February 4th, 2010
There is amost nothing in the garden that can’t be returned to it, and most of us hate to throw our food scraps, newspapers and garden prunings. But when you are beginning in the garden making compost can be surrounded with mystery. We all have heard horror stories of compost bins that don’t work or become a sodden, smelly mess or, worse still, attract vermin and become home to other unpleasant creatures.Making compost is not hard at all and to achieve healthy and deliciously scented compost, there are just a few rules that should be followed.
Many readily available ingredients, such as grass clippings, leaves, vegetable kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, floor sweepings, paper, hair and wood ash can all be composted down. You can also add some soil, old spent potting mix, comfrey leaves, poultry manure, or blood and bone. These last 3 act as activators speeding up the process.
The things to avoid are pretty obvious – don’t add dairy products or meat scraps and not any weeds that spread with bulbs such as onion weed.
Compost bins need air. We want to promote aerobic composting; if there is not enough air in the bin or heap, the process becomes anaerobic, which is slower and also causes unpleasant odours. Straw, leaves, paper (torn into strips) can provide essential structure – and that means air – to the heap. Don’t add papers and magazines with coloured inks, however.
Compost bins can take many forms. You can buy them ready to assemble, or you can make a very simple one with 4 star posts & running chicken wire around them then line it with cardboard. Or, if you have the space you can make a hay-bale bin by surrounding your composting material with a double stack of lucerne or hay-bales then you could plant pumpkins on top of your hay walls. Or if you want something really simple try putting leaves and grass clippings into black plastic bags – store out of sight until well composted. This last is a bit hit and miss but can sometimes be a lovely surprise!
To discover the magic of compost, however, you will need to have the most important ingredient of all -Patience. With a capital P. There is nothing instant about compost making. That is one of the things so very special about gardening in general. It teaches you patience.
So, go out there and poke about in your compost heap. Turn it over with a fork. It is good exercise and it add that important ingredient: air.