Journey to my compost bays

Sunday, 03 May 2020

International Compost Awareness Week runs from 3 to 9 May this year. Started in Canada in 1995, this is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry. This year's theme is Soil Loves Compost. The aim of the week is to raise awareness that the use of compost can improve or maintain high-quality soil, grow healthy plants, reduce the use of fertiliser and pesticides, improve water quality, and protect the environment through storing carbon as a significant effort for climate change mitigation. The main message is that all soils can be improved with the addition of compost!

My new compost bays

I have always been a devotee of compost as I was basically brought up on the stuff (metaphorically speaking!) by two fanatical composters: my parents. Each had their own methods of composting, which they swore by, and I in turn have developed my own approach over the years. My current systems comprise firstly a set of three large, wooden bays where all the woody prunings and large leaves from the garden are processed, using a petrol-driven mulcher. The material is mixed with the occasional bag of cow manure and turned every so often with a compost aerator. The resulting material is used in the garden when still rather coarse, as a surface mulch. Secondly, I have another set of two smaller bays in my top garden (which I forget to mention in the video!), which are used just for lawn clippings, soft materials from trimming and deadheading, and small leaves, which are just piled up and turned with a composting aerator every so often, as with the larger compost system in the back garden. The material is allowed to decompose for longer and is the compost I use to dig in when planting something new.

Compost tumbler

Finally, kitchen scraps go into one of several enclosed compost tumbler drums, along with shredded paper to balance out the wetness of the scraps. (I used to use compost domes for this material but they were invaded by rats!) I've found that the product of these drums is still rather squelchy even with the addition of the paper, and so is hard to use directly in the garden, so I now place this stuff in my worm farm for the worms to transform into fine vermicast. They love it! I dilute the vermicast in water and apply it as a fertiliser to vegetables, annuals and perennials. It can also be used as an additive when preparing potting mixture, or dug into the soil.

Lemon form of Ruellia brevifolia

Today's video visits the first system: the large wooden bays at the bottom of my garden. These were actually built for me as a birthday present a few years ago. Needless to say, I was thrilled, because the previous 'system' was just a collection of random piles of 'stuff'. On the way to the compost bays, we will briefly visit a few more shade-loving plants that grow nearby, including the lemon form of Ruellia brevifolia, coleus, Aspidistra, Plectranthus barbatus, Plectranthus argentatus, Ruscus, Arthropdium, Strobilanthes gossypina, Justicia adhatoda (where I struggle to pronounce the name!) and Helleborus argutifolius. This is quite a dry shade area though it is now being irrigated by our grey-water system, which might be glimpsed as a purple pipe during the video. However, all these plants have survived well in this dry area for some years.