The Art of Composting

Transforming garden waste and kitchen scraps into friable and nutritious, not to mention free, compost can seem an almost magical process. Of course, composting is really about good science and bringing together the perfect conditions for creating nutritious compost as quickly as possible. And why? Because your soil and all that it provides you with, needs it.

Garden soils, especially those soils intensively cultivated for raising home grown vegetables where we count upon good performance from our plants, will need the incorporation of compost for two purposes: To start with to enhance the composition of the top soil and secondly to add important nutrients to the soil. If your soil is too heavy, composed of larger particles, and prone to water-logging, this types of soil is generally labelled as clay soil. The roots of plants find it hard to draw out nutrients and may even rot altogether in chilly, wet winter months. If soil is light and free-draining, i.e sandy soils, nutrients are washed away rapidly and plants and flowers are not able to remove water and goodness from the soil. Digging in humus rich compost, which includes garden compost not merely restores nutrients to tired garden soil but provides structure. This helps to make poor garden soil more water and nutrient retentive, and breaks up clay soils to make them a lot more free draining this enables the roots of plants to make better use of the nutrients trapped in the soil. A generous covering of compost throughout fallow periods can also guard unplanted beds from erosion and also suppress undesirable weeds.

If you do nothing more other than deposit all the garden and kitchen waste materials in a quiet spot of the plot it would perhaps rot down to compost at some point, nevertheless for faster results some sort of compost bin is essential. Traditional wooden compost bins look attractive, and the most useful can be purchased along with add on modules. The beauty of this approach is that you can start off one bin, turn it over in to the next, that will provide helpful mixing and aeration, then leave it to decompose whilst beginning to fill the recently emptied compost bin with fresh waste material. Many keen gardeners like to do their composting running a three-bin unit and this enables them to generate compost as they require it, in harmony with the seasons. Compost tumblers, that turn and aerate compost waste without the gardener having to do much more than turn a handle, or the recent ingenious Aerobin garden composter with its core aerating ‘lung’, can yield compost within a few weeks once filled. These bins are totally enclosed, with added insulation to create warmth whatever the season, and enjoy the advantage of being rat proof.

No matter what form of compost bin you go for the guidelines on what waste substances to add are generally identical, you need to create a balance between ‘brown’ and ‘green’ waste material. Green waste is rich in nitrogen and is vital to kickstart the process of decomposition. Green materials are normally a good source of nutrients in the final compost. Brown waste is rich in carbon and delivers bulk and texture. In general when getting started strive for an equal mix, putting in brown and green waste alternately. You may find you have to add more brown waste in the event the compost feels wet and slimy, a large number of growers would consider that the balance should be more heavily weighted towards brown waste anyway. If the contents of your bin are too dry however, composting will stop and therefore you have to water the heap. (It would be even better to politely request a gentleman to urinate on it!) Green material includes spent garden flowers, kitchen waste such as, nettles, comfrey leaves. The last two being effective compost heap catalysts, but remember just leaves please, no seed heads or roots or your vegetable garden will be overrun with pernicious weeds. Brown waste includes shredded or scrunched paper, ripped-up cardboard, dry autumn leaves, woodash, the contents of your vacuum cleaner, twigs and hedge trimmings which have been put through a chipper. If you’ve chosen a traditional wooden compost bin site it on open earth to ensure that useful micro-organisms can get into the pile, and don’t forget to turn and aerate your compost every now and again. Once all the matter has decayed and you have rich brown, pleasant smelling crumbly compost you can spread it generously on your beds.