Where There’s Muck..

Crocus 'Snow Bunting'


Crocus ‘Snow Bunting’

The first to bloom of the container grown bulbs. So far so good..


And so. 2018 is Consolidation Year. A year when I resist, as far as is possible, the temptation to dive headlong into new projects and focus instead on improving the areas of cultivated garden I already have. It’s all too easy to get distracted while the borders that I once sweat blood over submit themselves back into wilderness by reason of neglect.

It’s a year of going back to basics and surely there is nothing more basic than compost. The trouble is I’ve never been much good at producing it. I look in envy at Monty Don’s array of five compost bins side by side and the black gold that he casually lifts out of the end one and caresses lovingly in his hand. The sort that crumbles at the lightest touch with not a single unrotted twig or bindweed root. The ‘compost’ that I’m more likely to experience sits either in the form of a soggy stinking mess or a heap of dried up sticks that have conspicuously failed to break down at all. Well, this year all that is going to change.



 We inherited the bins above. Don’t be deceived by any initial impression of robustness. The illusion is maintained by an almost rusted through iron framework and holes in the rear patched up with corrugated tin. The first year I did in fact get some useful compost out of it, after a fashion. The ladder was my way in and what a faff and energy sapping exercise that turned out to be. Some time after the event I discovered that the sides of the bins did indeed swing open. Which would have made access a doddle now wouldn’t it. Doh.

But if we are to get truly serious about compost we need bins that are less inclined to rely on their contents to hold themselves up. And more of them too so, like Monty, we (I?) can progress the delectably decomposing detritus down the line, turning and aerating from one bin to the next, transforming my ample supply of weeds slowly but surely into that coveted black gold. Except for the bindweed of course. And anything else that re-shoots from so much as a molecule of root. Or anything that is about to seed. Or any plant material that might be diseased. Those must still make their way to the bonfire pile.



Reconstruction in progress

 That pile of rocks and the bags of sharp sand had been hidden by Mike behind the old compost bins. Where they wouldn’t be seen..



The value of compost really can’t be overestimated. As well as the benefit to the soil in terms of added nutrients and structure a compost mulch suppresses annual weeds and locks in moisture. Much to our surprise we did find some useable compost at the bottom of the old bins, as evidenced by the heap in the photo above. Once the weather improves I can already start mulching.

The new bins will fill rapidly with all the expired foliage (so ‘last year’) due to be cut from the garden in the weeks to come. And it doesn’t end there. In my idle wanderings around cyberspace I found a list of 163 different items (here) which can go into a compost bin. It includes: Vegetable waste from the kitchen. Old spices. No, not the aftershave. Pasta and any other dry ingredients which long since completed their migration to the unreachable part of the store cupboard. Coffee grounds. We have a lot of those chez rusty duck. Stale beer and wine. OK, not so much! Paper and cardboard, shredded. Hair and nail clippings. Starfish (dead ones!). Your guess is as good as mine. Cotton fabric scraps and wool, shredded. The contents of the vacuum, including all that horsehair from the upholstery. Sawdust from the Man Shed, provided it’s come from untreated wood. Plants that someone left so long in the pot ghetto they turned up their roots. Not that you or I would have any of those, right?

It seems the reason I’ve failed dismally in the past is that I didn’t get the balance right between the soft, wet, green stuff (such as grass cuttings) and brown, dry, woody shrub prunings, dead leaves and stems. Also because previously I’ve never bothered turning the heap to let in air. Containing the material in a bin traps in heat which makes rotting happen faster. And in Devon I should have absolutely no problem incorporating sufficient moisture. All I need to do is leave off the lid.

But would three bins be sufficient? Well that was the question. Especially with all those nail clippings to find a home for. The area covered by the new bins wasn’t hugely bigger than that occupied by the inherited two and it didn’t take long to fill those. Fortunately the system we’re now using is modular. And delivery is prompt..



We ordered another one while Mike was on a roll.

Could I go to five? Well there is room. But then I would risk upstaging Monty. And that would never do.



Way to go…

Crikey, I could almost be a proper gardener now.