How To: Get Started With Composting

composter-3Recently, I featured a piece by horticultural expert, lecturer and all round nice bloke, Phil Gamble

Today Phil explains the rudimentary basics of composting, how it works and what it does.

In my opinion, wintertime is the perfect time to get a compost heap going.  There are so many delicious vegetables to fill up your plates and here’s how to ensure the peelings don’t fill up your rubbish bags!

Cool compost still works, even if it’s too cool outside for us.

Even in this weather, your compost heap is working away making that magic ingredient; humus. No, not the yummy garlic and chickpea dip; humus is a crucial constituent of the best soils.

It’s what helps make compost dark, rich and easy to work with.

We know our vegetable peelings and grass mowings rot down really fast in summer, but there’s a completely different community of bacteria that break down vegetation at low temperatures too. Even when Santa has to button up his tunic, your compost is still busy getting itself ready.

You can get a ‘sort of compost’ if you simply pile garden stuff up, with the exception of perennial weeds of course; we’re not total masochists and no, they don’t always die in a compost heap!

Many bought composting bins – especially the plastic ones – are quite simply too small. Building a bespoke composter is best and they are surprisingly simple to construct.

When it comes to compost there’s no such thing as enough.

A compost heap is nothing but a container. Aim at creating 1-meter cubes.

They can be made out of anything. I’ve even seen one made of old wooden ironing boards.

Anything will do to contain your peelings, but pallet compost heaps are the quickest and in my view, the best.

So, in a sunny moment, set out 7 used pallets (or old sheets of timber approximately that size). Secure 5 together in the shape of the letter ‘E’. Keep the whole thing solid with 6 good posts banged in on the corners, junctions and the ends.

You can nail or screw your E together but wiring the pallets tightly to the posts enables you to remove the sides to get at the best compost quickly and easily, anytime.

You have now made 2 boxes that sit side-by-side. The 2 remaining pallets are going to be your front doors.

Best to keep these two loose, just resting on the fronts of the two heaps, then tie them on with strong string or wire so they can be very easily taken off ready for digging out.

You can leave the outer edges attached and open either front pallet like a gate if you wish.

Resist getting too Margot Ledbetter about it and hiding your ‘Rubbish Ideas’ compost heaps (yes, you could make a whole row of them. ☺) away in the shade behind the hedge.

Compost pride is on the march. If you’ve got it flaunt it!

Even though compost is being created all year round, the process is much slower in winter.

So the best place to site your heap is in the sun. On a south facing wall is a favourite.

Next, we need a covering.

Covering a heap is designed to keep the heat in, not the rain out.

Dry compost doesn’t rot down properly. It needs rain water.

Carpet or thick cloth is ideal as it lets the rain in but keeps the vegetation from blowing about. Especially important if you’ve just spent hours raking up leaves.

Yes, ok, ok. Why are we making a pair of heaps?  Read on.

Choose which side you want to put your fresh kitchen recourses, (no, there’s no such thing as ‘waste’ on this website) leaves and mowings; anything non-woody basically.

Then, when you’ve got a depth of 0.5m (18 inches) of compost and fresh material in one side, fork the whole lot over into the next box. The fresher stuff should now be on the bottom.

Keep that system going through the summer and autumn.

You now have a ‘putting’ side and a ‘digging’ side.

Which way around should it be? You choose. It may well depend on whether you’re left or right handed.

By mid-winter your ‘digging’ side will be ready for your ‘Compost Outing‘ to help you get it out and spread it around; it’s ideal mulch!

Then sit back and watch those crops go!  ☺

Bye for now.

I’ll be back again soon with more top gardening tips.

Festive frivolities! Have fun.

Thank you again Mr Gamble, what a great post and with Christmas on the horizon and lots of empty pallets sitting around the back of back of the large retailers (or maybe not so many, as the case may be), this is the perfect time to nab a few and knock up your very own composting boxes.

Rubbishly yours,

TS x