Oh yes, compost is a divine thing, crumbly, dark, woodland scented, truly a wondrous thing. I have been using it to mulch the beds, particularly on new planting and it is certainly doing a good job at keeping down the weeds and keeping in the moisture. It will also be slowly pulled down into the earth over the coming year improving the structure.
Not content with 3 compost bays I decided it was time for a few additions to the composting area of the garden; I’ve therefore added an extra bay so that there are now 4 for composting garden and kitchen waste. I’ve also added a proper structure for the leaf mould as it has just been a pile in the corner whereas now it is all neatly packed into a large chicken wire cylinder where it can happily do its thing. I intend to add another two of these and have the leaf mould on a three year cycle; I am even tempted to pop into the woods with a wheelbarrow and bring back some additional oak leaves from last autumn’s fall … but perhaps this is getting a little obsessive?!?!
Having spent a number of hours turning the 3 exisitng heaps with an orinary garden fork I decided that a new tool was required to make the job a bit easier and so I’m eagerly awaiting a new compost fork with larger tines than the average fork for effective turning. Should be delivered by the weekend so more turning will be done and I will doubtless be left exhausted but satisfied!
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.
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.
There is an interesting article in today’s Times concerning peat in compost and whether or not a £1 tax should be imposed per average bag of peat. It would seem that the RHS is in disagreement with conservation and wildlife charities over this matter, arguing that peat-free compost remains inferior when used for some plants and suggesting that gardeners have a right to use small amounts of peat.
This is an interesting subject, especially in light of a recent discussion started by Karen Hall at her Artist’s Garden blog about the cost of gardening. The price of compost was alluded to – typically £12 for 3 bags; would £15 start to seem like too much?
I’m sure that many of us try and produce our own garden compost and look out for peat free alternatives; however, it often seems that garden centres just don’t stock sufficient peat-free alternatives and, as the RHS argue, when they do these alternative products are not yet up to scratch for use with some plants or with seeds. What needs to happen here is that a product must be developed that successfully reproduces the qualities of peat so that gardeners don’t feel they are sacrificing their ability to cultivate plants.
It goes without saying that it is important for a gardener not to have a negative impact on the environment, either directly or indirectly. With only 700 hectares (appx. 1730 acres) of England’s original peat bogs remaining intact, supporting bird and insect species, it is essential that we think carefully about how we garden using peat.
With retailers missing the target set by Government for “all growing media and soil improvers” to be peat-free by the end of last year (apparently peat-free alternatives accounted for only 60% of the market), it is perhaps down to us, the consumer to press the issue forward and encourage swifter development in this area.