Thursday, 27 September 2012

It's a Dirty Business!

Compost & soil - one of lifes messy, dirty, grubby things. But as I'm realising more and more with my clay soil - I need more of it!!

I've put 4 bags of compost in each of my gardens and I thought that this would be ample! But with such heavy topsoil that its mixed with, every time that it gets a bit of wind the soil drys into hard rocks!  I'm surprised anything is growing!

So whats the point of compost? When living matter dies and decomposes, nutrients go back into the soil. The humus remaining (the end product of this decomposition) gives the soil organic matter that can hold water and nutrients in the soil.

So basically it provides
  • Essential nutrients, 
  • Builds soil structure 
  • Enhances the life found in soil (worms, bacteria, fungi etc)
All of these things make for stronger, better plant growth.

The Perfect Compost Recipe;

Green Matter - Anything Living, its nitrogen rich, wet matter.
This includes, grass clippings, food scraps, manure, seaweed, tea leaves, coffee grounds etc.

Brown Matter - Carbon rich, dry matter
Newspaper, cardboard, shredded paper, egg cartons, tree prunings, dry leaves, bark, sawdust, wood ash, crushed shells etc.

What Not to compost - 
Meat, dairy, bones, infected plants, problem weeds e.g. wandering dew, jasmine etc.

  • Ideally the green & brown layers should be alternated with a 1:2 green: brown ratio.
  • You should turn it often. Every 6-8weeks is enough to encourage breakdown.
  • You should cover it with grass clippings so it heats up so it breaks down faster & kills the nasty organisms living in it.
  • Adding manure/blood & bone can speed up the process.

I've been dumping all my vegetable rubbish into the compost bin & worm bin for about 6 months now. The worm farm is thriving - lots of lovely worms & lovely worm tea to fertilise the place~! My compost however is not doing as well. In fact there really is no signs of compost at the bottom! There is a method to the madness of compost & I haven't put it into practice. I haven't been good at adding 'brown' matter, and I haven't turned it - well, ever! I don't own a fork and man is it hard to turn with a spade! It seems very compacted! 

I did finally get around to clearing up all the leaves from this massive tree overhanging the drive & actually - a lot of the leaf matter had already broken down! So I've dumped that into the compost in the hope it will do something for it! I still haven't worked out how to turn it yet! But I did get so much leaf matter its filled the whole bin up! This could be a disaster in the making! Oh well! Hopefully I'll have some sort of dirt at some point in the future! But I seriously think I need to dig it out & get some more layers going. Half filled with 'green matter' and then filled with 'brown matter' isn't quite the 'layered' effect the experts suggest! I should probably add some grass clippings to get it heating up too! 

My composting area
Another benefit to doing composting is that we get about a bucket load of scraps every few days. That's definatly saving us money from having to put it in the rubbish!

Check out this site: - It has good resources on different composting methods, common problems etc.

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