As the weather warms up there is more and more to do in the garden. The warm summer like days combined with the regular thunder storms and rain means the grass is growing at an alarming rate. I swear I can sit with a cup of tea and watch it grow. And this is a good thing because when that grass is mowed I take the clippings and combine them with dried leaves and other stuff to make gorgeous rich and organic compost.
One of my favourite garden jobs is to make compost. I can’t really say why I find it so satisfying. Turning garden waste into a valuable garden resource that nourishes and improves the soil feels deeply good and virtuous somehow.
The difference in the health and vigour of my plants after adding compost is astounding. It is the most helpful resource for your garden. It is also great for the environment because it uses up waste products that might otherwise end up in land fill or garbage dumps. It also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere – thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gases.
I have several compost ‘bins’ because we make and use a lot of compost. One is in the corner of the chicken house. I have simply used an old piece of scrap corrugated iron wedged into the corner with bricks. We pile all the compost ingredients behind it. It is convenient because I can rake up the chicken manure and the scraps the chickens don’t eat as well as straw and grass clippings.
When the compost is ready, I take away the iron and easily shovel out the compost into a wheel barrow to take to the garden.
The other bin is in the corner of the vegetable garden. It is also a simple square of corrugated iron open on one side for easy access.
You can use a plastic bins with lids, tumbling composters or just make a pile on the ground with no walls at all. It all depends on how much space you have and how tidy you like your garden to be! Personally, I quite like the rambling, slightly overgrown yet highly productive garden look. If you can, it’s great to have two or even three compost bins. One that is your working bin (meaning you are adding to it currently), one that is full and in the process of composting down and one that is fully composted and ready to use.
To make compost (without it becoming a smelly mess) you need the right balance of ingredients.
There are really only two kinds of ingredients:
Brown (carbon containing, dry. Example – dry leaves, dry grass clippings, hay, straw, sawdust etc.)
Green (nitrogen containing, wet.) Example – fresh grass clippings, fresh manure, green leaves, food scraps, weeds, fresh garden waste.
The ratio of green to brown is very important because it causes a chemical reaction and heat which helps to kill weed seeds, diseases and insects and breaks the compost pile down quickly.
Too much green and the pile will become smelly and slimy. Too much brown and the pile will be too cold and slow to break down.
The ratio is 2:1 (green to brown) by volume. For example:
- 2 spadefuls of grass clippings to one spadeful of shredded dry leaves or straw.
- Or two spadefuls of food scraps to one spadeful of dry grass clippings.
Autumn is a great time to make compost because there are usually a lot of dry leaves around. Spring and summer are also excellent composting times because the grass and weeds are growing and can be utilised in the compost.
So get out there and create some garden love – AKA compost!