Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Making the compost heap

It was a productive morning for me today. I went through some of the plant stock in pots, throwing out bedding that past its sell by date, removing spent flowers and dieback foliage - basically giving the gravel area outside the back door a good tidy over.
When the wheelbarrow was full I trotted off down to the compost heap; and what a sorry sight that was. It's an area that's had little or no attention, and it shows.
And, it's an area I've been intending to give some attention to. No time like the present.
In the area beside it, I cut back some low over hanging branches, removed the weeds, and generally gave the area a good clean up.
I then used a pallet I acquired recently and some heavy duty cardboard boxes, and created a compost corner. I also recently came by some heavy duty carpet, so I used some of this on the base.
I then moved the existing heap into this new area, mixing the grass cuttings with plenty of the other garden waste as I went.
A quick watering, as some of the material was quite dry, and then I covered it with more carpet. The idea with covering it is simple. It allows the heap to build up heat and retain moisture, both of which the bacteria needs in order to work effectively.
In essence, it allows the material to 'cook'. I will be adding to the compost heap through the Autumn, up to early Winter, and will 'turn' it i.e. move it to the area beside it and back again, in order to allow air into it, again for the bacteria to work at their best. This is a bit if work, but well worth while.
As any gardener will tell you, for the compost heap to work best, ensure you gave a mixture of materials going in to it. Not just grass on its own, as this makes for a very poor composting process and the end result is not great. I think about 60% green materials and the other 40% other plant and organic materials. Of course don't use cooked food or any meat, as this will attract rodents, and I tend to avoid throwing lemon, orange or other citrus peals on - they're too tough on the bacteria to break them down easily.
By mid-April, I think I will have a fine, very useable, compost to spread over the flower and shrub beds. Perfect.
Do try this at home. For smaller gardens, a shop bought compost bin can be very useful, neat and a bit of a garden feature.
And don't worry if it doesn't work out the first time - it took me a number of go's to get it right when I started first.

Happy composting!