Composting a la Monty Don

I get very excited by compost, by the whole process of change from one form to another. Until last week I had two fairly large compost bays but then I watched the hour long Gardener’s World on Friday; consequently I now have a third bay and spent a good couple of hours turning and transferring the material in one of the existing bays into the new bay.

Compost Bays

Monty has three bays at Long Meadow and a very systematic method for the production of compost. He has a detailed understanding of what goes on during the composting process (unsurprising given that he is president of the Soil Association) and how to ensure that you don’t get slimey, smelly, rat infested compost (I did discover voles in the second bay but thought best to let them be for now). It was interesting, for example, to discover that one should be adding plenty of carbon to the mix, such as cardboard and hay, and not just green stuff. His insistence on making sure everything was well shredded struck chord as I discovered a lot of canes and woody material in the compost that hadn’t even begun to break down. I chopped them all up into small pieces so hopefully they’ll now compost without difficulty.

The composted material nearest to the camera is almost ready for use but not quite; it isn’t yet that lovely crumbly texture and doesn’t have that woodland floor smell, as Monty put it. Still, I am looking forward to using it and now that there is a third bay, there will be even more of the lovely stuff.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by patientgardener on April 27, 2011 at 18:39

    I discovered recently when studying for the RHS cert that you need more brown stuff than green and I was surprised that I get half decent compost at all especially as I am rubbish at turning it and also, like you, dont cut stuff up. But having watched GW on Friday I have told myself to try harder!!


  2. There is something so very satisfying about making something so useful and good from all the vegetable rubbish in the garden. I’ve only just started shredding everything and I think it will speed the process a lot. In the past, like you, I’ve always had a lot of un-decomposed sticks etc. which I always put back but I don’t think they ever really decompossed properly. Christina


    • It seems that most of us are guilty of not breaking down sticks or shredding material. Let’s all promise to do so from now on!


  3. Hi Jason, a friend of mine has been nagging me to buy a shredder in order to solve the sticky-bits-of-compost problem. (A condition from which I do suffer). I did some volunteering at Batemans a while back and spent half a day shredding tough plant stalks and the like. If it’s good enough for them…..

    I do though add loads of newspaper to my compost bins as their contents consist mainly of grass clippings. And I turn them regularly – hard work mind. Here’s hoping it works. Why is compost just so interesting?



    • I volunteered at Sissinghurst last year. I tried to get into the flower garden but they didn’t need enyone so I ended up helping out in the veg garden instead which was still interesting and enjoyable.
      As far as the compost goes, I do try and turn it from time-to-time but I don’t do it often enough. I think this is where I go wrong really; if I turned it more often then I’m sure it wouldn’t be such back breaking work as trying to do a massive heap only once in a while.


  4. Posted by compostwoman on May 24, 2011 at 13:02

    Build it with a good mix of high carbon and high nitrogen stuff to start with and you shouldn’t need to turn it – I only turn mine when I am digging out the finished compost underneath the uncomposted stuff.

    A really good web site for compost advice is the Garden Organic Home composting web site.

    Also home to Master Composters, of which I am one 🙂


    • I like the sound of being a Master Composter, something very reassuring about it! I will try and do as you suggest, anything to not have to spend a whole day turning the heap! Many thanks.


      • If you are interested, why not contact Garden Organic and see if there is a Master Composter scheme in your area? Usually organised by your local Council 🙂

        Being a Master Composter ( a volunteer Community Compost advisor) is great fun, and you get to talk about composting a lot 🙂

        There is a similar Master Gardener scheme, where volunteers advise and help people who are starting out on growing their own veg. I am one of those as well…

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