How and why to compost…

Time to mulch the bare soil in your borders while the soil is wet and warming. Mulching is great for improving your soil condition, feeding your plants, reducing weeds and conserving water. Simply apply a layer of your chosen material to the top of your soil. Bark, gravel, slate etc work well as a weed suppressant between shrubs but don’t enrich the soil. Well rotted manure is great but the ideal medium is garden compost. Home made garden compost is free, rich in nutrients to feed your plants and organic matter to improve the physical condition of your soil. Plus you don’t need to source it or transport it so it’s a truly ‘green’ thing to do.

Last year I gained a garden shredder through the wonders of freecycle. I gave away an old garden shed and karma supplied me with a fully working garden shredder to call my own. Using the shredder to chop the garden waste takes a lot of effort out of composting and speeds the rotting process tremendously. This year the results have been brilliant and with my heavy clay soil I am really keen to add good organic matter to my garden each spring.

How to compost? I use a traditional wooden bays made from old pallets, these are big enough for to hold a years worth of waste and generate plenty of heat but there are smaller, tidy bins available for smaller gardens. It’s good to have a hard standing surface that you can sweep. The basic principle is to balance soft green matter such as grass cuttings with brown matter such as twiggy dead herbaceous prunings. Too much of either is problematic. Then to keep the heap moist and aerated. Take care not to compress the compost.

You can compost cardboard, chicken manure, used tea bags, veg peelings, egg shells and old compost from pots. Always trying to maintain a balance between green and brown. Avoid cooked food and meat which will attract vermin. Also avoid thorny prunings and perennial weeds such as couch grass or bindweed, although a really large heap will possibly hot enough to kill dandelions etc.

For more composting info http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/composting/index.php

For recycling visit www.freecycle.org or search for your local transition group who organise swap shops.

If you do not have any compost ready to use you can buy in local well-rotted manure – speak to a farmer, use bagged compost or manure which although more expensive will have been heated to guarantee not to carry weeds.

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