Category Archives: Composting

How to do it and what to do with it.

Edible Mach Maethlon (Machynlleth)

As part of a project for Eyam Green Group I visited Edible Mach Maethlon (Machynlleth) last week. There are various sites in the town that are planted with edible crops which are available for anybody to pick. There are even planters at the local Co-op who are actively supporting the project. An interactive map of the sites is available here.

There are other farming/horticultural projects which train people in growing and coordinate small growers to supply a local box scheme. It was an inspirational visit that clearly demonstrates what can be achieved with enthusiasm and cooperation.

The first gallery includes photographs of the show garden located at Y Plas. It is an impressive and well kept garden with a number of raised beds. It was a volunteers day so there were people around tending the gardens. The volunteers then moved on to the library which is near the centre of town.

It was not possible to visit all the sites around the town but I did stop at the Co-op. There are planters each side the front and rear entrances. The planters at the front door contained a good selection of herbs. At the back entrance each planter had an apple tree and some soft fruit.

New compost bins almost ready

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.

Making compost with grass cuttings

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 greens see 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.

Comfrey juice fertlizer

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.

A chemical analysis of Comfrey liquid

Making small quantities of Comfrey liquid

Scaling up production for the larger garden

Please note: Comfrey liquid made by pressing the leaves and small stalks is totally different to Comfrey tea.

Winrow composting

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.

Soil remineralisation page – major update

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 

Organic outperforms conventional agriculture

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.