October 10, 2008
Making Your Own Compost ; Gardening
IF YOU haven't yet gone down the composting route, autumn is a great time to start as you gather up leaves, empty plant pots and generally tidy up the garden.
Many local authorities now provide compost bins to encourage householders to recycle, so it's worth giving your own council a ring to check.
Alternatively, you can make a compost heap by erecting a wire- mesh cage with four corner posts, lined with cardboard or straw. Builders' pallets also make instant compost bins, set on end and tied or screwed together. You can fill the gaps between slats with straw or newspaper.
I have a cheap, lidded bin outside my back door for all my kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings, teabags and eggshells, which I add to the heap spasmodically.
Some people do get confused about exactly what and how much of a particular waste product they should put on their compost heap.
Too many grass clippings pack down and rot without air into a smelly, slimy mess so must be mixed with coarser material.
Weeds can be mixed with grass cuttings, but avoid vigorous perennial types with indestructible roots such as ground elder or couch grass.
Kitchen scraps can be used, but avoid cooked food - which attracts rats - and don't put in meat or fish.
Often the problem gardeners have is that they don't have enough material, but your local greengrocer may be able to supply you with some green waste, or the council may be happy to let you cart away leaves.
If you have room, make two compost heaps so that you are filling one while the other is rotting down.
The best way to make compost is to add the materials in layers.
Start with a layer of coarse material and pile on about the same about of grass cuttings, mixing them together with a fork.
If you have a lot of one type of material, stack it to one side and cover it with black plastic sheeting until there is enough other material to mix with it.
Quick-rotting green waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings, soft prunings and annual weeds should be mixed in equal amounts with tougher, fibrous materials such as shredded paper and card products, straw, vegetable stems, leaves, eggshells and soft hedge prunings.
Horse and poultry manure is a good addition, while wood ash from the fireplace can also be added, as can cardboard including egg boxes and toilet-roll middles.
Try to keep woody materials out of the compost heap as they will take ages to break down, and if you are clipping hedges, shred very tough prunings before adding them.
Small amounts of leaves can be thrown into the compost heap, but large quantities are better stacked separately.
Once the heap is full, throw a piece of old carpet on top of it to keep in the heat.
The compost will need turning from time to time while it is decomposing.
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