Gardening Tip – For the week 26th Sept. – 2nd Oct.
Are you wasting your waste?
Are you old enough to remember when we used to put all our waste into a metal dustbin round the side of the house? Once a week a smiley gentleman with bib and brace or an overall used to come with a purposely made trolley (or the stronger men used to yank it on their shoulder like the coal sacks deliveries) and take them onto the street. After the bins had been emptied another man used to bring back the metal bin and replace it in its position at the side of the house! Well, all that has changed, the metal changed to plastic and then the bins grew wheels, obliging the householder to take his bin out into the street every week or it will not be emptied, because the smiley man is no longer employed by the council. A few years on, we were given another bin and then another and then another, one for card, one for glass, one for kitchen waste, etc. As the space round the house is limited these bins have to be parked in the front garden of the average house, giving every front garden the appearance of a mini recycling plant. Of course I admit that it is better for the environment to recycle, but is there no machine than can sort out the waste at the recycling depot?
But now that the councils have taught us to recycle we might as well make the most of it. I am particularly looking at the pink lidded bin which is for garden and kitchen waste. After this is collected it is turned into compost and the council actually sells the compost for about ten pounds a bag. They call this whole operation ‘environmentally friendly’ – I agree – any scheme that puts money back into their pocket is ‘friendly’! Since the raw material comes from the householders I think that they should be given back to the householders to use in our gardens without charging!
I strongly believe that anyone with an allotment should not be filling their pink lidded bin, they should be using it themselves to make their own free compost. Enough books have been written on making compost to fill a compost bin, but I will write how one can short cut the compost making process with minimum effort.
Forget about making quality compost for seed sowing, this specialist compost needs the right balance of nutrients and sieving from large particles; quite frankly in my opinion it is not worth the bother. For the small amount needed one can buy good quality composts for around 6 pence a litre. What is worth doing is using the home made compost just as a soil conditioner. This can also be lots of work, filling the bins , turning them, and transporting heavy amounts of compost from one part of the allotment to the other.
So what I have recently been doing is as follows:
- I designate one bed on my allotment as “the compost bed”, it is about the size of a regular single bed, 2 by 1 metre.
- From early spring all the fresh kitchen waste, garden waste, and allotment waste is put on this bed. I leave the cooked veg and the fish and meat scraps (that the council allow us to put in their recycling bin) in their pink lidded bin but none of the fresh vegetable waste. As the content is so varied, it attracts all the necessary compost makers; bacteria and worms, to break down the contents to a good growing medium.
- By the end of the winter, even though not all the contents have broken down, I dig away the soil next to the bed on either side and spread out the nearly ready compost, I then cover it with a thin layer of soil – and leave it to continue to decompose under the soil! The place of the bed is rotated annually leaving quality fresh soil in every corner. This creates an ideal medium for growing anything except root vegetables and saves so much time and money.
In the picture, you can see a row of azalea that I had left over from a display that I put in front of the compost bed, I also put cardboard around it to show the compost bed boundaries. The cardboard is also slowly broken down on the compost heap. I recently put on some spent corn sticks and leaves, which you can see lying on the top.
On second thoughts, let us give credit to the councils as no farmer would give us a field the size of an allotment for a rent of around just £1 pound a week.
Thanks to the council we have somewhere to grow our own crops, enjoy the environment, and use up our kitchen waste!
Have an enjoyable gardening week!