A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth
Apple cores and teabags, onion skins and orange peel, and a fair amount of garden waste - all can be used to form compost. Chuck in crushed eggshells, vegetable peelings, shredded garden prunings, coffee grounds and young hedge clippings, along with a few thin layers of soil, but avoid large quantities of lawn mowings and autumn leaves because they are liable to go slimy. It must not be allowed to dry out in summer.
Home-grown vegetables will taste better, and your satisfaction level will rise accordingly, if they have been grown in soil that has had your home-produced compost mixed with it.
Providing nutrients for the soil, as well as mulch to retain moisture, compost is one of nature’s many wonders.
It relies on heat and damp to hasten the rotting process.
Either buy two purpose-made plastic bins, or build two timber bins side-by-side, making sure they are easily accessible so that you can turn the contents every few weeks, and so that the end-product can be accessed from the base.
Place them in a sunny position so that plenty of heat will be generated within and everything will rot more quickly.
It is advisable to have both bins on the go at any one time, with one already supplying you with a well-rotted mix, and the other at a less advanced stage of decomposition.
Before buying or making anything, remember first to check whether your local council has a scheme for providing cheap compost bins because some administrations really do encourage their taxpayers to be environmentally friendly
And anyone who says that compost heaps encourage rats should remember that, if rats are present in the area, they certainly will go there (and everywhere else). That’s why it is best to avoid putting meat scraps and any items of cooked food on the pile.
Think carefully before putting weeds on it. Heat generated within will destroy many types of seed, but you can bet your life that the weeds you have spent hours digging out of your patch will positively thrive at high temperatures and delight in germinating again when they are dug into the soil.
If you want to grow organically, spare a thought for commercial organic growers in Britain. To obtain Soil Association accreditation, it takes two years to convert their land from other uses, and they may only use fertiliser/compost that has been prepared from their own or other organic sources.
So they can’t put a dead bunch of shop-bought flowers on their compost heap, or teabags or leftover bits of supermarket cauliflower, let alone horse muck.
It’s worth the effort, though, and composting certainly beats putting all those useful bits of household waste in landfill sites.