My second-hand year: time to revive the compost heap
I’m going back to Nature, fixing climate change – doing my own composting at home. Actually I’ve decided to stop ignoring the compost that was already there when we moved to Brighton four years ago. Second-hand natural goodness, returning to the Earth where it belongs.
People who like compost love compost, they eulogise about it. I love it too. That wonderful earthy, peaty smell is one of the true joys of gardening.
Love the Earth! Become part of the nutrient cycle!
2nd-hand year savings:
multi-purpose compost, 50 litres from our local garden centre: £6
my home-grown compost: £0
Total saved so far: £87.95 (including my new Massimo Dutti top, see below)
1. It reduces food waste. UK waste campaigning organisation WRAP estimates 10 million tonnes of food was wasted in the UK in 2015 – by composting at home you are helping to remove that waste, equivalent to taking around one in six vehicles off the roads (see also my article on food waste apps, A Brilliant Way to Save Waste and Feed People)
2. It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests, without using chemical fertilisers
3. It encourages bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material
4. It lowers your carbon footprint, reducing methane emissions from landfills
It also saves a lot of good food going into landfill and puts it back to work nourishing the Earth as Nature intended. And food not wasted means water not wasted (see my article on how a small desert country manages to actually export water).
But to me by far the biggest benefit is: it puts you in touch. In touch with the stunningly beautiful planet Earth we all come from, live our whole lives in, depend on for everything and eventually go back to.
So in my household now, we waste very little food, and what we cannot use mostly ends up on the compost heap. Which is why I need to get it working soon.
But how do I get this to work? So far my 20 years of compost-making has resulted in about a spoonful of decent compost. Even when we inherited a bin-load of wonderful healthy compost I managed to turn it into something useless. But this time it’s going to be different.
The large worm community that were in it have all left home. The rest of the compost heap just sits there looking at me, unchanged from month to month. Nothing is heating up. From time to time I hopefully pull open the door at the bottom only to find a bunch of twigs & straw – bone dry too.
I heard seaweed was good for composting at home so I took to the beach with my bucket and spade (no air miles as I live there already), collected some and chucked it on the heap. Sadly the miracle I had expected didn’t come.
I heard they like a bit of air so I would occasionally poke around half-heartedly with a garden fork. Maybe this would do the trick where seaweed hadn’t, but alas, I still hadn’t found that magic formula.
On the South Downs near where I live Veolia, who run our recycling depots, collect huge amounts of garden ‘waste’ – up to 60,000 tonnes of it – and turn it into compost. I’ve seen the skips they collect it in and they are huge. I mean massive! Out of this comes Pro-Grow, which Veolia sells back to the local community.
I wouldn’t say I’m obsessive but that compost heap is now on my daily list. I’m going to go out and look at it every day until it’s better.
Advice from Sussex Green Living :
- chop up or shred tough stems or prunings
- add soil, finished compost or a compost accelerator
- turn the heap with a garden fork from time to time
- occasionally add a little crumpled newspaper
- keep the compost warm and moist (but not wet)
(not sure how I’m going to keep it warm though – move to the South of France?)
So I’m going out right now to turn my compost and add some soil. The right mix apparently is 50% brown stuff and 50% green stuff.