Composting

Composting should be a part of every gardener's regime. Not only does it reduce household waste it also provides a source of nourishment for plants. By returning waste and surplus into the system, we can help ensure soil health and get the most from our land, however large or small it may be. Successful composting can be intensely satisfying, when you see the rich compost produced from your efforts and can spread it onto garden beds in autumn or in your plant pots to help the plants the following year. Successful composting is a bit of an art but anyone can create usable compost with very little effort. If you think of the compost you are creating in the same way as you would think about following a recipe in order to create a delicious meal, you cannot really go far wrong.

Cold Composting:

Most people will compost in the way people have been doing for generations. You may just have a heap or, in a smaller space in particular, you may choose to use a compost container. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many are made from scrap wood or old wood pallets and this is a fantastic idea as it may cost nothing or next to nothing, is functional and allows the compost heap to breathe. Oxygen is essential for the aerobic breakdown of waste. A stinky compost heap often means that your compost is not being allowed to breathe. The key to a successful cold compost is simple – alternate green and brown layers. Green waste is stuff that will quickly break down – grass clippings, vegetable waste and brown is recycled, shredded paper and cardboard, straw or hay, natural fibers and woody clippings. The finished heap should be 50% green and 50% brown, layered up like a lasagne. Nitrogen rich nettles, grass clippings and leaves of some other plants will act as compost activators and help things in your heap to break down. Do not put cooked food, meat or fish on your heap. Avoid putting vacuum cleaner contents on the heap as this can contain all sorts of residues and contaminants. Follow this method, giving the heap a turn every so often to make sure there is enough air in it and you will have excellent crumbly compost in 9 months to a year's time.

Lasagne bed composting:

This is an alternative method whereby you can create not a separate heap but your actual beds to be planted in. Layering up compost over the area of a bed can create an excellent planting zone for the following year. This is a good option for small spaces where a separate compost heap would take up valuable planting space, or for areas where the existing soil is too poor to grow much at present.

Wormeries:

Another excellent option for smaller spaces are wormeries – containers into which you place your food waste and some worms. Worms will help break down your waste for you. These can be large or small and could even be used in a tiny flat.

Hot Composting:

In a hot composting system, waste is contained and will break down much more quickly and efficiently at a very high temperature. This can create compost much more quickly, in as little as a couple of months, though the system can be more expensive to implement in the first place.

Whichever system you choose, give composting a go. Your garden and the planet will thank you for your efforts.

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