1 May 2014 - 12:00am

The joys of compost making

Now the mowing season is underway, what are you doing with your grass clippings? How about turning them into compost? No, it’s not that hard work, and if you always put them in the green bin, shame on you and please read on…. I confess I am a compost anorak. I bloomin love the stuff. To put a load of garden waste (and other materials – see later) in a pile that turns into beautiful, dark, crumbly compost warms my poor old gardener’s heart. There has been a huge amount of research into how to make it and how it can benefit your soil and it is Absolutely All Good News. There are billions of beneficial organisms in a spoonful of compost (OK, I may exaggerate, but only a bit) that improve the structure of your soil, whether it’s really heavy clay like here at Charnwood, or if it’s dry and sandy, or any in between. And if you get the soil in good heart, your plants will thrive. Without many years of applying garden compost I would not be able to grow the range, quality and quantity of plants we do here, the soil would not let me. So, how to do it? First – relax, it’s not rocket science. The trick is to get it not too wet or dry. So you need a mixture of wet and dry, or ‘green’ and ‘brown’ material. Green includes your grass clippings or kitchen waste, brown is items such as last year’s bedding plants or leftover dead perennials, shredded paper or straw. Little pill boxes and the insides of loo rolls are a good addition, they trap some air, which helps. We keep a pedal bin in the kitchen for vegetable and fruit peelings, egg shells and tea bags and add that. Nothing cooked on your compost heap please or you may attract rats, and not big layers of dry leaves; they will slow the process down unless they are chopped up with the mowings. Now – add it to the mix and give it a regular stir. We have nine compost bins (hence the anorak status) but I would recommend at least 2 for any but the smallest garden. That way you can fill up one bin and, when it’s got going and is all nice and steamy, you can turn it into the other. Turning it speeds up the composting process hugely. When you turn it, give a good stir. If it feels a bit soggy, add some more brown matter such as paper shreddings. When it’s too dry, put the hose on it for a bit. Fresh farmyard manure can burn plants, so that is best added to the compost heap. If you do this often enough you will get lovely compost in a matter of weeks. If, like me, you are a bit old and tired and just leave it, it may take months or even a year. But why worry? You can a) cancel your gym membership and/or get a better night’s sleep and b) feel smug as it’s free and c) feel happy for your plants as it’s fab for your garden. Finally – I’ve just weeded a border and mulched it lightly with my compost. Comparisons with Kew Gardens very welcome. (Note we are not opening this year!).