Thursday, February 3, 2022

Compost riches

Winter is a good time to make compost.  It’s not that huge amounts of suitable material to pile on compost heaps aren’t produced at other times of the year, but there never seems to be the time to fashion layered compost when there’s so much else to be doing.

Compost is an environmentally friendly way of recycling waste from the areas that we cultivate, and since soil is a living organism which needs nourishment, it provides us with the ideal way of feeding and enriching our soil  The benefits from adding compost to our soil are many:  a thriving habitat for micro-organisms, worms and insects, healthy plants with a greater natural resistance to combat pests and fungal diseases, no need to buy chemical fertilisers (not that we would, of course…), enhanced water retention, and improved soil structure.  It is necessary to turn compost from time to time to increase the rate of decomposition – turning it adds oxygen, and brings the drier contents at the edge into the warmer centre to continue with the rotting process.

It was another great joint effort, of the sort that Transition Towns are good at.  We started with a row of compost bins built last year from pallets and randomly piled up over the year with scythed grass, weeds, the remains of harvested crops, wood shavings from the poultry sheds, bits of cardboard, even bulrushes cleared from the pond.  There was one empty bin, from which we had barrowed last year’s compost over to the polytunnel the week before.  We replaced rotting pallets and those which were the wrong shape, tied them together with string, then began dismantling the neighbouring bin.  We started forking the contents, mostly grass, into the empty bin, fluffing it up as we went, because some of it had settled in thick slimy layers – compost needs oxygen.  While we were forming a layer of that, someone had brought a barrow load of wood chip – this was delivered in the summer and the residue was now beginning to rot – perfect!  Others were scything the remains of the nettles growing nearby and collecting it up as a green material to add to the mix – nettles are accelerators for compost, and encourage it to rot more quickly.  We layered the compost until it reached the top of the bin, then we covered it with a final layer of woodchip.  If it rains too much in future, we will put a carpet on top to keep it from getting waterlogged.  We may turn it once again in the spring, which will speed up the process.  And then we look forward to using our lovely rich compost on our raised beds to produce healthy productive crops!

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