Tuesday, 26 July 2011

From The Garden

I feel that my garden is almost as important as my kitchen.  In the summer our garden is an extension of our house, we spend as much time as the British weather will allow out there. If given the chance I would grow my own vegetables as I did in my previous house when the children were little and we all lived together.

I am very keen on gardening without chemicals and pesticides so a very important part of my garden is my compost heap.  ‘Yuck’ I hear you cry or ‘it smells of rotten veggies’ but let me assure you that is not the case.  Some years ago I took an organic gardening course at Capel Manor Horticultural College in North London which was close to where I lived at the time.  It was on that course that I  learned the basics of making good, healthy compost.

If a compost heap is managed correctly it will smell just like a summer meadow. There are a few simple rules such as no cooked food, no dog or cat waste but it is alright to put in any vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, soft garden clippings (best to avoid hard clippings like hedges and rose stems etc).  The occasional bag of rotted horse manure or rabbit poo is also good for the end result.

The greater variety of matter you put into the heap the greater varieties of minerals and nutrients your final compost will have.  Nettles are good to add from time to time as they help accelerate the breaking down process.  The finer you cut the matter the quicker it will break down as well (those tiny microbes can’t take big bites!!)

At the end of the summer/beginning of autumn you ‘put the heap’ to bed for the winter.  Pop a piece of old carpet on top and then a bin bag tightly tucked in and this will help to keep the heap warm throughout the winter so the contents can continue their change into beautiful, rich compost.

I have three compost bins in my garden so as to have a continual supply.  Last weekend we emptied the contents from the middle and right hand bins into the left hand one and this is almost ready.  It is now full and will be left to finish the process without adding any more ‘raw’ materials.  In the spring this left hand bin will be the first one I will start using to pot up the new seedlings.

You can buy compost bins and they come in a couple of different sizes. Your local garden centre will be happy to advise you which one is most suitable for you. (our local garden centre is one of the chain of Notcutts (www.notcutts.co.uk )but there are garden centres all over the country).  It is also worth contacting your Local Authority as they often offer free compost bins or charge a nominal sum of £5-8 depending on the size.  Of course you can always make your own.  Those old pallets you see offered by the size of the road are good, or ask your local building supplier if they have spares and these will work very well.  You can just make a three sided structure to hold the heap in place.

I have my name down with the local council for an allotment site so that I can begin to grow my own vegetables and fruit in a much bigger and more organised way.  I have already waited a year and  it will probably take another year before my name comes up but it will be worth the wait.  Once I get my plot I will start a compost heap to ensure that the process is carried on. 

I am already dreaming about the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables we will have.  I will keep you updated on the progress.

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