Work on the new three bay New Zealand compost bin is progressing slowly. The first two bays are in place. All of the timber is reclaimed, the back is made of sample oak flooring panels the local B&Q were throwing out. The rest is either from dismantled pallets or has been found lying around the garden.
With four days of heavy rain forecast there will be no further work this week.
We have been talking about composting recently, particularly about how to do it and what ‘recipes’ to use. In UK gardens there is often a lot of grass cuttings through the summer which provide the ideal base for an active compost bin. By active I mean one that gets above 40C.
Grass in a council green bin two days after cutting
The problem is that grass cuttings will start to compost on their own. Although grass will heat up quickly it soon runs out of air and the temperature falls. The grass then forms a dense stinking mass which does not breakdown.
Layers of partly rotted grass cuttings in a badly managed compost heap
The answer is to mix grass with bulky material like shredded twigs or straw. This allows more air to get to the grass and provides carbon to balance the nitrogen which keeps the compost going.
After a few weeks the temperature will begin to fall because the air in the pile has been used up. Time to turn the heap to allow more air to enter. The temperature should rise again but probably not as high as before.
For more information on what to mix with grass cuttings to get the correct C:N ratios, carbon or browns to nitrogen or greenssee this page. For an online C:N ratio calculator follow this link.
The other important thing to get right is the moisture content; it should be around 55% or like a wrung out sponge. Not easy to gauge but not dry nor soaking wet.
To compost kitchen waste we use a Hot Bin. There is around a small bin full of stuff every week and I usually add some grass cuttings and chopped twigs. This is the temperature in the Hot Bin a couple of hours after adding new material and giving it a stir. Eight hours later it had risen to 46°C.
Looking through the gardening books this morning I found this old favourite. It is an original 1976 first edition of “Comfrey, past, present and future”. It used to be well known in organic gardening circles but seem to have dropped off the radar in recent years.
I found the book in the HDRA shop, Henry Doubleday Research Association, at Ryton Organic Gardens. Now called Garden Organic there is no longer a shop and the gardens are a mere shadow of their former shadow of what they once were. And just at a time when we need to push for more sustainable food growing.
As we are building a new organic garden it seems obvious that Comfrey juice production should be part of it.
Lawrence Hills bred a sterile version of Comfrey, he called it “Bocking 14”. It will not self seed, which is crucial if you want to prevent it spreading!
There are three linked pages that explain why Comfrey liquid is so good, how to make small quantities and how to scale up production for larger gardens.
Now this is what you call a winrow compost turning machine. Some will say this is not very sustainable but when you consider the amount of CO2 that can be saved by making compost on this scale and using it on farmland then I think it is worth doing. Maybe one day soon there will be a electric powered version running on solar/wind energy.
You can of course use small scale winrows, more to follow.
We have updated the soil remineralisation page and have included more links. We have been adding volcanic rock dust to our gardens from 2004 and believe it increases the nutritional value of the food produced and improves plant health.
Our previous garden suffered very few problems with pests and disease. This was achieved by good organic gardening practices like crop rotation, feeding the soil not the plant and not using artificial fertilisers and pesticides. plus adding rock dust. That will always be our approach to gardening.
Adding rock dust provided the minerals that were missing. See the page
Just to show that all the misguided hype about how we need huge inputs of fertiliser, pesticides and GM is just that, hype from the vested interest of the huge agrochemical companies that make a profit out of fear.
And organic gardening probably outperforms conventional food gardening. See this link to out own trials.
From: “Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World” 2018, Kindle edition, p.138.
It might seem daft, it might appear to be cranky and a marginal activity but composting has enormous benefits. As they say in the video using composting reduces soil erosion, creates more fertile soil and locks up CO2. We are lucky in this part of Derbyshire as green waste and food waste is collected and composted. We try to give away as little as possible and compost it here for use on the veg garden. It’s not hard to do, see this page for more information and please email me if you want help.