Making new compost bins

There are compost bins on the plot we have taken over. They are made form a few old pallets just wired together and are a bit rough and ready. I have to confess, I made them a few years back to help out. There is good, usable compost in the bottom of each section but the heaps never got hot enough to kill weed seeds.

NZ bins at the old Ryton Organic Gardens compost display area

As soon as the beds are sorted the whole lot is coming out to be replaced by a 3 bin New Zealand bin. Again, it will be made pallet wood with a removable front, a waterproof lid and sides without gaps or holes.

There is often confusion about having slatted sides which allow air into the bins which is thought to be necessary for composting to happen.  What it does is keep the bin cool which slows down the process or or stops it working. More importantly it prevents the heap reaching a higher enough temperature to kill weed seeds.

Often the advice is to use treated timber as it last longer. There are several reason why you should NOT do that. Compost bins rely on bacteria to break down organic matter and they do not want to be in contact with anything that might kill them. Also, chemical wood treatments can leach into the compost contaminating your veg plot.

The last big compost bins I built were made from recycled scaffold planks which lasted at least 10 years. There were four, one cubic metre bays and it was possible to make 12 cubic metres of compost a year! The new garden is much smaller and we will probably be making 1 cubic metre.

A good set of plans are available here but as mentioned above I would not make the sides or back slatted. I will also have a closer fitting lid.

Photos of the progress will be posted so please come back soon.

$4.7M to Study Storing Greenhouse Gases in Soil

Muir Institute Leads UC Project to Find Shovel-Ready Solutions for Carbon Sequestration

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are stored in soil and more could be added. Yet again the main problem will be extremely powerful business interests, namely the agrochemical companies and massive food producing and processing companies.

What is amazing about all this is that it can be done today without the need for new technology or massive new machines to be built. All that needs to happen is for farmers and growers to change the way they use soil. Not only does this help to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in soil it reduces the chemical leaching into rivers and streams. See this article about extreme levels of pollution in Europe.

There are several books claiming that we sequester enough CO2 to make a huge difference to climate change:

According to Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, a pioneer in the study of “biosequestration” (using plants and microbes to sequester carbon dioxide), humans have put some 500 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the birth of agriculture some ten thousand years ago. But most of that CO2 was emitted during the relatively recent advent of modern agriculture. Through plowing the land, which releases tremendous quantities of CO2, deforestation, urbanization, and land-use change we have effectively taken a massive quantity of carbon that used to be stored in the ground and released it into the atmosphere.

Tickell, Josh. Kiss the Ground (p. 18). Atria/Enliven Books. Kindle Edition.

Also see: “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life”, David R. Montgomery – 21 Sep 2018.

Small scale commercial growers and gardeners can help by changing the way they manage their soil. Switching to no-dig beds is the best way to start. In 2010 I started a trial garden on farmland that had not been cultivated for around 30 years. No digging was involved and it worked.

The other part of the process is the application of organic matter, compost and yet more compost! Next is not leaving the soil bare particularly in winter when heavy rain causes compaction and washes out nutrients.

RSPB resigns from government’s pesticides forum

According to an article in The Telegraph “The RSPB and dozens of environmental groups have resigned from the government’s pesticides forum after two decades claiming the use of dangerous chemicals is now far worse than when they joined.”

The UK government is very good at playing games, they will no doubt shouted about the fact that they have environmental groups on board yet will have really wanted to keep their farmers friend and agrochemical companies happy. They want votes and donations to party funds to win elections and feed their hunger for power.

I am in no doubt that Michael Gove will have already had his spin doctors in to gloss over the withdrawal of environmental groups. They will be saying something along the lines of the need for cheap food, a prosperous agricultural industry and the need to keep food on supermarkets shelves while at the same time saying how sad he is that these groups have taken such extreme action.

The UK government has ignored the 2013 UNCTAD report on sustainable farming because it says that we do not need pesticides, GM or any other agrochemical, money making, Earth destroying products to ‘feed the world’. There are no party donations from not using agrochemicals

What I do know is that if we keep destroying insects for profit the whole ecosystem will collapse. We are part of ‘nature’ not above it or able to control or manipulate for our own ends. We simply rely on for everything.

Food has to be sustainable.



Compostable plastic hard to compost

An article in “Nature Index” says that biodegradable and compostable plastic is not the panacea that many think. Kevin O’Connor of University College Dublin says “People think that biodegradability gives us a licence to throw away, it doesn’t.”

During recent trials O’Connor says that compostable plastic needed a temperature of around 50C to decompose whereas most domestic composting gets to about 24C.

He went on to say “The slow biodegradation observed in marine and fresh water shows that we should not allow any type of plastic to be released into these ecosystems.”

The only answer is to stop using plastic and not keep searching for a universal alternative that allows us to continue as we do.

Make hot compost
Composting kitchen waste in a Hotbin
Hotbin in winter
Hotbin web site
(The usual caveat applies, not connection with this company other than being a satisfied user.)



Organic growing is the only way forward

“Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
(The Huffington Post)

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late”,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.”

It has been a long time coming but now the UN are saying that organic growing is the ONLY way forward. Commercial growing in the UK is dominated and controlled by the agrochemical industry. it is not sustainable and threatens food security. We simply cannot continue to rely on farming methods that are dependent on large chemical inputs.

The biggest asset we have is soil yet 50+ years on chemical fertilizers has left a depleted soil virtually devoid of organic matter so prone to erosion. See this 2006 report on UK soil erosion.

An alternative food supply
In a time of climate emergency, we need to be aware of the perilous state of our food supply. Supermarkets work on the “just in time” supply principle. They usually have 2-3 days of stock in the local supply chain. We import around 30% of our food from the rest of Europe.  Any disruption to that through weather or politics will see the shelves empty within 24 hours as people panic.

We desperately need to separate ourselves from the supermarket food supply chain and grow food in any available space. It can be done, 25 years of organic growing often in very small spaces has proven that to me. We just need to get on and do it!



Work with the land to restore health

At last there seems to be a shift away from agrochemical farming. I discovered organic growing almost 30 years ago whilst recovering from a life threatening and life changing illness. I am sure that helped my recovery.

Switching away from oil based pesticides and the huge amounts of gas need to produce artificial fertilisers will help to combat climate change.

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers do not create health in the food, the consumer, the soil, the air, or the water. We need for all of our systems to be healthy again.