Insulating compost

by Pippa Greenwood

The banana skins turn black very quickly, and the local badgers continue to rummage through the heap for potential snacks, but the compost isn't composting.

pg_compostingThere are times when it is, quite frankly, just too freezing to do any work in the garden. In some ways I'm glad of the harsh weather; it should help to finish off garden pests such as slugs, and spores of fungal diseases such as tulip fire.

But the downside of the cold weather is that my compost heap has stopped decomposing. The pile of fruit and vegetable peelings and garden waste has shown little sign of decay in the last few weeks. The banana skins turn black very quickly, and the local badgers continue to rummage through the heap for potential snacks, but the compost isn't composting.

The heap is just too cold to break down. The fungi and bacteria involved with the decomposition process are either in go-slow mode or hibernating, waiting until things warm up. Even the worms are hiding in the base of the heap, where it's slightly warmer.

Right now it's raining buckets so I shall stay inside, but as soon as the weather starts to clear I'll be out there wrapping my compost heap with fleece, cardboard and anything else I can find. This will help to insulate it against the lowest temperatures and kick-start decomposition. It's especially important to have a decent amount of compost this year as I won't be buying any manure. I just hope a winter duvet will do the job!

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2008 at 14:27

yes I agree wooden composts cool down much more easily that the plastic one because my plastic one has not slowed down and I have not been composting for long. Also again the wooden ones are not rat proof, but they are fine for prunings and grass cuttings.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/12/2008 at 22:48

i have a 10 year old monkey puzzle tree which has turned brown and is louseing its scale,s..any idea,s or help or is it dieing...

Gardeners' World Web User 19/12/2008 at 09:52

I have been offered free horse manure from a stable. On looking at the heap I have the choice of half rotted strawy composition or some fully rotted dark black mass. I would normally think of the latter as being best but seem to remember having heard that a strawy material is better. Has anyone views on this?

Gardeners' World Web User 19/12/2008 at 12:33

Having recently moved into a new area where the soil is heavy clay, I have incorportated masses of grit, peat free compost and farmyard manure into my two large vegetable plots. Having had a brain-wave about raised beds, I decided to dig down to make the paths rather than order in extra topsoil which would have to be carted down to the bottom of our 45 metre garden. Problem - the garden slopes down toward the vegetable area which is not a bad thing for moisture but, the path at the bottom is flooded! I've been thinking about digging down further, adding more grit, popping pallets down as a raised path then covering the whole lot with bark chippings. Could anyone suggest an alternative solution please?

Gardeners' World Web User 01/01/2009 at 19:41

Regarding Pippa's dormant compost,you could try using Bokashi. The EMs (Effective Microorganisms) in the special Bokashi Bran sprinkled onto each 2" layer of food waste in a bucket, pickle it anaerobically. After 2-3weeks it can be added to a conventional compost heap, added in small quantities to a wormery, or put directly into a pre-dug trench (great for Runner Beans), and covered with a layer of soil. Once there, the aerobic bacteria take over the rotting process, and it decomposes faster than normal kitchen waste does in the same situation. The Bokashi also renders the material unattractive to vermin. Another great thing about Bokashi is that you can compost cooked food, including meat and dairy, and small bones. Worth a try I reckon. Google the name "Terua Higa", the Japanese scientist who discovered EMs. Makes fascinating reading.

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