Posts Tagged ‘EARH WORM’

Adapted from December article for BL Magazine.

The thought of pottering about in the chilly, damp [sometimes frozen] old garden is probably the last thing on our minds at the moment. Most normal people will quiver at the prospect and opt for the cosy, Christmasy warmth of our homes. If you are bold and mad enough [and glamorously wadded in thermal layers  + earmuffs] to venture out on one of the least harshest days, there is still stuff to be getting on with at this time of year… from de-cluttering the side of the house [mine especially] to attempting to sharpen tools and if you’re really keen, re-organising borders.

Lately, as growth in the gardens has slowed, I’ve found myself  being pre-occupied with composts. Looking at cheap ways to create a stonking 3-binned system; renovation ideas for a rather hap-hazard one that lives in one of my customer’s gardens; and a mental note to make more effort at turning them all [including mine]! Consequently, I’ve been doing a bit of research, refreshing memories and literally delving into crumbly composts, nearly [but not quite] spearing frogs and scaring away families of mice. Lovely.

Despite all the creepy crawlies, composts are the supreme powerhouses for our gardens and no true gardener should be without one. If by some incredible reason you don’t possess one, getting one should be at the top of your to-do list [or Christmas wish-list!].

Composts are remarkable eco-systems of decomposition. Billions of micro-organism [bacteria, fungi, yeast] along with the humble earthworm will transform all your garden clippings and vegetative kitchen waste into beautiful luxurious, dark, nutritious-rich soil.

The whole process is free [apart from the initial buy of the bins if you don’t go down the do-it-yourself route] and it is the best form of soil enricher. Garden compost is the equivalent of our five-a-day balanced diet. It provides plants with all the essential nutrients [nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium] in a form that is easy for them to take up. What’s more the expert decomposers, the miniscule microbes, come with the compost and continue the breaking down of organic [and inorganic] materials…providing the best slow release fertiliser you can possibly have!

And there’s one other thing…because of the light and airy texture of garden compost it helps to improve the structure of your soil at the same time – aiding the drainage of clay soils and bulking up sandy soils to help them retain more moisture. Perfect.

Ok RHS notes to the side. Onto the bins, which can be very cheap and easy to make…with a little bit of imagination and, in some cases, muscle. Wooden pallets are one option, which can be sourced [with a lovely cheeky smile – sorry girls I admit to using it every now and then] from your local builder’s merchant or scavenged from skips [if you like doing that sort of thing]. Three pallets would set you up with one decent-sized, open-fronted ‘bin’ and five will give you two, which is essential when you come to ‘turn’ the heap. With seven pallets you’ll have an impressive three-bin composting system that would make your neighbour’s [and me] jealous. Tip: to secure the sides together, super quick and fuss-free, use some extra extra large zip-ties or rope [go for natural brown coloured rope not the bright blue towing rope I did].

For another cheap and easy-to-make compost bin get yourself four posts and a stylish roll of chicken wire, aim for a square around 3ftx3ft. Or, if you want something that actually does exude real style and sophistication and you don’t mind paying a few quid, there are lots of gorgeous, purpose-built, FSC wooden compost bins available. Check out http://www.recycleworks.co.uk/ for some beautiful top-of-the-range examples like the one pictured below [and if you’re feeling flush order one for me too]. You can also buy plastic compost bins [I have one of these], usually at a discounted rate, from your local council so it might be worth checking them out too.


So, you have your compost bin insitu and are eager to start filling with lots of yummy organic material to jump-start that nifty decomposing eco-system? [Picks up RHS notes again], without getting too scientific about it all there are a few things that will help determine what should be put in. It is best remembered as ‘green stuff’ [green leaves, plant/grass clippings, raw vegetables/fruit] and ‘brown stuff’ [chipped wood, dry grass/plant stems, sawdust, shredded newspaper, egg boxes]. The ‘green stuff’ provides the protein and nitrogen for the little micro-organism guys, while the ‘brown stuff’ gives them the carbon and energy they need to do their magic.

As in life, you are aiming for a balance. Work in a layer of greens, then a layer of browns and keep alternating…if the heap heats up and you can see the steam rising, whoop whoo. If not, add more green stuff! Should your heap start smelling [like cat wee they say], do the opposite and add more of the brown stuff. 

Like us, microbes also like a bit of water and some fresh air. Water sparingly to keep moist and be careful not to over water – they don’t like it too wet. For the aeration part, turning the heap every few days will really speed up the rotting process…keeping you fit and fresh aired too. Turning everyday is unlikely and completely unrealistic, I know. You could do it every few weeks instead. Or if you’re really lazy/busy and don’t turn it at all you’ll still get some crumbly compost … you’ll just have to wait about a year and a half for it! If, however, you can’t wait to get your hands on some of this golden compost… doing the deed every few days will speed up the process so much so that, hey presto, 3-4 weeks and it’s there! Now that’s fast food for plants.

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