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Treacodactyl
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 05 8:17 pm    Post subject: Compost  Reply with quote    

Along with Sean's post I thought I'd also create a thread for compost tips. After a few weeks I'll arrange for an article to be written so keep them coming. I'm mainly looking for beginners tips, but all tips are welcome.

What do you add, how do you add it, do you leave anything out, how long does it take, what do you use it for?

One small tip we do is to ensure all fruit waste (apple cores, peelings, banana skins, etc) are brought home from work and added to the heap. Saves landfill and adds useful fruit nutrients to the garden.

cab



Joined: 01 Nov 2004
Posts: 32429

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 05 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I make a big pile of rottable stuff and pee on it once in a while. I get a fork in and mix it all about sometimes. When it's done I can tell because it looks like compost.

I keep two heaps; one (a compost bin) gets most of the kitchen waste and vegetable matter, the other one (a simple heap) gets spent compost from pots and the big windfalls of compostable waste (when the tomato plants come out, etc). The heap gets spread out maybe once a year, the bin gets used for mulching whenever I need, but normally twice or three times a year.

Really woody stuff doesn't go on, meat and bone don't go on, everything else rottable does, including eggshells.

To keep the heaps aerated, I intersperse layers of waste with scrunched up newspaper. That seems to ensure a good texture.

I try to get as much compost out onto the veg patch after clearing in autumn; it's already got a good crumb texture, and it gets munched into the soil by worms.

Tristan



Joined: 29 Dec 2004
Posts: 392
Location: North Gloucestershire
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 05 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

At home it is whatever I can find to put in the bin, and we also have a woody heap that will take about 4 years to rot but can even cope with leylandii clippings. At work I build a huge heap of stuff, chuck it through a shredder, into the pallet bin to at least three feet deep, and watch it hit 65 deg C in about 4 days, makes compost in three months

Treacodactyl
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 05 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I've started a simple article, aimed at people who don't grow much but who may think about a compost bin.

If anyone has time please read through it, point out what you think is wrong and what could be added:


Basic Home Composting

One of the easiest ways of reducing the amount of rubbish we throw out is to start composting as much organic waste as possible. In the UK most, if not all, councils operate schemes where you can buy a plastic compost bin for a reasonable price. These bins may not be the best way for making large amounts of compost but are ideal for beginners and people with restricted space.

This article is aimed at absolute beginners with the aim of reducing the amount of waste collected by the council.

How does composting work?

Many processes are at work breaking down the plant material into compost, including bacteria, fungi, worms, invertebrates etc. The aim is to provide a balance for them to thrive and go about their useful business, in order to rot down organic matter as quickly as possible. The organisms tend to like a balanced moist place with good airy mix of materials. Nitrogen is essential but too much can cause a slimy smelly mess. Woody material helps balance the nitrogen and allows air into the heap, but too much will slow the composting process.

Material can be left in a pile one the ground and it will eventually rot down. This will take time and can be messy, especially when animals decide to rake about. Some form of container or bin is generally used and there are many designs for home made bins and many ready made or flatpack products available. One of the easiest products to get hold of and use is the plastic compost bin.

Compost bin

There are various designs of plastic bins, most resembling a tube narrowing towards the top with some form of lid. The base is open and some have a hatch. They are light but once some material is added they should not blow away. However, when empty they may need to be secured to stop them turning up in your neighbour's garden! Two different ones I have are shown: Picture to follow...

Siting the compost bin

From time to time a compost bin may smell a little, depending on what has been added. It is best to site it somewhere out of the way, but somewhere easy to get to so you remember to put material in it! Occasionally there may be problems with unwanted visitors to a bin. Rats may set up home and if this happens siting the bin on top of some wire mesh still allows useful animals access to the bin without access for rats. Occasional problems from cats or foxes can be prevented by not adding meat or fish.

What to put in the composter

A good balance should be easy to obtain from the average household. Most garden and kitchen waste can go in. Remember to not add too much of one thing. For example, if you have a large lawn do not add all the clippings in one big layer. Leave them to one side and add them with other more woody material. Likewise, don't add several buckets of prunings in one layer. Make sure they are cut up into small pieces, the smaller the better - shredded better still - and add them with the grass cuttings or other leafy material.

Kitchen waste can be added and usually is a reasonable mix of tough and fleshy bits. If you are throwing out a large object, an unused cabbage or uneaten fruit for example, break it up before adding it to your compost bin. Some people suggest not adding citrus fruit as it can make the compost too acidic but as long as it's a small amount I've not had any problems. I also add egg shells, tea bags and leaves, and coffee grounds. A specially designed kitchen waste bin is very useful. It has a lid and can be kept just outside the back door so you will not have to make daily trips to the main compost bin.

Weeds can be added but a few simple tips are worth following. If you don't want weeds spread around the garden try not to let the weeds set seed; not only will the weeds seed when they are being collected but the seeds will probably be viable when the compost has rotted. A large hot heap will kill the seeds and many other organisms, but the necessary temperatures will not be reached in the average bin. Perennial weeds and roots can also survive and take root in a heap. It is best to leave the weeds in the sun to wilt for several days and it may be wise to leave the roots for a few weeks or not add them to the heap at all.

If you have too much green, leafy material and not enough woody material to balance it out then shredded paper, cardboard, egg cartons can be added. Some people may prefer not to not add this in case unwanted chemicals are added to the garden. This is a matter for personal choice; if the compost is not used to crop crops there should be no problems.

Another top tip is to ensure all your fruit peel, apple cores etc from your packed lunch are brought home and added to the heap.

If you are lucky enough to have chickens, rabbits or other 'farm' animals then their old bedding and droppings can be added to the heap.

What to leave out

A large scale commercial compost can reach very high temperatures that will rot the heap in a matter of a few weeks and sterilise the heap. A small compost bin will not reach such temperatures so a little more care needs to be taken.

Some weeds are best left out entirely as they pose to great a threat to the garden. Japanese knot weed is one that must not be composted (seek special advice before disposing of this weed). Other weeds that are best either left out or soaked for several weeks in water (the liquid can be used as a fertiliser) so they decompose are nettle roots, bindweed, horse/marestail, and ground elder.

Generally it is best to leave out cooked food, bread, meat and fish as these can attract vermin. Also leave out cat and dog mess and litter as there can be a potential risk to humans from their waste (there may be some ways where this waste can be added but that is beyond the scope of this article).

If the compost is to be used on to help grow vegetables it's best to avoid composting some material to avoid the spread of disease. Ones to leave out are brassica roots (leaves and chopped stalks are fine, but not the root balls, to avoid club root), if you're growing potatoes or tomatoes then don't compost potato and tomato waste.


Problems with the compost

If layers build up in the heap this can slow the composting process. It is always useful to lift off the bin and mix the compost up and place back into the bin. If some of the bottom layers are almost usable then don't mix with the un-rotted material if you think you can use it in a few weeks. I find it easier to have two bins, one filling up and one left to rot down. This may not be required for most people. Be careful of any animals that are good for the garden that may make their home in the compost; slow worms for example often like to live and hunt in the warm conditions of a compost bin.

Compost can dry out and this will greatly slow the composing process. Try and keep the mixture moist, but not too wet as this can also slow the process and leave a smelly mess! Don't add too much water and ensure the lid is fitted and this should keep the heap sufficiently dry.

Uses for your home made compost

It is possible to obtain a very good quality compost that can be used to make potting compost, specialist composts etc. However, this can take time and practice so for the beginner it's best to aim for something more attainable.

One of the first uses for compost is as a garden mulch. This will act as a way of nourishing the garden, keeping in moisture and can help suppress weeds. The compost can still contain many large particles and doesn't need to be completely rotted.

Links

http://www.hdra.org.uk/organicgardening/gh_comp.htm - Make compost the organic way with the HDRA

http://www.selfsufficientish.com/compost.htm - Composting tips for the self sufficient 'ish'

http://www.communitycompost.org/ - Community Composting Network - for people who get the bug and want to go a bit further!

http://www.othas.org.uk/dccn/index.html - Devon Community Composting Network.

http://soil.hostweb.org.uk/ - off topic a bit, - easy to understand info on soil!

http://www.keirg.freeserve.co.uk/diary/tech/compost.htm - something for allotment holders.

Last edited by Treacodactyl on Tue May 03, 05 5:51 pm; edited 2 times in total

Blue Sky



Joined: 30 Jan 2005
Posts: 7618
Location: France
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 05 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Very useful topic - Thank you.

I will be keeping an eye on this one. We compost all our kitchen waste (citrus fruit, teabags, the lot) but have noticed how some things rot down alot slower than others so I can highly recommend the two bin method. We are beginners at composting and welcome all advice. We do have hens however and all of their bedding goes in the box about every two weeks with lots of "hen made" nitrogen to activate it. Also, I wee on it quite frequently to keep it damp. Our box is in an outbuilding, open but with a roof so it needs our input for moisture. We also keep a leaf bin (the leaves we gather from the local woods and mix with "hen-house" straw and this is rotting down nicely but will take a long time before it is ready. We have not used any of the compost from the first box so far but will post results here as to how well it does. The sticks in the picture have now been removed to aeriate the box.

More to follow

S

Treacodactyl
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 05 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Bumping up a bit.

Deedee



Joined: 10 Jan 2005
Posts: 250
Location: Surrey
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 05 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Still trying to convince other half he needs to pee in the compost bin but as we live on a corner of a busy road and the compost bins are next to slatted fences you can see thru no joy so far...can't think why

Treacodactyl
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 05 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Bucket in a shed.

Deedee



Joined: 10 Jan 2005
Posts: 250
Location: Surrey
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 05 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

no shed! Good idea though a bucket in the loo When Michael was a toddler he used to have a thing about widdling in my tomato plants in buckets at the side of the house things were like triffids!!!

gavin



Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Leeds, W Yorks
PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 05 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Nice one!

Any use in this little lot?

1. A couple of other weeds I wouldn't add - bindweed, horse/marestail, and ground elder; or at least not imediately - soak 'em in water for a few weeks, use the tea as plant food, and then put drowned roots into the composter.

2. cab's compost activator - recycled beer/cider, Personally Iinitiated Soil Stimulant - good stuff in all its forms

3. Worth pointing out for people who use their compost for vegetable growing?

- don't compost brassica roots (leaves and chopped stalks are fine, but not the root balls, to avoid club root);
- if you're growing potatoes, don't compost potato waste.

4. And it does .... me off to walk by allotment plots where people don't compost; you can often recognise them - the soil level is several inches below that of the paths. All that goodness, tons and tons of soil, barrowed off and tipped in an unseen corner - a huge mouldering pile. Of rubbish I'd hesitate to explore using.

5. Some more link suggestions?

http://www.communitycompost.org/ - Community Composting Network - for people who get the bug and want to go a bit further! Likewise [url]http://www.othas.org.uk/dccn/index.html
[/url] - Devon Community Composting Network.

http://soil.hostweb.org.uk/ - off topic a bit, but I really like this site - easy to understand stuff on soil!

http://www.keirg.freeserve.co.uk/diary/tech/compost.htm - a bit cheeky - and it's much more for the size of an allotment plot.

6. And a health warning - "Composting is addictive"?

All best - Gavin

PS Glossy and coated papers shouldn't be added, 'cos of the chemicals used in the processes and inks?

Bugs



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 10743

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 05 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Regarding (3) Gavin, I used to hear that you shouldn't use carrots either, equally for disease problems, but we've ignored that and not yet had any problems,

We don't tend to compost tomato plants, either

gavin



Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Leeds, W Yorks
PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 05 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

carrots

Ah - carrots and me have a long history; I love them, they don't like me. If the carrot fly didn't get 'em, it was the vandals trashed their cosy fleece cover.

Moved to a new site - and what do I get? The heaviest, claggiest clay soil imaginable! And I'm still determined to get a good carrot - I don't intend trying for 50 years without success (like one friend ). Off tomorrow to get some sharp sand so I can sow some this year!

I hadn't heard about not putting carrots on the compost heap - but it makes sense; don't give the fly a place to overwinter? Possibly not so necessary if you grow your carrots under fleece, or with a barrier? But I am NOT a person to comment - I can only talk with absolute conviction about what DOESN'T work .

But you triggered another thought - onions and garlic. I'd happily compost my own as I knew I didn't have white rot. I used to harvest mine in summer, hang 'em up, and they'd last through to the next harvest.

But after a year using bought onions and garlic (which go rotten scarily quickly), I'd be very hesitant about putting "bought" onions/garlic on my own compost heap.

All best - Gavin

Treacodactyl
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 05 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hi Gavin, thanks for the extra tips and links. I may add a section with more 'hard core' composting tips, such as 'human activator' but I want to keep this article simple.

I also would like at least one more article covering composting for use on the veg plot (including manure) and even another on making your own potting compost from compost, leaf mould etc.

judyofthewoods



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 804
Location: Pembrokeshire
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 05 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Not tried this method, but looks plausable. For growing carrots in heavy clay you could try to dig individual holes, then ramming a crowbar into the base to extend the hole downward, and wriggle it arround to create a cone. Probably best to do it when the soil is fairly dry as the clay would get a more waterproof edge if its effectively puddled. Fill the hole with a finer mix of soil, compost and sand. That way you can get started with improving the soil a bit at a time where you most need it, where the plant grows. Brobably not ideal, but might allow you to grow at least some carrots, even if the yield is less than in ideal conditions.

gavin



Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Leeds, W Yorks
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 05 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Words out of my mouth, Judyofthewoods - spent this morning mixing compost, sand and soil. All ready I am - pity about the sopping wet claggy soil, though

All best - Gavin

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