Heaps of Fun
good for plants, gets rid of rubbish and makes a home
for all sorts of wildlife. It's a must for every garden
says Michaela Strachan
Well it's that time of the year when the lawn seems
to grow quicker than David Beckham's bank account and
you're constantly trying to hide bin bags full of cuttings
amongst the rubbish so that the refuse collectors will
unknowingly dispose of it. But help is at hand, not
with cutting the lawn (I'm actually a bit busy for that)
but I can certainly solve the other bit.
Yes this month I'm talking rubbish - compost to be precise.
If you haven't already got a compost bin or heap, I
can recommend that you invest in one. If we're talking
'wildlife friendly gardens' it's a must.
You'll always know that the compost you're using is
organic and environmentally friendly, and that you're
reducing the amount of rubbish going into landfill sites.
And you'll attract a small compost community that will
be unwittingly helping your garden grow. These include
woodlice, worms, hedgehogs, toads, and a variety of
insects and, if you're really lucky, grass snakes.
You could buy a compost bin - anything from a very simple
dustbin type to a really fancy one that has a handle
to turn the compost - or you can make your own. Again,
depending on how Handy Andy you are, you can either
construct a simple wire bin made out of chicken wire
stapled to 4 posts and lined with cardboard. Or, if
you're feeling more adventurous, you could make a wooden
slatted one. And we have a workshop telling you how
to do it: 'How to make a compost bin'.
It's important that
the compost doesn't get too sodden. So it's a good idea
to cover the top with something. When I bought a compost
bin a few years ago I found it hard to get a small one.
So I bought a plastic rubbish bin and cut a few holes
in it so it could aerate. I also cut a largish hole
in the bottom for access (for wildlife as well as to
get at the compost) that I covered loosely with a piece
of wood. Anyway, mine seems to have worked very well.
There are plenty of things you can put into a compost
bin apart from grass cuttings although don't put too
many in and mix them well with other materials, otherwise
they make the compost too wet and slimy. As with everything
in life, variety is the spice!
You can add lots of other garden waste and plenty of
kitchen waste. Weeds, soft prunings, old pot plants,
old straw and hay, hedge clippings, autumn leaves, sawdust,
ripped up woollen and cotton fabric, bedding from vegetarian
pets like hamsters, brown cardboard, paper bags, vegetable
plant waste, used tea bags, egg shells, fruit and veg
scraps, used kitchen roll and even human urine if you
feel so inclined! [Phew.]
Things that are a definite no no include dog or cat
poo, cooked leftovers, meat or fish (it could encourage
rats), disposable nappies, seeding weeds, bindweed,
and coal ash.
Composting should be a very simple, straightforward
way of recycling but there are a few things you can
do to help it along.
* Include both soft and tough material, too soft and
your pile could end up too slimy, too tough and it could
end up taking forever to compost.
* Inspect your compost regularly. If it seems too dry
add a bit of water. Too wet, mix in shredded paper,
cardboard and air.
* Don't pack the waste down. It's important that air
can circulate. Put the lid back on each time to keep
in the heat.
* Don't put your bin in direct sunlight.
* Turn your compost regularly - about every 6 weeks
- unless you discover any nesting wildlife in which
case it's best left alone. C
* Compost takes on average a year to turn into dark
brown, crumbly, nutrient rich pile so be patient!
Many locals councils provide compost bins free or cheaper
than buying one from a garden centre - it's worth checking
whether yours does. In some areas there are community
composting projects. These are great to contribute to
if you've used up your own compost bin. In fact, it's
a good idea to invest in 2 compost bins, one in the
process of composting and one of well-rotted compost
ready for use.
If you're a junior composter then why not join Wildlife
Watch ( the junior section of the Wildlife Trust). Not
only is it a great organisation to get involved with,
but you can also get a fab composting poster so you
know what creatures to keep an eye out for. For more
detail call the Wildlife Trust on 01636 677711.
with premission from Greenfingers.com