Compost bin water heater

Now this is an idea I really like especially as our local council say they are withdrawing green bins next year. Well, not actually taking them away but only emptying them if you pay.

From: Permaculture News, see link below

This is an ideal to make them into compost bins and get hot water. It’s not new idea but this looks interesting. I can see a row of them with isolating valves so that they can be switched on when hot and off as they cool down.

Not sure what the effect would be on the compost, first thoughts are that if you remove heat you slow down the process. I would guess that it depends on how much heat is taken.

It could be another crazy project for next year! Full text of the article is here. (You need to scroll down the page.)

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Compost bin modifications

The compost at the bottom of bin 2 has always been very wet. When it was emptied last week the reason became obvious, there was a very thin layer of soil on top of solid rock. It might be possible to break it up and remove it but instead a false floor was made. The holes in the bottom slot in board is a trial of controlling the air flow through the heap.

The timber false floor made from old pallets

The two layers of chicken wire was covered with a layer of dry twigs to prevent material falling through.

The bin was filled with a mixture of grass cuttings and shredded tree prunings. Within 24 hours the core temperature had risen to 55C and the next day was 73C which is too high. After making some air holes through the contents the temperature dropped to 69C and is still falling. The ideal is to hold it at around 65C for 3-4 days.

That is all four bins full and working which means we need extra composting space as there is already the start of a pile of general garden waste waiting for shredding. Happy days!

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More accidental composting

As I have said before composting happens when you least expect it. A few days back I recovered some bags of shredded tree prunings left by a contractor. There were piles of large chunks of wood and some of shredded leaves and small branches. The larger stuff was shredded again to reduce the size.

The thermometer is reading 59.8C

I was surprised by the stream coming off when the surface was disturbed, it has only been there for 3-4 days. Taking the temperature showed that the pile had heated up to 59.8C. My guess is that there was enough nitrogen (greens) from leaves and odd bits of grass the start things off.

The lawn was mowed today and the grass clippings ( greens or Nitrogen) mixed with the wood chips (browns or Carbon) to fill another bin which should get off to a good start.

That’s all four of our bins full which means we have made around four cubic metres of compost so far this year. We need to find space for two more bins!

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Pesticides in garden compost

This comes round every few years usually when an agrochemical company has introduced a new wonder. The link below is from the US but there are still reports of herbicides contamination in the UK. The current issue is stunted plants grown where horse manure has been used.

There are reports from the US about residues of Clopyralid contamination in compost from golf courses and hay meadows.

(Click image to read the article)

The answer is simple; only compost material from your own garden but you must not use pesticides in your garden particularly the lawn if you want clean compost. Think of the bees and your kids or grandchildren. Do you want them running round on grass soaked in chemicals?

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Fighting to save bees

Beyer, the maker of neonicotinoid pesticides that have killed vast numbers of bees is taking the EU to court over the ban on it’s use. They obviously stand to lose a lot of money selling a poison that kills bees. How utterly cynical, irresponsible and downright stupid can they be?

We need to fight back because we rely on bees to pollinate plants that feed us. Without bees we are in a lot of trouble but Beyer does not care about that as long as they make a profit. It is time to stop them, please sign this petition.

There are other things we can do to help bees like not mowing all of the lawn. Leave some patches untouched to make nectar bars.

See this page for shrubs, bush fruits and trees that are good for bees.

If you have the space plant bees friendly plants go to this page on the RHS web site for more information.

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After harvest compost application

After clearing the onions and garlic the next step was to add 25mm (1 inch) of compost. Both the onions and garlic need digging out but the soil was not turned over. It was easy to use a fork to raise the bulbs and then gently remove them. Never just pull out the bulbs by the leaves as it will damage the stems which could cause the bulbs to rot during drying.

Photo: Sally Furness

The compost was made earlier this year so is about four months old. It has been sieved through a 10mm screen. The idea is to make several cubic metres of this a year so all the beds can have the same treatment. We are not quite there yet but with recent improvements to the compost mix the output should increase.  More soon on we have changed the way we make compost.

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Garlic harvest

Another crop harvested today, Garlic, Picardy Wight. The bulbs were planted in January. We have always chosen to plant early in the year rather than in the preceding autumn.

The bed used was at the top of the garden close to the greenhouse. The area was flooded to a  depth of 15cm (6 inches) last autumn so I doubt that an Autumn planting variety would have survived.

First time we have used this variety but it sounds ideal!

“Picardy Wight garlic is a softneck garlic originating from the province of Picardy in northern France and is known for its fierce flavour, great keeping, and ease of cultivation in cooler, wetter climates like ours. If you like your garlic strong, then this is the variety for you!”

Some of the garlic crop hanging from a beam in the shed.

Today we lifted 26 good sized bulbs and hung them to dry in the shed. They will be stored for use next year. With luck there should be enough for 4-6 months.

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Onion harvest

We harvested the first onion bed a couple of days ago. There were 62 in the bed which is just under a metre square. There are a few smaller bulbs but generally they are a good size.

In the 2009 square metre bed trials  the total was 8.6 kg with an average weight of 126gms. It looks like the figures for this year will be higher as the sets planted into a bed with a good layer on compost. More information when they have dried off.

The onion bed just before harvest.

The crop looks good. They will be stored for use from January next year. There are anther 40 in another bed which should be ready next month. Again, they are for storing as our post BREXIT supply.

Around 80% of onion sold in the UK are imported from EU countries, the rest come from much further afield e.g. Egypt, Kenya and Israel. It is crazy that we import so many when they could be grown here?

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Time to plan your BREXIT garden!

The panic to find fresh food may be over for now but there are other problems on the horizon. When we crash out of the EU without a deal the government will cosy up to the US to import their food. When that happens how will you know what you are eating? To find out have a look at this article by Alice Keeffe in The Guardian.

“There has been much ado about the prospect of chlorinated chicken, but the implications of a trade deal with the US are equally grim for fruit and veg. The American government will insist on our loosening regulations around the use of pesticides, so we can look forward to apples containing higher levels of malathion (an organophosphate insecticide linked to cancer which can impair the respiratory system) and grapes with added propargite, an insecticide that has been associated with cancer and can affect sexual function and fertility. Oh yes, and then there are neonicotinoids, all but banned in the UK because of their toxic effect on bees, and chlorpyrifos, banned by the EU over concerns about its impact on the brains of foetuses and young children.”

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate which were used as insecticides. They used to be widespread but were banned in Europe some years back. It is accumulative poison and can be absorbed through the skin. The manufacturers continue to sell them to the developing world and the US. See this piece about child deaths in India.

Do we really want food produced using pesticides that have been banned here? It is time we grew up as a nation and looked after ourselves and the land where we live. There must be a resounding NO from anybody who cares about food, their health and the long term future of this fragile planet.

One answer is to grow your own. Now is a good time to start planning and getting your food garden ready. We are hear to help.

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Lawns

I rediscovered this book published 2008; it is about the tyranny of front lawns in the US and the environmental disaster caused by the huge overuse of fertilisers and pesticides. It includes a piece by Michael Pollan about his father’s reluctance to conform.

It got me thinking about the new lock down food growers, the frantic activity from March to May and now the quiet. With a lot of talk about Brexit and borders in 2021 there are more urgent issues around food security that need to be addressed. More later.