Composting – a load of rubbish?

Did you know that the first organised landfill was happening c5000 years ago in Crete?
Now we’re running out of landfill space at a frightening rate, it seems crazy not to compost kitchen & garden waste, thereby reducing the quantity of material needing landfill. Compost (organic matter) added to soil improves the condition of the soil; promoting better food crops and ornamental plants.

So what does compost do?

Well, it’s magical as well as scientific. Dug into the soil it improves the drainage of heavy clay soils and the water retention of sandy ones. It’s food for earthworms who do all sorts of wonderful things to improve soil quality, not least helping with the release of essential nutrients from the compost into the soil which in turn benefits the plants. And remember even the diehard carnivores among you eat vegetables and salads, even if it’s by the diverse route of through the grazing cattle that were your burger before it was a burger (if you see what I mean!) 

Applied as mulch onto the soil surface, compost can reduce the need for watering; keep plants cool in summer and warm in winter. Told you it was magic…
Plus, the more we compost, the more we reduce the methane gas leaching from landfill into the atmosphere and so help reduce global warming.

So, how can you compost? 

Without getting too technical, there are three easy ways to compost at home and at work:

#1 Using a compost heap; an enclosed bin works best as the organic material heats up more efficiently and it is easier to keep the compost at the right degree of wetness/ dryness to break down quickly. Compost also needs to be kept aerated, usually by ‘turning’ or careful layering. Two bins are even better – one ready to use, one filling up. Flat bins are available where space is at a premium; and there are many decorative types available!

#2 Wormeries – these utilise worms’ gourmet tendencies and are often suitable where less waste is generated or as an extra to a standard bin. Kids often like to ‘feed the worms’. Brandling worms are generally used – native to the UK, but less of a burrowing worm, so better for this situation. The worms work their way through the different layers of the wormery leaving behind a rich vermicompost. A tap at the bottom layer allows for a nutrition rich liquid to be drained, diluted and used extra feed.

#3 Bokashi – originally a Japanese system of composting. The above methods use oxygen as part of the composting process, this one excludes it. This system works well in flats and offices where there may not be any convenient outside space. When the bin is full it’s left for two weeks, then it can be added to an ordinary compost bin or dug in to the ground. Two bins are necessary – one in use, one ‘cooking’. As with wormeries there is also a nutrition rich liquid.

What can you compost?    

Generally speaking, soft or shredded garden waste can be added, tops but not roots of perennial weeds; food waste but not cooked food or raw meat. Bokashi is different and takes all food waste, including cooked food and bones; small amounts of green garden waste. Each layer is pressed down and sprinkled over with a ’bran’ which contains anaerobic bacteria.

Autumn leaves have different requirements. A fuller blog on this will appear in the late summer. Torn newspaper, shredded documents, grass cuttings can all go in. The trick is to keep a balance of wet/ green items and dry/ brown items. This is your nitrogen/ carbon mix essential for good compost.

Animal bedding from small mammals can also be composted. It’s generally advisable to have a separate bin for this as it does take longer to decompose. Dog & cat faeces should not be composted. 

Some local councils now offer a food waste collection service (UK). It is easy to mix & match this with your own home composting. After all, if you have a garden, does it make better economical sense to buy in compost to feed your plants or to make your own from your own waste?

Still have more questions? why not book a Gardening Lesson with us at Plews or hit that Ask button! :D  

Drought time in the southeast of England

Wondering how to keep your wisteria watered? Wondering even if this is a ‘one summer’ crisis or a long term trend? Should you think about re designing your whole garden? 

Our solutions havent dried up!

A consultancy visit from Plews where we can consider the options; give advice and suggestions on your garden, your needs, your plants needs could be just the solution. Or perhaps you’d like a garden design to make your garden low on watering needs and water consumption.

Contact us and make use of our expertise ;) 

Toxic Plants in your Garden? St David's Day Daffodils strike back!

St David’s Day is March 1st – so we start the month with plants – daffodils and leeks. 
Not all plants are the same – grow them both in your garden, eat the leeks, but don’t eat the toxic daffodils (narcissus).
All parts of the daffodil plant are toxic - especially the bulb. The toxins contained in daffodils are alkaloids and can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and are potentially fatal in large doses. So keep an eye on experimental toddlers and absent minded dogs.

For help in finding out how toxic your garden is why not book a consultancy visit? This gives you time with Marie Shallcross, our expert horticulturalist, in your garden and also a follow-up report.

For planting designs and ideas that are safe for your children and pets, we provide Planting Designs and Plans as well as whole Garden Designs – you could diy on a planting plan with our backup: very economical!