The secret of good soil is attributed to its composition – each year we throw away tonnes of precious nutrients that could help our gardens really thrive.
Millions of tonnes of garden waste, such as grass cuttings, prunings and leaves, are sent to landfill sites each year – in fact it equates to filling the Royal Albert Hall with grass, twigs and leaves more than 70 times over!
This valuable source of nutrients could be turned into compost.
The information advice service WRAP at www.recyclenow.com has a wealth of invaluable information about how to make the most out of household and garden waste.
It may be a surprise but a third of the average household bin can be composted. This includes: fruit and vegetable peelings; teabags; cardboard and newspaper; and your garden waste.
To get started first invest in a compost bin. The experts on the recycling website suggest this is placed on a level, well-drained spot. This allows excess water to drain out and makes it easier for helpful creatures such as worms to get in and get working on breaking down the contents. A partially sunny spot can help speed up the composting process.
Compost relies on the right ingredients to make it work. Good things to compost include vegetable peelings, fruit waste, teabags, plant prunings and grass cuttings. These are considered ‘greens’. These are quick to rot and provide important nitrogen and moisture. Other things to compost include cardboard egg boxes, scrunched up paper and fallen leaves. These are considered ‘browns’ and are slower to rot. They provide fibre and carbon and also allow important air pockets to form in the mixture. Crushed eggshells can be included to add useful minerals.
Certain things should never be placed in the bin. No cooked vegetables, no meat, no dairy products, no diseased plants, and definitely no dog mess or cat litter, or baby’s nappies. Putting these in your bin can encourage unwanted pests and can also create odour. Also avoid composting perennial weeds, like dandelions and thistle or weeds with seed heads. Remember that plastics, glass and metals are not suitable for composting and should be recycled separately.
The key to good compost lies in getting the mix right. Keep greens and browns properly balanced. If compost is too wet, add more browns. If it’s too dry, add some greens. Making sure there is enough air in the mixture is also important. Adding scrunched up bits of cardboard is a simple way to create air pockets that will help keep your compost healthy. Air can also be added by mixing the contents. After about six to nine months the finished compost will be ready.
Finished compost is a dark brown, almost black soil-like layer that you’ll find at the bottom of your bin. It has a spongy texture and is rich in nutrients. Some bins have a small hatch at the bottom that you can remove to get at the finished product, but sometimes it’s even easier to lift the bin or to tip it over to get at your compost. Spreading the finished compost into your flowerbeds greatly improves soil quality by helping it retain moisture and suppressing weeds.
Other ways of supporting the environment:
Everyone should try to reduce the amount of water used in homes and gardens. Why not try some of the following?
* Fit a nozzle on your hosepipe so you can control how much water you use
* Grey water (such as dishwater or water from washing vegetables) can be used to water plants as long as it’s allowed to cool, contains no chemicals and isn’t used on plants you intend to eat!
* Collect rainwater in a water butt
* Use a soil conditioner or home made compost to aid moisture retention
* Choose plants which like dry conditions, such as grasses, herbs and succulents.
There’s not much in our homes that can’t be put to a good use in the garden!