After all the excitement about the Church garden award in my last post, it is back to the everyday gardening stuff you should be doing this time of year.
22nd October: Things I have been doing lately
I lied about this post not being exciting as I am declaring it a “COMPOST SPECIAL”. My wife Cruella just rolled her eyes and left the room muttering about divorce lawyers; she has no soul. Anyway the compost bins are decorated with balloons lets get this party started.
🌿 Starting a compost heap: Anyone who takes gardening seriously should have a compost bin (or two). You don’t need anything grand, mine are purpose built, but you can just make a heap in a corner somewhere out of the way in your garden and cover it with an old carpet. I’ve told you before, but I’m going to tell you again, you need four things for good compost:
1. Green stuff (nitrogen): vegetables from the kitchen, garden cuttings, grass etc. Nothing cooked and no oil or fat, otherwise you will attract rats.
2. Brown stuff (carbon): twigs, egg cartons, newspapers, boxes and cartons (not greaseproofed ones), egg shells. Not leaves (I will explain why later)
3. Water: you need to keep your compost moist but not wet. Too wet and the compost can become slimy and smelly (coincidentally the name of the two people I sat next to at school).
4. Air: I know this sounds obvious but you need to occasionally stir or turn your copmpost to let air in. Once a month should do it.
Once you have your compost heap going, try to add things in alternate layers; nitrogen then carbon. You can also add an accelerator which is a powder you sprinkle over the heap to aid the composting process.
🗑 Emptying your compost bin: Depending on how your compost has developed it usually takes 6-9 months to get good compost, but that depends on lots of variables. Once you have a bin or a heap full leave it for this amount of time, turning occasionally. At the end of this period the magic will have happened; all that garden waste and rubbish will have turned into lovely rich, dark, and beautifully smelling compost ready for you to use in your garden or for potting. The first photo below shows the compost bin that I am emptying. The second photo shows a barrowload of lovely compost; I don’t like to boast, but each of my compost bins will give round about 20 barrowloads of compost.
🌱 Using leaves in compost: I told you I would get round to leaves eventually, I was just trying to keep the tension building before the Maggots. Anyway, you can’t compost leaves in the normal way, don’t ask me why it is just the way God made it. Leaves require an anerobic process, where as normal composting is aerobic. At its simplest it’s all about air. To compost leaves, gather them when they are dry, stuff them into black sacks, lightly tie the top and then slash holes in the sides. Leave the sacks somewhere out of the way for about a year, then you can use the resulting leaf mold. I leave the sacks for about nine months then I add the part composted leaves to the top of a full compost bin that I am just about to leave for 6 months. The photo below shows a full compost bin with 9 month old leaves added.
🐛Finally, as it is a Compost Special, and it’s Halloween, here come the maggots: Every year when I empty my compost bins I discover giant maggots lurking in the compost; there are hundreds of them. These are curious creatures, when you pick them up they instantly ooze blood from their head, it is quite disconcerting. Unfortunately, they cannot be left in the compost as they will destroy plants in the garden. I have tried leaving them out for the birds, but the birds are too scared to touch them. The only answer is to drown them, but after a day I recycle them back into the compost. The photo below shows a few of the giant blood oozing maggots. What a finale to this Compost Special, such fun. As they used to say on Crimewatch, before the BBC axed it “sleep tight, don’t have nightmares”