Friday, 27 August 2010

Compost Tea

MY compost is rubbish. I have been nurturing it for the last year, to little or no effect.

I carefully save eggshells, tea bags, vegetable peelings, fluff from the tumble dryer, shredded paper and grass cuttings, and into the compost bin they go – but do they turn into dark brown, rich, friable soil perfect for growing seeds, cuttings and vegetables? No, they do not.

They just sit there, looking much the same as they did to start with, and smelling a little whiffy. I have added a ‘starter’. I have watered the bin to keep the contents moist. I have stopped watering in case it was too dry.

I stuck a piece of old carpet on the top to keep it warm beneath the lid, and even tried stirring it to mix everything up and aerate it - a task which required me to stand on a chair while wielding a garden fork .

But nothing seems to work.

So when I saw a copy of The Green Guide to Compost, by Rachelle Strauss (Flame Tree Publishing) in a charity shop I pounced on it with enthusiasm.

There are 256 pages all about composting. As The Daughters remarked, you would not have thought there was so much to say on the subject.

But it seems there is.

And this book explains it all, clearly and simply, with plenty of pictures. It tells you why you should compost (good for the environment, saves money), what to put in it – and what to leave out.

There are ‘recipes’ for getting the mix right, tips about layering , greens, browns, hot composting, cold composting, and advice about the different types of containers available, as well as details on the old-fashioned compost heaps that many gardeners still favour.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on ‘How to Influence Your Compost Pile’. Would it were that easy, but so far my rotting rubbish maintains a mind of its own, and refuses to be cajoled or persuaded into what I would regard as correct behavior for a compost in the making.

For a while I wondered if the author had tried hypnotising her garden waste into submission, but careful reading revealed that I should pay more attention to micro-organisms. They need oxygen and carbon-rich materials.

There’s a useful chapter on how to tell when your compost is ready (assuming you gave the patience to wait that long), another on how to use your compost, and an excellent section on trouble-shooting when things go wrong (so I shall ignore a suggestion from the Man of the House who says a visit to the garden centre to buy ready-made products would solve all problems ).

The book also gives information about other composting methods, such as bokashi bins, which can be used to break down left-over cooked food; wormeries and special teas – for the plants, not the gardener.

It was a very informative book but whether the advice it contains will enable me to transform my rubbish heap into a bin full of wonderful soil remains to be seen.


  1. Sounds like a very useful book! As your daughter said, you wouldn't think that that would be that to say about composting! :-) I hope that you find a way for your compost to do what its supposed to! Have a great weekend!
    Hugs, Bethxx

  2. I hope that you eventually end up with wonderful compost after all your efforts. Sounds as if you deserve some spectacular results. We used to compost everything, but were never very successful at it. We were put off when we found a rat had taken up residence. We live over the fence from a field and the compost heap attracted it.
    Good luck with it.


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