Make your own compost

Baptised into the Church of Composting!

Two weeks ago I became a member of Norfolk Master Composters.

Thirty of us spent the weekend learning more about turning much of our kitchen and garden waste into gorgeous, crumbly black compost.

Compost bins and signs
We looked at the pros and cons of various methods including a barrel or tumbler composter which speeds up the process

A bin to suit everyone

The Master Composter course, organised by Garden Organic , was held at the Green Britain Centre on the outskirts of the pretty market town of Swaffham.

It seems that when it comes to composting there’s a bin to suit everyone.

Lifting lid off bin
Lifting the lid off the Green Johanna with a black hotbin in foreground

We looked at the pros and cons of most of them including how to make a compact wormery or a Japanese inspired bokashi bin.

And we discussed the efficacy or otherwise of black plastic “dalek” bins (that can often be bought cheaply from the local council) open heaps and everything in between

I’d never heard of some like the Green Johanna which takes cooked food and meat.

Spreading the word

Now we’re expected to spend at least thirty hours over the coming year preaching the good news at plants sales, fetes, at work to colleagues and anywhere else the spirit moves us.

My first attempt last weekend failed miserably.

I picked up all I needed for a outdoor display from the compost co-ordinator, David Hawkyard in Norwich.

But the extreme cold and constant rain meant the Easter Eggstravanza at my local village hall was an indoor affair only.

But writing this blog is one way to encourage others and I hope I can take some information to a nearby plant swap soon.

My own experience

Until a couple of years ago I was a bit half-hearted about composting.

I had a cold heap on my allotment near Norwich which I rarely turned and yet it produced half a cubic metre of reasonable compost each year.

I topped up the veg beds very occasionally with van loads of spent mushroom compost.

And for a time a friend of mine brought me spent hops from his micro brewery to add to the heap.

Making your own compost is much cheaper when you need lots of it for No Dig gardening

But I became almost evangelical about composting three years ago when I moved to a bigger garden where I’ve been trying a No Dig approach.

That’s because it requires lots and lots of new compost every year as a growing medium, soil conditioner and mulch.

I’ve gone from one compost heap to six!

Last spring, Angus, a young Australian visitor helped me reinstate three very rough bays made out of old electricity poles.

We cleared up an area at the bottom of the garden so we could grow more veg.

Veg bed and compost bays
New potato bed and compost bays

And at the end of the summer I managed to make my first “hot” heap from scratch – layering brown and green material with the occasional addition of urine and homemade comfrey liquid.

I was amazed at how quickly it heated up and how it accelerated the composting process.

I pretty much followed this video by Charles Dowding .

You don’t have to go as far as peeing on your compost heap but both the comfrey and the urine are good accelerators along with nettle leaves and horse, cow or pig poo – although I am no longer adding manure as I would like to rely entirely on plant matter.

Seaweed maybe a good alternative but I haven’t tried that yet.



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