I am a compost fanatic, pride myself on my compost and derive tremendous pleasure when I see the positive results of my own compost. So it is understandable that I want to encourage others to do likewise, so if there’s an opportunity to have a compost bin, it seems madness not to take it and put back into the soil what has been taken out of it. Root vegetable peelings, outside leaves of cabbage and, dead flowers, grass , leaves, weeds, shredded newspapers and even citrus fruit skins which are slow to decompose, are all perfect for compost. But not meat or fish scraps as they smell and also they encourage rats and mice.
Compost-making is not time-consuming yet it is very rewarding, and is a natural way of improving the structure of the soil, with the nitrogen, potash, phosphorus and trace elements that are slowly released into the earth. Compost is also an excellentto top-dress the beds, keep in the moisture and keep down the weeds.
There are several kinds of compost containers, everything from chicken wire cages, wooden slatted pens, upside down plastic dust bins, manufactured compost tumblers to compost heaps covered by black plastic and held down with bricks, and holes in the ground covered with old carpet to keep the heat in. Not forgetting the good old dust bin bag, excellent for making. But it is important that your compost container is aerated from the sides or below, so that the air can circulate through the matter. For this reason earthworms are invaluable as they help to aerate and break down the waste.
Be sure that each layer of grass cuttings, kitchen waste or leaves for your compost is damp and only about 6 in (15 cm) deep before spreading a thin layer of newspaper, preferably shredded or torn up (not the FT or colour supplements as they contain chemical dyes) and also a compost activator such as Garotto. Butand are an extremely effective activator so Garotto compost activator is not essential.
A sprinkling of nitrogenalso helps to break down compost. On clay and compacted soils use the compost before it has fully rotted down, as it helps to open and aerate the soil. Otherwise wait until the compost is fully rotted (dark and crumbly) before using. This generally takes about ten months, so be patient.
Should your garden have weeds such as ground elder or couch grass, these should be burnt and not put into the compost, otherwise they will seed themselves. Avoid putting holly, ivy, large twigs, bits of wood,into the compost, as these will not compost easily, and man-made materials such as plastic will not compost at all.
If you can spare the time to make compost, I’m sure you will find it extremely satisfying, and be gratified to see the good it does your plants.
Organic Feed and Compost: Wet Seaweed
A friend who lives in Devon and has a smallish walled garden containing the usual selection ofplants (London pride, camellias, azaleas, climbing roses, heathers, potentillas, bergenias, jasmine, clematis, and so on) tells me that twice a year he collects large quantities of seaweed from the rocks along the coast and places it round the plants roughly 4 in (10 cm) deep.
When the seaweed is put on to the beds it is still wet and has not been rotted down. The result is (1) he never has any weeds, (2) the plants appear to flourish on the seaweed, (3) the salt does not seem to have an adverse effect on any of his plants, (4) after several months the seaweed has completely rotted down into the soil, and (5)tends to be pest free.
Rabbit droppings come higher in nutrient content than the droppings of, pig, poultry, horse and cow! Not much consolation, I know, if they are eating their way through your shrub garden or . But if you have them as pets, do keep their droppings for the garden.
As humans and animals need to be nourished and fed regularly, so do plants. It is essential that plants in small cultivated gardens which do not have the benefit of nature’s own feeding, such as fallen leaves forming humus/compost and improving the top soil (as happens inareas) have regular feeding.
The following list ofand what they do, and for which type of plant they are best, will give you some guide as to how to feed your garden each year. Instructions on the quantities to feed the plants will invariably be on the package. You are not likely to overfeed anyway with organic fertilisers, as they are natural products.
Nitrogen [N] is for leaf and shoot growth
Potassium [K] (Kalium in Latin) is for flowers and fruit
Phosphorus [P] is for roots
Sterilised bone meal (roses, trees, shrubs) [P] [K]
Seagold calcified seaweed to improve the quality and break down the soil (good for everything)
(J Arthur Bowers) Hoof and Horn (flowers and vegetables) [N] slow-acting
(J Arthur Bowers) Dried Blood (all graving crops) [N] quick-acting
(J Arthur Bowers) Blood Fish and Bone (salad crops) [N] [P] [K] balanced
Growmore (chemical all purpose fertiliser – use with care: it can easily bum plants if you are too generous) [N] [P] [K]
Chase Organic Fertiliser (flowers, fruit, vegetables) [N] [P] [K]
Top Rose (roses) [high in P]
Phostrogen (flowering plants) [P]