Sunday, November 09, 2008

Save the environment .... compost your kitchen waste!

My 'compost cake' showing rotted and half rotted compost

Believe it or not but part of the fight against Global warming is home composting. We throw away an amazing amount of uncooked food waste in our kitchens which when put into landfill tips releases harmful greenhouse gasses as it tries to decompose buried under tonnes of rubbish. The answer is to save it and put it into a home composter to prevent that and also to provide beautifully rich compost to either pot up plants with or enrich flower/veg beds.

The secret to successful composting is to make sure that you have a good mix of different types of waste. Things fall into different groups ...

BROWNS ... Woody garden cuttings twigs and sawdust, cardboard, egg boxes, toilet rolls, newspaper, shredded paper.

GREENS ... Old flowers and bedding plants, uncooked kitchen scraps, peelings, t-bags, grass cuttings, annual weeds.

NEVER PUT IN ... cooked food, meat, perennial weeds with roots, dairy products, diseased plants, cat/dog muck.

The way to compost well is to make sure you have an ample mix of the above ingredients, keep it damp and just keep feeding the bin.

It takes about 9-12 months for the ingredients to rot down properly. I find that the best way to access the usable compost is to remove the bin by lifting it up and revealing the bin contents as a 'compost cake', you will find that the usable stuff is in the bottom 1/2 section and as you move up the layers become less rotted. I did this the other afternoon with the 2 bins at home, I took the top layers off and put them back into the bin to carry on rotting and then I sieved the usable stuff to produce the most fantastic compost for FREE!!!! About 6 big plastic sacks full! Go on, do your bit for the environment AND your garden!

Compost cake (courtesy of wrap website)

Monday, November 03, 2008

All is well

Well, after having not been up to the plot for weeks due to the weather/vandalism/lack of oomph and stuff, we finally got there to do a bit of tidying up. What with the vandalism and other issues it has been difficult to feel like going and sorting things out but once we got there and got going it reminded us both just how therapeutic it can be.
The weather has now taken a big turn for the worse and we've had several frosts now which has knocked back all tender plants, it is amazing how one day it can be all green and lush with things still in flower and then the next day it's all brown mush. The next couple of pics were taken a few days before the frosts arrived so we still have chrysanthemums, marigolds and sunflowers in flower.

Calabrese in the foreground with nasturtiums and the remainder of the borlotti beans drying on the canes behind

'D' mowing the grass on plot 2 where all the Chrysanths and Sunflowers are

Rocket (gone to seed) producing the most beautiful flowers

The plot is still producing masses of produce, Parsnips, courgette (marrow sized!), Curly Kale, Cabbage, Calabrese, Summer sprouting broccoli, Carrots, Swede, Squash and pumpkins. I actually like autumn and winter crops a bit more than spring ones I think, nothing can beat oven roasted root veg with a beef casserole and dumplings! The parsnips really have been amazing this year, I chitted the seeds at the beginning of the year (see here) and can only think that is why they germinated so well and have produced such HUGE sized roots. Sadly the carrots haven't been too great due to slug and carrot fly damage. The fly damage has been really bad this year and I am going to have to put up some sort of barrier next year to prevent it. Apparently they can only fly to 30 cm or so height so if you put a barrier of fleece around the outside of the bed at that height they won't get to them, sounds a bit far fetched but maybe worth having a go.

We also harvested the last of the Borlotti beans which I'm drying off to store so that they can be used in stews and soups later on. 'D' surprised me with an early birthday present before we went up to the plot, a pair of Felco secateurs which I had been after since I saw them at Chelsea flower show. They're not cheap and boy can you tell when you use them, they actually work well and cut things properly unlike the £10 ones we normally make do with and they should last a lifetime! The model is number 7 which has a rotating handle to eliminate stress on the hands when using them, the handle swiveling as you squeeze them together feels odd at first but it really does make them feel so easy to use. I can't believe I'm getting excited about secateurs ... I think I'm getting old!!!!!!