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Heap...heap...hooray!


 
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Adamn Greathead
Rank attained: Hazel Tree
Rank attained: Hazel Tree


Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 44
Location: West Midlands

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 2:30 pm    Post subject: Heap...heap...hooray! Reply with quote

Quote:
Each revolution of the fork brings with it immense satisfaction


Without a good productive compost heap, a garden is somewhat inapt, an organic one anyway. In fact it is much better to have a minimum of three decently sized heaps with which to work: one to fill, one already filled and one happily decomposing away. In an ideal world I would have five large bins all made from the finest wood with handsome joints and hi-tech leverage systems where the front panels would all rise without a hitch however, it is not and I have to make do with three mediocre sized bins all made from recycled wood and having a stylish opening system that is tied with rough string and the odd piece of rusty wire. Cheap? Maybe. Bodged? Definitely but this is how I have grown to like it. Modernity would be wasted on me with all its gizmos and gadgets- a compost bin is there to serve a purpose not elaborate one.

It is quite easy to fall into the mistake of adding piles of one thing such as grass cuttings and very little of another such as straw whereas if you combined the two types of material evenly and not in layers, with some luck, you will produce beautiful compost. Didn't you know compost can be beautiful? Shame on you. You can spend several days surging through thousands of books written on this subject but it would just be wasting your time as it really is a straightforward topic. Just remember to mix equal carbon additives (cardboard, shredded paper, straw...) along with material high in nitrogen (grass cuttings, annual weeds, softwood prunings...) and you'll be fine as will the finished product.

A worthy medium can be achieved in a month or so in the middle of summer which makes for fantastic organic matter ready to dig in that following autumn. If, however, you make your heap in winter you should expect to finish with an equally implausible outcome save for it taking at least six times longer. I have been making compost in the vegetable garden for years and I certainly wouldn't wish to be without the stuff. It helps the soil to retain valuable moisture when it is most needed and also, when thoroughly incorporated into the soil, makes for a rich soil bubbling with life. After all a soil full of life has to emit that life back out and, in our case, this, hopefully, is into the plants that are growing in it.

All this raving about dirt you say? I'd expect you're wondering what the downside is to this manmade miracle; that's simple. The negative is that it is manmade and therefore requires a lot of input from you in the form of turning the heap every so often and, initially, adding the stuff in the first place. As far as I'm concerned every ounce of effort you put into making the compost will be rewarded, at the end, with a luxurious mountain of fragrant, nutritional compost that will invigorate the garden. I regularly turn my heaps from one to another every few weeks and have learnt, from sweaty experience, this is truly beneficial to the decomposing process and greatly increases the heat in the core of the bins. To turn the heaps I use a favourite tool of mine- a long handled muck fork consisting of a sex.y wooden handle that is kind to the touch and even kinder to the eye. Each revolution of the fork brings with it immense satisfaction as yet another mass of crumbly gold is exploited.



As for activators, some people swear by them, others don't. I belong to the latter and there I will remain. Simplicity has it that when a heap is too dry add water; too wet and you add more carbon-rich material. It is as a result of this that if the process is too slow you simply turn it and this will ignite the process and act as an accelerator which is immensely environmentally friendly as opposed to chemically prosperous activators. I love my compost heaps because they keep me fit, healthy and happy. Maybe I don't have as many as I'd like but this does leave me with ample room to grow all the flowers and vegetables I desire. Who knows; next year Santa might, just might, bring me two new compost heaps- I suppose we'd better start generating more waste as a household- they take along time to fill!

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Sb
Rank attained: Silver Birch Tree
Rank attained: Silver Birch Tree


Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 184
Location: east coast

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article Adam. I hope those were not your good clothes in that composting pic. Are those compost heaps on your allotment.
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birdie
Rank attained: Rowan Tree
Rank attained: Rowan Tree


Joined: 16 Jun 2006
Posts: 146
Location: west of ireland

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam, are the "all plastic" compost bins any good? You know the ones that look like daleks. Does the compost material break down just as quickly as in your compost heaps? We are considering buying one, but we may perhaps build one like yours if thats better.
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Adamn Greathead
Rank attained: Hazel Tree
Rank attained: Hazel Tree


Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 44
Location: West Midlands

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Birdie
Thank you for your question. Firstly, i have to say i use both plastic and wooden bins. The plastic one, which is at home, has the added advantage of heating up quicker than wood therefore the composting process starts earlier however they do have the disadvantage of making the contents sweat due to the lack of air. The wooden ones, i feel, are the best you can make as they let in plenty of fresh air which is vital for the microorganisms in the heap and they hold alot more. If you can- go for the wooden ones- they're so much better. Mine are made from four recycled pallets held together with wire. Do make sure you leave one side with some sort of a hinge so you can get into the finished product though!
BestWishes
Adam
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