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Cambridge Botanical Gardens - (Compost Corner)


By balcony


Cambridge Botanical Gardens – (Compost Corner)

Follow me around the compost corner to learn a bit about composting – even if you already compost your garden waste here you will find different methods of doing it that you might find interesting or might be tempted to give a go!

I’m going to copy the text on the panels I photographed as it is almost impossible to read them as I had hoped when taking the photos. This will lead to several blogs which I hope you will find of help.

What is a compost heap? A pile of old rot!

When plants & animals die, they rot & the materials they are made of are returned to the earth. This natural process is called decomposition. The resulting compost enriches the soil, helping new plants to grow.

Decomposition is an essential part of the cycle of life.

What are the benefits of composting?

You can take advantage of waste plant material & recycle for free.
You will boost the fertility of your garden soil.
You can help by reducing the amount of waste that is buried in landfill sites.

How does composting work?

It’s the activity of bacteria that kickstarts decomposition in the compost heap. Like people, bacteria need air, water & food (biodegradable material) if these are available in your heap, bacteria will multiply at amazing speed releasing heat – that’s why heaps get warm.

Keep your heap damp, adding water if needed & aerated by turning it. You’ll soon have soil enriching compost.

A balanced diet

When building your heap, or adding to it over time, aim for an even mix of of greens to browns (See next column)

Remember that composting is not an exact science, & you will quickly become your own expert.

Yes, please!

A compost heap needs activators to rot down vegetable waste quickly. They are called Greens & contain a lot of nitrogen. These include vegetable & fruit peelings, grass, dead flowers, young weeds & soft green material.

Tough or woody plant materials are slow to rot & are best shredded or chopped. They are called Browns & contain a lot of carbon. Browns include shrub & hedge trimmings, straw & hay from pet hutches, scrunched up paper, cardboard, toilet rolls & cardboard egg boxes.

No, thanks

Meat & cooked food are slow to decompose & can attract pests like rats. Don’t add cat litter, dog faeces, disposable nappies, plastic material, glass or things that won’t decompose. Look out instead for recycling schemes that take glass, metal cans & plastic bottles.

Avoid perennial weeds like bindweed, ground elder or couch grass, which can be persistent & survive the composting process.

Are you cool? Cool composting

We start with cool composting as it is a simple method & takes least effort. It suits small to medium-sized gardens.

It’s in the mix

A compost bin is easy to make or buy. Add various materials over time, aiming for an equal balance of greens & browns. There’s no need to turn the heap.

Don’t let the pile dry out, keep it damp by adding water as necessary, including more greens like grass cuttings in your mix helps.

Slow compost

The cool method can take up to a year to make compost. For faster compost consider hot composting or buying a converter.

I’ll have to continue in a 2nd blog as this is getting to be too long!

This is a repost of the blog I wrote 4 years ago!

More blog posts by balcony

Previous post: Cambridge Botanical Gardens (Compost Corner) 4

Next post: Cambridge Botanical Gardens (Compost Corner) 2



Sorry about the order of the blogs. But there is no special order anyway. Everything described in these blogs can be done at almost any time.

As this is the time of year when we have the most material for composting I thought it a good idea to repost these 4 blogs on composting - I hope you'll agree with me!

26 Sep, 2013


Interesting blogs :o) I saw them in reverse order lol ...
I've got 3 bins of compost. I'll have to use it next year and then I can start making more ...

27 Sep, 2013


That's very good, Hywel! I have two on my half plot with a third empty at the moment, well, in actual fact there are now 2 empty as I emptied the one with horse manure on Friday evening. I'm hoping to get more sometime soon when Gerry goes out to look for some more for us both.My first heap, actually the one in the middle, is full to overflowing from the plant waste I added last week! There will be some good compost there next year! :-))

28 Sep, 2013


I used more compost when I grew lots of vegetables. I was able to dig it in to the ground then.
Now however, I don't grow any veg in the ground, and I am not able to dig anyway. When I do use it, I just spread it over the top between the shrubs etc.
I could get plenty of horse manure because my dad knew someone who kept horses on a nearby hillside.

29 Sep, 2013


I'm no expert but I believe you can leave it on the soil surface during the winter so that the rain/snow as well as the worms & other insects in the soil can mix it into the first inch or two of the soil. After all that's where a lot of root growth takes place. Never having done this I can't really offer any advice on whether it is better dug in or left to nature to "dig it in".

I have two beds on my plot that have had fresh horse manure put on them in the last few weeks. One bed I dug over last Tuesday & the other bed has been left alone. I think I will leave it alone now till the spring when I will need it for something, (haven't got around to planning the plot yet for next year!), but I haven't decided what at the moment.

3 Oct, 2013

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