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Composting- the creation of Black Gold

One of the services affected by the Covid-19 pandemic is the collection of garden waste.

Many councils have temporarily stopped picking up green waste at a time when we may be generating more. We may now find the time to tackle those big jobs in the garden that we’ve been putting off for a while. 

All this extra waste can be turned into one of the most precious resources in the garden, 

Black Gold or Compost.

What is Compost?

Compost is the soil-like black brown material that results when leaves or twigs, in fact any plant based material, decomposes. Think about the woodland floor. Dig down under last season’s leaf litter and there’s a layer of dark crumbly soil. Mature, well-rotted compost does have the smell of the woodland floor. 

How to make your own Compost.

Anything that is plant-based material will eventually rot down. In the compost heap, insects, small worms and other invertebrates, along with a host of microorganisms, all work on garden waste to break it down. What results is a dark, nutrient rich crumbly material that improves soil structure and moisture retention. When compost is added to the soil, your plants will grow bigger and stronger. 

The composting process can be quickened by adding water and air. Turning the heap and making sure the contents don’t dry out will keep the process going at speed. 

Getting the ‘right’ proportion of nitrogen rich (or green) and carbon rich (or brown) materials also aids the composting process. Aim roughly for a 1 to 3 mix of green to brown. Brown materials that can be added include cardboard (chopped up is best), newspaper, straw, wood shavings as well as twigs and old leaves. Green material could be grass clippings, vegetable waste from the kitchen, coffee grounds, cut flowers etc. 

Cooked food should not be added because it attracts vermin. Also avoid big chunks of wood; they take too long to break down. Create a log pile instead. Strongly growing and pernicious weeds such as dandelions and their seeds shouldn’t be added. Diseased plant material should be disposed of elsewhere for fear of contaminating the rest of the garden.

Containers for Compost.

There are many different types of compost ‘bins’ and the choice depends on the size of garden and what space can be given over to it. Many councils will supply compost bins at discounted rates. It is also quite easy to make your own eg. from old wooden pallets. A three unit system is useful if you have the space. One ‘bin’ takes the fresh material, this is turned into the next bin after a few weeks. This is subsequently turned into the third bin to complete the composting process. 

Ideally the site should be away from the house, in a warm sheltered area of the garden.

How to use Compost 

When the compost is ready to use it can be added on top of your garden beds around the plants, in a layer 5 cm deep. This helps to retain moisture and slowly feeds the soil and ultimately the plants. This is best done in Spring or Autumn. Compost can also be added to the surrounding  soil when planting pot grown plants. 

Most gardeners consider the compost heap as the ‘Engine’ of the garden. Magic happens and a delicious and free material is created to benefit our soils and plants and ultimately bring joy to ourselves.

For more information on composting see: https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/compost

 




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