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After first posting about this in February 2010 today I’ve finally got round to building a compost bin.
I first learnt this method from Ray Broughton in a talk he gave to our local Horticultural Society. It should produce a good compost pretty quickly after filling the bin.
The advantages of the quick cook method are:
1) Pretty much all plant material can be placed on the heap including woody material up to a diameter of 1cm – good I’ve just put the hedge trimmings in there.
2) No turning needed – no faffing around a la Monty Don on GW, this is a method for those who don’t spend all week in the garden.
3) Due to the heat generated plant pests, diseases and weeds will be killed by this method – great you can bung anything in, particularly good if there are a lot of weeds in your garden……like mine!
4) Vermin will not be attracted to this heap (I’ve had rats in my black council bin before so this will be interesting to test out).
5) Compost should be ready in 3 to 4 months – just what I’m looking for!
The heap can be built up over a period of time but for optimum efficiency it should be no longer than 3 months. Now here’s the important bit – the heap has to have a solid base of paving slabs, you don’t want nutrient loss or worm activity with this method it’s all about fungi and bacteria breaking down the plant material and creating a serious amount of heat that kills off weeds, seeds etc.
You need to construct the sides out of wood or other suitable material to contain your heap (I’ve used some old pallets), the best size is 1.5 metre by 1.5 metre. It is important that oxygen is present but you only need a relatively small amount as the material going into the heap is bulky and will trap air. So drill some small holes into the sides (I’ve put thin board over the gaps in the pallet and left a handful of holes for some air to get in). Remember this must be on a solid base, I’ve used half a dozen small paving slabs and I plan to build another bin alongside soon.
Ok once you’ve built your compost bin, start filling with plant material, you can put pretty much anything in from the garden up to 1cm diameter, including weeds, lawn clippings, and the usual kitchen peelings etc. Fill to 1/3 of the height of the bin. At this stage place two shovel loads of good quality soil over the heap and two handfuls of nitrogen fertiliser (e.g. hoof and horn). If you use organic fertiliser make sure it is ground into a fine powder (amounts quoted are for a 1.5 x 1.5m heap).
Add more material until you are up to the 2/3rds mark. Then add one shovel load of ground limestone (calcium carbonate). This is essential as it prevents the heap from becoming too acidic which is a common problem. Carry on filling and when you reach the top add soil and fertiliser in exactly the same way as you did at the 1/3rd stage. That’s it, there’s no need to cover the heap, and then it’s just a waiting game until the heap cooks down.
Happy composting! I’ll keep you informed of progress.
And finally here’s this weekend’s plot harvest:
There’s french beans (sultana with a few purple ones, purple teepee), runner beans (Stenner, Moonlight), Beetroot (Burpee’s Golden) – roasted beetroot has been a revelation for us this summer – lettuce (Little Gem) and courgette (Black Beauty).
I’ve enjoyed growing them all and will enjoy eating them even more!
Have a great Bank Holiday everyone!!
It was time to harvest the greenhouse this morning:
There’s a cucumber (Carmen), tomatoes (Moneymaker, Gardener’s Delight, Golden Peardrop), Peppers (Denver, Annaheim) and Chillies (Cayenne, Patio Apache). Not a bad harvest, the peppers and chillies in particular have done really well this year. I’ll bag the chillies up and pop them in the freezer to use later in the year. And the tomatoes and peppers will go into some pasta creation later today.
Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend.
At last it’s been raining steadily for most of the day which is much needed for the veg plot. And I decided to harvest a few veg for Sunday dinner.
This is the first cabbage of the year and the best one I’ve ever grown.
And the first broccoli head – although it’s a bit smaller than I would normally harvest as we’re going away soon and there’s plenty more to cut – with a few more broad beans as well.
The cornflower patch is now in full bloom.
I stopped my first Dahlia, a month earlier than last year, as they are growing quite quickly now. There’s another that I’ll stop before we go away and the rest will have to wait until we get back.
Hope you’ve had some rain too – funny we wouldn’t be so grateful for it in any normal British summer!!
At last the highlight of the summer harvest has arrived, my first ever home-grown sweetcorn! I was hoping to reap the benefits of some early planting as the sweetcorn went in the new bed on 17th April and were protected by plastic bottle cloches. You can see their development over the last few months here, (they look tiny on May 25th), here, (a bit taller on June 12th) and here (the cobs had started to form by July 8th).
So I thought I’d check the most developed cob this evening and I’m glad I did as it was perfectly ripe.
I whipped it off the plant, and straight into the pan. Rach and I had half each with butter, salt and pepper, it was heaven!
The plot is still producing plenty of veg at the moment. Today I braved the cold to pull up some snips, dig up some artichokes, pick some brussels and kale. It’s great having fresh veg as and when you want it.
This is the first year I’ve grown the much-maligned brussel sprout and they are fantastic, getting loads of sprouts off just half a dozen plants.
The purple-sprouting broccoli is looking really good, the sideshoots are starting to appear and I’m really looking forward to the first harvest of spears. Last year was a disaster between the caterpillars and pigeons so this time round they have been netted and have really filled out well and they should start appearing in a few weeks time.
With winter rapidly approaching it’s wise to take some precautions against your winter veg becoming frozen in the ground. There’s nothing worse than not being able to harvest when you need those fresh veggies the most in the depths of winter. The technique of healing in leeks is tried and tested. Just dig a trench, put the harvested leeks in at an angle, pull the soil back over the blanched stems and firm with your heal. They will keep like this for weeks and are more accessible when the ground is frozen, freeing up ground that can be dug over and manured ready for spring. Last year they combined with leftover turkey in Jamie Oliver’s Turkey & Leek Pie……..delicious!!
For storing root veg, such as carrots or parsnips, I use an old wine box filled with sharp sand. Just layer the veg and cover with sand, this will keep them nice and fresh for weeks and ensure you always have a supply when the ground is iced over.