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Make your own Compost

Making compost is a very good practice from all points of view.  Composting disposes of kitchen and garden waste and is environmentally friendly.

Compost improves soil texture, reduces compaction, retains moisture in summer, encourages soil microbic activity and recycles nutrients.

Good compost can be made quickly and easily if the following simple steps are followed.

At a Glance, you will need:

  •  Good quantities of both coarse and fine plant waste
  •  A rain-proof bin

 What is Compost?

Compost is decomposed plant material. This happens naturally when leaves fall and decompose on the soil surface.  Man made compost is simply speeding up what happens naturally. 

Gardeners can make compost in two ways:

  1. Garden waste, lawn clippings, etc. can be simply left in a heap. Over time this waste will slowly rot and form compost. This method tends to be slow, smelly, attracts flies and finishes up a wet, slimy, smelly compost.
  2. Good compost is made in a bin, develops high temperatures, converts to useable compost in 6 to 12 weeks and does not have a bad smell.

 How to make good Compost

 The simple basics of good compost making are:

  • A mix of garden waste material including some coarse prunings or semi-mature plant stems, weeds, kitchen waste and lawn clippings.
  • Sufficient volume of waste material above to fill a compost bin. This is important because small quantities will not generate sufficient heat to make good compost quickly.
  • A rainproof bin. If rain enters the compost it makes it wet, cold and slimy and heat which speeds up breakdown is lost.

The Compost Bin

Bins can be made or are available from garden centres.  They must be large enough to hold at least two large barrow loads of waste and have a lid or cover to keep rain out. 

Locate the bin at the back of the garden away from living areas. Plastic bins have become popular as they are clean, light, convenient and inexpensive.

One bin is sufficient, but two are better for the keen compost gardener. Where 2 bins are in use, one is used for the first stage of breakdown, probably 3 to 4 weeks. This partly decomposed material is then put in the second bin to complete the breakdown process.

 

What Can Be Composted?

Garden waste including weeds, prunings, hedge clippings, etc

  • Kitchen waste such as vegetable scraps, potato peelings etc
  • Lawn clippings
  • Animal manures (thin layers)
  • Wood Ash (thin layers)

 What Not To Use:

  • Pine needles
  • Badly diseased plant material
  • Oxalis
  • Cabbages or related plants with club root disease
  • Leaves of walnut, conifers, yew, holly and laurel

How to Make Compost

It is important to have at least 2 barrow loads of waste plant material and it is essential to have air through the mix to aid the necessary bacteria.  The best way of doing this is to add the waste material to the compost alternating between fine material such as lawn clippings and coarse material such as hedge clippings.

For best results the material should be damp, but not wet.  Hence in dry weather it may be necessary to add some water.

Compost activators such as Gypsum, Hydrated Lime, or Sulphate of Ammonia can be useful.  ‘Compost Maker’ can also be used.

Shredders are a very useful tool for the keen compost maker.  Shredding allows more material to go into the bin at once, speeding up the breakdown process.

 

 

Turning the Compost

About 1 week after the bin is filled, the material will have heated considerably and the volume reduced by half because of the first stage of breakdown.  At this stage the material should be turned.  This opens up material and allows more air in which reinvigorates the breakdown process. 

This process can be repeated a week or two later.  After some 6 weeks this waste material will begin to resemble compost.

Ready to Use

The compost will be ready to use in 6-12 weeks, depending on the type of material, time of year and how often it was turned.  Good compost should have a pleasant earthy smell and be loose, friable and easy to handle.

For further information refer to Yates Garden Guide.

 

                First remove all perennial weeds, such as couch and dock, with a fork and then with a rotary hoe cultivate a seed bed about 20cm deep. Hollows and high places must be levelled out. Use a long board as well as much tramping with your heals - this will find all the soft spots that would sink and create hollows after the very first rain. A roller is not suitable at this stage for developing a level surface as it will simply roll the mounds and straddle the low bits.

                Most lawns are sown with fine leafed grass seed such as Fescue and Browntop and this is fine for a show lawn. But for a hard wearing lawn that will take the punishment of family cricket and playful dogs select a lawn mixture that contains some Rye in the mix. Clover is not recommended in a good lawn as it produces a large head of leaves that spread over a largish area in summer then shrinks back in winter, allowing weeds to take over before the clover re-grows.

                Because the seed is so small divide the whole lot into four parts and sow up and down the area then across as well as diagonally for an even coverage. Rake the seed in very lightly and roll. Moisten each morning to stop the birds from enjoying wonderful dust baths and you will find cats are not fond of digging damp soil either. Moisture is also vital for germination.  When the grass is 6cm to 8cm high it may be cut with a lawn mower set high.

                OLD LAWNS that are only slightly uneven and have good grass can be transformed into a really nice lawn. Spray out dandelions and daisies and 

            Autumn is the best time to sow a NEW LAWN and rejuvenate an old lawn. Lawns establish better from March to mid April when the autumn rains will soak well into the soil while it is still warm.

                First remove all perennial weeds, such as couch and dock, with a fork and then with a rotary hoe cultivate a seed bed about 20cm deep. Hollows and high places must be levelled out. Use a long board as well as much tramping with your heals - this will find all the soft spots that would sink and create hollows after the very first rain. A roller is not suitable at this stage for developing a level surface as it will simply roll the mounds and straddle the low bits.

                Most lawns are sown with fine leafed grass seed such as Fescue and Browntop and this is fine for a show lawn. But for a hard wearing lawn that will take the punishment of family cricket and playful dogs select a lawn mixture that contains some Rye in the mix. Clover is not recommended in a good lawn as it produces a large head of leaves that spread over a largish area in summer then shrinks back in winter, allowing weeds to take over before the clover re-grows.

                Because the seed is so small divide the whole lot into four parts and sow up and down the area then across as well as diagonally for an even coverage. Rake the seed in very lightly and roll. Moisten each morning to stop the birds from enjoying wonderful dust baths and you will find cats are not fond of digging damp soil either. Moisture is also vital for germination.  When the grass is 6cm to 8cm high it may be cut with a lawn mower set high.

                OLD LAWNS that are only slightly uneven and have good grass can be transformed into a really nice lawn. Spray out dandelions and daisies and rake or scarify up old thatched grasses that tend to choke out a lot of lawn grass which is often the cause of a thin patchy lawn. Fill in the low areas with soil and tramp, rake, level and sow lawn seed. Scatter some seed over scarified area and sprinkle a little top soil on top of the seed and keep it moist to help the germination.

            If GRASS GRUB has been a problem in the past, attack these pesky pests immediately. Many families of young grubs are silently underground eating the grass roots and it is not until the damage has already been done that we notice the destruction. If damage is already beginning to show sprinkle Soil Insect Killer over the lawn on a mild dewy night.

rake or scarify up old thatched grasses that tend to choke out a lot of lawn grass which is often the cause of a thin patchy lawn. Fill in the low areas with soil and tramp, rake, level and sow lawn seed. Scatter some seed over scarified area and sprinkle a little top soil on top of the seed and keep it moist to help the germination.

            If GRASS GRUB has been a problem in the past, attack these pesky pests immediately. Many families of young grubs are silently underground eating the grass roots and it is not until the damage has already been done that we notice the destruction. If damage is already beginning to show sprinkle Soil Insect Killer over the lawn on a mild dewy night.