Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Urban Food Growing Tuesday: Compost!

When we moved into our new home, I was pleased that it came with one of those black composting bins. I was eager to compost all our kitchen waste, grass cuttings and hedge trimmings.

Two years later, the bin was full of slimy and disgusting stuff. Composting looked like a big fail. I didn't even know what I'd done wrong.

Thankfully, I found out what the problem was: apparently, there's two groups of compost materials, a green group (vegetable peelings/fruit scraps, cut flowers/grass, teabags, coffee grounds) and a brown group (cardboard, eggshells, crunched up paper, shredded branches and twigs). While it's not essential to layer these groups, they have to be present in some sort of balance, ideally 50-50%, and mine had too little brown stuff. The solution was to turn the compost and add some brown material as I went along. I also learned that having your compost bin stand on a slab of stone is not conducive to good composting action. It's much better to have it stood on grass or bare soil. Waste Aware Scotland has some great resources on how to compost the right way, including a very handy sheet on how to compost at home. They also have a subsidised scheme of home composting bins (and I'm sure something similar will exist in other parts of the country).

Now, turning the compost didn't sound very appealing while I was suffering from Pelvic Girdle Pain and could barely move, nor does it sound appealing in your last weeks of pregnancy. However, I still decided to open the lid and see what I could do.

And magically, the compost had lost all sliminess, presenting itself odourless as it should be, with a rather nice consistency. Ready for sieving! So a sieve was bought, and this weekend, I set myself to work. At least half of the material in the bin was degraded sufficiently to be used as compost, lovely looking stuff, just the right mix of organic matter and ash. All the material that didn't sieve went back into the bin, as a good grounding for the next batch.

Somehow I managed to make compost without ever turning it and even not getting the mix right. It took much longer, but it still worked. Still, I'll make sure that this time, there'll be enough brown stuff just because I really don't fancy ever having to turn a slimy compost heap. There are limits to my enthusiasm.

For now, I've got plenty of compost ready for planting a winter crop, plus space in the compost bin for all my kitchen and garden waste. I'm rather pleased. And below is a rather unrelated photo of our tatties harvest from last week. The red ones clearly did better.

If you're growing your own food in urban areas, please do link your recent blog post in the linky tool below. It's open for a week from today and the idea is to share your tips, successes and learning. If you don't blog about growing your own, you can still leave a comment with anything you'd like to add.



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