Holidays and compost do mix!

Getting back from a holiday no matter how short or long is always a bit depressing but I always look forward to seeing how much has changed in the garden.  The compost bin always surprises! Recently returning from a week away I duly checked the bin.  A week before the bin had been full to the brim with garden debris, organic waste from the kitchen and some grass cuttings.  A week later the contents have shrunk, there is space for more green waste and I know the heap has been working entirely without my help.

But how quickly does a compost heap or bin produce the stuff we can put on the beds and borders?   A lot depends on the sort of compost bin you have - an enclosed, black plastic bin like the ones currently on offer from West Sussex County Council (www.wsussex.getcomposting.com) will help the heap to heat up and speed the composting process.  If you have a home-made, airy bin then the heap may take longer to decompose because it won't get as hot.

Where the bin is placed can be crucial too.  In sun and on soil is a good rule of thumb - that way the heap will get hot and worms and insects can make it their home, munching through the contents and helping to turn them into the final product.

What material you put in the bin will have an effect - a good mix of 'green' and 'browns' works well.

Finally consider how long you want to wait for the compost and what you want to use it for.  After 3 months you may have compost useful for mulching (putting around shrubs and plants to help keep moisture in and weed growth down) or putting in the bottom of a planting hole but too coarse for potting or seed sowing.  Wait six months or more and the magic will have worked turning all your compostibles into a reasonably fine soil conditioner which could be used for seed sowing and potting too.

Decide on the approach which suits you and hurry your heap or leave it to lounge.  Happy Hols.  Annie


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