Friday, 18 October 2013

How To Compost - Henshaw's Horticultural Blog

Keeping you in tune with my gardening, I've just done a bit of weeding, tended to my patch and relocated my Christmas tree ... but what I'm really excited about ... is my compost bin ! (maybe a misappropriation of the word 'excited' there, but it is nice!)

This is my colourful compost. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I believe composting is the first step in saving human kind. I'm no dystopian, I don't think it'll get as bad as all that, but we'd like to keep this place nice, right? Making compost is the ultimate in recycling. You take a bunch of stuff you normally would throw away – eggshells, carrot scraping, yellowed lettuce leaves–throw them in a pile with some dried leaves, leave it all there for a while, and voila! Rich, brown compost! And while making compost won’t exactly save the world, if all of us in the cities, suburbs and estates made compost and used it instead of the petrochemicals, fertilisers, slug repelants, pesticides, insecticides and the rest of it that we pour on to our lawns and gardens today, our environment would be cleaner and safer for us and our children.

Composting helps the ecology, improving soil quality, improving drainage, aiding the growth of plants and hence improving the air quality. Composting has financial benefits too, and economical, saves you buying it in plastic bags, saves buying expensive mulch and transporting such things around the country. We can all have an abundance of great soil in our back yards, balcony or grounds. And we all know that growing your own produce is good for your wallet. The educational benefits are there too, every school, group or community around the country should have a compost heap. Learn responsibilty for your waste, reduce waste, learn about the circle of life, where your food goes and where your food comes from.

This may seems like just ranting, but that's just the kind of beat poet rambling gardener that I am, just taking a break from cleaning out the shed, having some lunch and a cup of tea and filling you in, so let's make a more succinct list, if you're anything like my brother, I know you'll love a list ... here's what to compost and what not to compost, in a Smash Hits style What's Hot and What's Not, or a Vice Magazine Dos and Don'ts ...

Compost ingredients

'Greens' or nitrogen rich ingredients:-
Grass cuttings
Urine (diluted with water 20:1)
Comfrey leaves
Grass cuttings
Raw vegetable peelings from your kitchen
Tea bags and leaves, coffee grounds
Young green weed growth (avoid weeds with seeds)
Soft green prunings
Animal manure from herbivores eg. cows and horses
Poultry manure and bedding

'Browns' or carbon rich ingredients ie. slow to rot:-
Torn up newspaper and junk mail make good dry material
Cardboard eg. cereal packets and egg boxes
Waste paper and junk mail, including shredded confidential waste
Cardboard tubes
Newspapers & magazines (although it is better for the environment to pass them on to your local doctors or dentists' surgery or send them for recycling
Bedding from vegetarian pets eg. rabbits, guinea pigs (hay, straw, shredded paper, wood shavings)
Tough hedge clippings
Woody prunings
Old bedding plants
Wood shavings
Fallen leaves

Other compostable items:-
Wood ash, in moderation
Hair, nail clippings
Egg shells (crushed)
Natural fibres eg. 100% wool or cotton

Do NOT compost
Cooked food
Coal & coke ash
Cat litter
Dog faeces
Disposable nappies

The key to getting great compost is to ensure that you get the right mix! You want to try and get a 50/50 mix of ‘Green’ wastes such as fruit and vegetable peelings and garden clippings and ‘Brown’ wastes such as newspaper, shredded paper or cardboard. Getting this mix right will help your compost to aerate and break down quicker.

However, there are some things you should never add to your compost bin including; meat, cooked vegetables, dairy products, dog faeces or cat litter, nappies, diseased plants or perennial weeds.

Love, Mud & Decomposition,
Matt Henshaw.

PS. National Composting Awareness Week falls in the second week in May ... one for your diary !

With thanks to Leicester City Council, Recycle Now, Sustainable Man, The Zeitgeist Movement UK, GardenOrganic, and Composting Will Save The World ...