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Clive Edwards gives us his recipe for making perfect compost.

MAKING compost is like baking a cake, use the right ingredients and mix them up in the right way and you'll get a product that is rich, dark and crumbly.

The position of your compost bin is important as contact with the soil is necessary to allow worms and insects to enter the compost and help with drainage. Siting it on concrete is not a good idea.

Compost consists of animal and vegetable waste which eventually rots down and returns to the soil with the dead of many tiny micro-organisms - a compost heap is simply an environment where this natural process can be speeded up. The resulting material is rich in nutrients and humus.

To encourage a strong population of micro-organisms they must have favourable conditions - food, warmth, moisture and air. Large amounts of one substance tend to give an unbalanced diet.

To make a good compost you need more or less equal amount of 'greens and browns' by volume, while you can also include small amounts of other ingredients.

Try if possible to collect enough compost to make a layer of at least 30cm or more in the compost bin. Weeds from the garden, lawn clippings, kitchen waste and scrunched up cardboard will help to create air spaces within the heap.

It may help if you place a few woody plant stems or small twigs on the bottom first, this will improve the air circulation and drainage.

Continue to top up the compost bin. Plant materials suffering from soil-borne diseases such as club root and white rot should not be added to a compost heap. Anything else can be safely composted.

Diseases that do not need living matter to survive, such as grey mould, mildews and wilts may survive in a cold heap but heat is not the only factor that will kill diseases as the intense microbial activity in a compost heap also helps to dispose of them.

Some diseases, such as tomato and potato blight, need living plant material to survive and will not last long without it. It is fine to add foliage suffering from these diseases to your compost heap.

Green materials include raw vegetable peelings, teabags, soft green prunings, poultry manure and bedding, nettles and comfrey leaves.

Brown materials include cardboard such as egg boxes, waste paper, cardboard tubes, woody prunings, newspapers and wood shavings.

Do not compost meat, fish, cooked food, cat litter, dog faeces or disposable nappies.

Ask Clive Q Many riding schools locally have begun to bed horses using wood shavings instead of straw. Is horse manure with wood shavings as good as horse / straw manure? A A mixture of horse manure and wood shavings that has been allowed to mature for a few months is excellent material for mulching or digging into the garden. It is a very friable material without the stringy bulk of straw, so in some ways it is easier to use. Q Last summer I used soilless compost in my window box. The plants started off well but after a few weeks they made poor growth and looked miserable - should I have fed them? A Plants soon exhaust the nutrients in soilless compost. Unless you feed them the plants will soon deteriorate. Once your plants are established this year, start feeding them with a liquid fertilizer at least once a week. Never allow the soil to dry out, in hot weather you may have to water twice a day.

Five common herb oils with antiseptic properties Bergamot, Lavender, Lemon verbena, Rosemary, Thyme Did you know? Dried figs contain about 60 per cent sugar, making them an excellent energy snack
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 11, 2011
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