Another wet and rainy day and all I can think about is the compost heap (well may be not all).
We all slip up, drop clangers and get it wrong so I thought I would list some of my own compost errors or lash-ups.
Gardening can be like that so I try not to beat myself up when things go wrong. There is always another season and a worse clanger elsewhere.
Soggy Compost Mistakes
- An over wet compost heap will smell something rotten, really stink and I mean badly.
- Nutrients will be washed out at the bottom of the heap and lost.
- The composting process will be slowed almost to a stop.
- I wish I had covered my heap before all this heavy rain.
- Good compost needs air so it may help to turn and drain the wet heap.
- Belatedly I have been putting some torn up newspaper in the heap as roughage and to soak up some excess fluids.
- Because this time I have built the heap on soil I can reclaim some of the goodness by taking a level of soil when I spread the compost.
- In the past I have relied on a heap with no sides just a pile. This flattens out and spreads without ever getting to a good heat except perhaps in the center
- As you may see from the picture below some wood has rotted. You need to use tanalised or treated wood to prevent the structure from rotting.
- A plastic bin where ‘you can draw clean compost from the bottom whilst refilling at the top’ was an unmitigated, uncomposted disaster but I may not have followed the rules
- For the first time I have two discrete piles. For too many years I made do and mended with one. Now I wish I had three piles – ho hum!
- Compost heaped on a concrete base is easy to work, turn and collect for spreading.
- Leave room for your barrow so you can unload and reload comfortably
- Do not build too near your neighbors kitchen window or cover your own air grates (mistakes I have previously made).
Compost Content Mistakes
- I do not put meat products on the heap but last winter a family of rats made a nest in the warm pile
- For several years I did not compost rhubarb leaves as I heard they were toxic. Of course they rot down and are quite safe.
- Everyone must have tried to compost too much of the same vegetation and I have had too many grass mowings in a dry clump or a wet mess more times than I should mention. I now try to aerate the pile or turn it over regularly.
- Leaves from trees take longer to rot, contain less nutrients and are better in a leaf pile or punctured plastic bag. Twigs need to be shredded or cut very small.
- Seeds from weeds and plants including fox gloves and forget-me-nots do not rot they survive
- After the mistake of too much water do not forget a dry heap will not rot either – you need some damp or add water when very dry.
Compost Mistake Elimination
- Good compost starts with a range of good materials from a mixture of green plants and shredded brown matter.
- Fungi and creepy crawlies breakdown the material and they need air and moisture to do their best
- Heat helps kill pathogens and unwanted seed so keep a lid on a good sized pile and insulate the sides.
- Turn the pile for even rotting as this stops the edges rotting more slowly