When working in an organic system we use natural decay to our advantage. We can aim towards a ‘closed loop’ by recycling all nutrients and organic material back to the soil that it grew in, keeping it healthy, with good structure and nutrient levels.
This is the most sustainable way to garden. By composting at home, we are saving money, wasting less and reducing our carbon footprint.
We don’t need to buy and transport commercial compost, (especially PEAT which needs to stay put, as our perfect carbon sink).
We are doing a lot to save our environment, and its free…
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The composting process
Composting is just a way to speed up what nature already does. The floor of a woodland, or dead flowers and weeds are already composting.
The trick is to gather it all one place. You can just make a heap and cover it over with some polythene or cardboard, or contain it in a compost box or bay, but there are many containers which look good, and help build heat, keep in water and still allow enough air.
This concentration attracts the many micro creatures and fungi who do the biochemical work of breaking it down, eventually making humus, structure and food for our plants, and all for free!
Site your compost bin so it’s handy enough to use it all year round, then you’ll find it easy to add your uncooked kitchen scraps, weeds, and any cardboard waste not clean enough to recycle. Compost bins do better in a sunny spot, which encourages the microbes to get busy. But a shady spot will work too, just more slowly. If you can, place your bin onto earth, or slabs with gaps between them, to allow the composting worms and others to find their way in easily. A strong metal builders mesh underneath will discourage vermin. There are many types of bin. Norfolk County Council sometimes has special offers on bins, and there’s quite a few to choose from Garden organic catalogue.
What to add
The food is all of your garden debris, prunings, and vegetable and fruit kitchen waste, but not anything cooked, such as meat, fish, dairy, bread which will make compost smelly and attract rats. A mix of 50% ‘green’ (nitrogen rich) and 50% ‘brown’( carbon rich) is best in theory, but you will fine tune your own bin with experience.
Greens are: grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peelings, compostable tea bags, coffee grounds, weeds (try to catch them before they go to seed) old veg and annual plants. Anything soft and sappy. Nettles are ideal, but avoid putting the roots of any perennials directly in the bin without soaking for a few weeks to rot them down first,
Browns are: woody stems and prunings, older tough plant growth, un-recyclable cardboard like pizza and egg boxes, Even old feather pillows , cotton flannels, and wool jumpers. You can also add straw and wood shaving bedding from vegetarian pets with their deposits. ( avoid cat and dog poo which carries too many toxins)
Using your compost
When it’s ready to use it’s deep brown, and has a pleasant smell like a forest floor. It might still have lots of woody pieces, but you can spread this directly onto beds as a mulch ( about 5cm deep) to protect and feed your soil. The rough texture will discourage slugs.
Sieved home compost, mixed with coir or horticultural sand to dilute its nutrient content, will make your own seed and potting compost. You can use the woody leftovers as a base for your next heap, they are already full of the right microbes and fungal spores.
And all this for free, just the cost a space in your garden, and a bit of lifting and moving.
Norfolk has 65 master composters trained and supported by Garden Organic to help raise awareness of the benefits of composting
You can experiment with specialist composting which can cope with cooked food like a wormery , bokashi bins, and hot bins which provide a liquid residue, or compost tea. The most useful compost tea is made with Comfrey, grown specially in organic gardening, for making a quality liquid feed. Many perennials make a good liquid feed once they have rotted down over several weeks. Nettles are especially rich in minerals. Drain off the liquid and dilute one part to ten for feeding veg and flowers. The mush can then go onto the compost heap.