August 19, 2008

Violet’s Rotten Exhibit a Winner With the Judges ; Top Prize for New Gardener in First Show

By Tony Henderson

NEW gardener Violet Diver tabled a rotten exhibit in her inaugural flower and vegetable show. But she came away with first prize as her beautifully rotted entry won the compost class in North Tyneside's annual horticulture and health show at The Parks Centre in North Shields.

Violet, 44, has taken over her own plot next door to that of teacher husband Brian at Wallsend's West Street allotments site. And it was compost-making which caught the imagination of Violet, who works as a nurse.

She now has no less than seven compost bins on her allotment and one at home in Kings Road South, Wallsend.

"You could say I have a compost fetish.

After winning the class at the show, Brian is now calling me Miss Compost 2008," said Violet. Her interest also helped her take second place in the newcomer allotment tenant competition.

Making cracking compost fits in with the couple's lifestyle.

"We recycle everything you can think of, and we also keep ducks.

"Brian makes his own jam and wine, and pickles his onions and beetroot. We lead what you could call the good life."

Brian has picked up many a tip on the vanishing art of food preservation from original wartime Dig for Victory booklets which he bought online.

Violet's compost is put to good use enriching the soil at the allotment, where she has built a glazed structure heated by a waste wood-burning oven.

"I love everything about allotment gardening, including the digging. Work can be stressful at times but when you turn the key in the allotment gate you are in a different world," she said.

Mike Brannigan, North Tyneside Council outdoor sport and leisure development officer, said: "We introduced a compost class at the show to recognise people's efforts in this direction.

"What we were looking for was something totally composted with no green material. Violet's exhibit had a rich colour and was nicely porous and open."


ALMOST any plant material can be composted, from garden to kitchen vegetable waste, including eggshells and tea bags.

Nitrogen-rich material such as grass cuttings can be mixed with carbon material like this woody waste, shredded bark and paper.

Do not use thick layers of grass as this stops air circulation and pernicious, perennial weeds should be not be composted.

Heat is created naturally during composting and this should deal with weed seeds, pests and plant diseases.

Material will take three months to compost during summer and double that in the colder months.

The finished product should be dark, crumbly and sweet-smelling, or at least odourless.

Compost is invaluable as a soil conditioner and enricher, and also as a mulch.

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