The miracle of compost
The miracle of compost
If you haven't started composting your peelings and food waste, there's no time like the present to get into the habit. Deco reader and interiors photographer Mike Harris has, and he's keen to spread the word as well as the mulch
Gardens are miraculous places with their magnificent displays of colour that appear each year out of an apparently lifeless winter garden.
And within the garden, the biggest miracle for me is the compost heap: the perfect place for the useful disposal of organic household and garden waste. Did you know that up to half of all household waste can be composted? not only vegetable trimmings and teabags but vacuum-cleaner dust, cereal boxes, shredded paper and wood ash. Alternative disposal would be landfill (with its harmful methane emissions) or incineration, which produces CO2.
What I love is that not only is it a convenient system for getting rid of waste, it produces free compost, a rich and valuable source of mineral nutrients plants need to grow.
I'm no gardening expert and I don't want to teach any grandmothers to suck eggs, but if you grimace at the thought of a container in your kitchen full of scraps, well... let me take you through the cycle.
We put fruit and veg peelings, teabags, coffee grinds, along with loo rolls, egg boxes and torn up cereal boxes into a compost bin by the sink. When full, can I say that it's NOT a putreying stinking mass, and I tip it onto the compost heap. Onto this same heap go grass mowings, garden cuttings and prunings (except if they're very woody). The heap fills up quite quickly, especially during the growing season… but this is when the miracle occurs.
Because when your back is turned, the ecosystem gets to work: millipedes, slugs, snails and woodlice shred and digest the plant materials as they decay, creating a greater surface area for funghi and bacteria to work on.
Worms and fly larvae burrow through the heap, eating and aerating it as they go. In the process, the heap dramatically reduces in size, so when you return to add further waste a couple of weeks later, a once full heap is now only half-full. You fill it again, turn your back for a couple of weeks, and the same miraculous result occurs.
We're lucky enough to have space in our garden for two 6 x 4ft heaps, each of which rises to about 5ft. Over the space of a year, the first heap gets properly full. At this point, usually in the autumn, the second heap, which has been abandoned for the best part of a year, apart from occasional turning, is ready to have the compost dug out and spread over the flower beds as a mulch. This suppresses weeds, helps retain soil moisture and feeds plants with nitrogen and phosphorous.
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