much wet material for example can prevent air getting into the compost and stall the process.

Compost can take 6-12 months so get ready to wait for your compost. When its ready I would recommend that you use more sparingly than you would with commerical compost. It will be much richer than you may be used to and young, tender plants may not get on with it. Mix with general purpose compost or soil.


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