composting for newbies?
I was determined, when I got my garden, that the first things I’d get for it would be a composter and a water butt. I’d even seen the water butt-s that I was going to get – apparently olives are brought into the country in huge plastic drums, which are then discarded. This bloke on eBay recycles them into water butts.
(http://stores.ebay.co.uk/RECYCLED-WATER-BUTTS?_trksid=p4340.l2563 if anyone’s interested)
I found out that my council does discounts on composters and wormeries – you can buy one for a fiver, though I’m not sure how one would get the worms. But (strangely, to my mind) they don’t do water butts. Water is the most valuable and most easily-conserved natural resource – we get it for free out of the sky, and all it takes is a container and a connection. I did write to ask them why not, but never got a reply.
But once I’d moved in I found that I couldn’t have used one even if the council did them – there are no downpipes to tap into, at least on my walls. There must be downpipes somewhere, but nowhere to be of any use to me. I’d never considered that possibility; outer walls have downpipes.
Sigh, wonder if a water butt topped by a very large funnel would be any good? It might catch some, at least – but enough to be worthwhile?
I bought a composter about a month after I’d moved in. I didn’t think about the size, and it turned out to be bigger than my vague mental pictures; luckily it was of plastic and a bit flexible or I’d never have got it in through the front door and out through the back!
I scanned the instructions into the pc, converted the pdf file to Word, then I could enlarge the text size to something I could read.
Seemed fairly straightforward, but I wasn’t sure about some of it – it said to put alternating layers of: kitchen waste, grass clippings, paper [shredded], prunings, manure from vegetarian pets, hair [human and pet], and a lot more – each to be layered 3-6” [7-14cm] deep.
Slight prob right there: no grass to cut so no clippings; no hedges to prune, no pets. The only green waste I have, apart from the weeds round the edge of the paving, are the plants that don’t make it, and of course I hope I don’t get too many of them.
Ninety percent of the composter contents is teabags! I cook potatoes with skin, so no peelings to go in – but at least I’ve found a use for the weekly council aren’t-we-brilliant propaganda freesheets! The instructions say “shred” paper but I’ve been tearing into small strips, several thicknesses at a time, and scattering them. Would still take a lot to make a 3” layer.
But I did do some weeding at a local charity office where I look after the communal courtyard garden. I broke up the weeds, or at least mangled them seriously enough to ensure they’d fold small enough to fill a dustbin bag, brought that home and put it all in. That should qualify as a thick enough layer! Give it a few months and maybe repeat?
And I can’t quite see myself asking my local hairdresser to save me all their clippings for my composter – they’d think I was weird (though I did think of asking them to save me clippings, to leaving bunches of hair out in the nesting season for birds to line their nests).
When I’ve done some serious repotting I’ve put the old soil in the composter, partly to cover the previous surface in the hope that it’ll keep the files down and partly cos, what’s to lose? New soil for old?
The instructions also say about aerating and turning the contents – a bit beyond me; I’ve tried using a ‘ladies’ long-handled fork but the angle is awkward and I don’t have all that much shoulder or back strength. Still, as Rambling Syd Rumpo used to say, “If that don’t work I’ll poke it down with a stick” – I have an old bathroom metal towel rail and I use that as a poker now and then.
I’ve no idea if I’m doing it right, or at least not too badly wrong – given my vision, the only way I could see clearly would be to put my head and shoulders into the bin, and I don’t fancy that much – partly cos of the “perfume”, and partly cos, if my specs fell of I’d never find them again!
But I hope it’s not too seriously wrong – I’d hate to have to dig out a slimy, gunky mess and take several bags of it through the flat and out to the bins!
And even if it is working right, or at least not too badly wrong, I don’t know when I’ll be able to “harvest” – the leaflet says take some from the bottom now and then and if it don’t look right, put it back in the top.
Checked once (and had prob getting the hatch back on!) and it wasn’t then – but it’s not been going a year yet, so maybe I should leave it a few months – years? After all, it takes time to work even when the right ingredients are put in in the right quantities, so this will take even longer.
Lol I’ll try again when it’s full to the brim. Hope it’ll be ready by then, or I’ll need a second one and that’ll take more space than I conveniently can spare.
- 18 May, 2011
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