Monday, October 31, 2011


The secret to vigorous plant growth is using the finest of all organic fertilisers, compost. Almost anything can go in to compost from tea leaves to newspaper. It is virtually impossible to fill a compost heap, you can keep topping it up with organic garden and kitchen wastes and watering it down without it getting full.

There are different kinds of compost heaps. The smaller lidded bins are problematic in that they do not reach high temperatures, thus the waste takes a long time to degrade and weed seeds and pests are not killed. However, they are useful for small gardens, produce good compost and are full of worms. When the matter in them has degraded, they can be lifted up and moved, leaving a heap of compost for use in the garden.

If you are in a hurry to obtain compost, use a rotating bin. Organic matter is placed in the bin, the lid is closed and the bin rotated about two or three times a day. The bin has bars inside that mix up the compost and speed decomposition. Once finished, the bin is tipped up and the compost collected in a barrow.

The best way of making compost is to create a couple of wooden frames, one will contain fresh compost and the other old compost that can be used. The compost heap needs to get hot in order to kill weed seeds and pests. The base of the frame should be open to the soil. It should not be concrete because the worms must be able to escape the heat generated by the activity of bacteria that are breaking down the waste.

Begin by making a layer of organic matter, about a third of the depth of the frame. Next add a layer of manure such as sheep droppings, to weigh down the organic matter. This will encourage the bacteria to grow. A second layer of chicken manure is also good. It is essential to saturate the heap with water.

Start layering again with more organic matter containing straw and kitchen and garden wastes, you can even add cotton clothes. Build up successive layers of organic matter topped with manure and watered down each time until you have reached the top. Deep saturation is important, so water until it runs out the bottom. Water the heap regularly thereafter. The heap will become extremely hot. This means that it is working.

You can tell when the compost is ready to use as there will be no recognisable lumps of organic matter and it will have a rich soil texture. Use the compost in the plant hole of seedlings and for conditioning the soil prior to planting. Avoid using it as a mulch, rather mulch over the top of it with straw or dig it into the soil.

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