London (change)
Today 22°C / 15°C
Tomorrow 21°C / 15°C
14 messages
19/12/2012 at 14:35

3 years ago, I inherited a large, mature garden. I've made my own compost heaps using chicken wire. I make sure there is a good mix of materials, not too much of anything and nothing on the 'forbidden' list. I start the heap in Spring, filling it till autumn, then cover & leave for a year. I'm finding when I come to use it  there is some wonderful brown, crumbly soil, but a lot of it has turned into a dry, orange, fibrous mass which I doubt has any nutritional value at all. So I end up discarding much of my compost. Is anyone able to tell me what I'm doing wrong?

19/12/2012 at 14:42

You are probably not turning it enough-grass cuttings will often "mat up" if not mixed in-every now and again take it all out and re-heap it-this where more than one heap/bin comes in handy

Nutritional value of any homemade compost is debatable by the way-it is usually just used as a soil conditioner

19/12/2012 at 15:06

Thanks, sinderfella, in fact I don't turn it at all, as it's a very big heap and so would be very hard work. Perhaps I should consider turning it, otherwise all my hard work creating it, goes to waste. Leaving fallen leaves for a year in black bin liners has, by comparison, produced some wonderful soil for very little effort!

19/12/2012 at 15:41

Rachel, Compost needs air heat and moisture, damp not wet.
I turn my compost every six weeks or so by tossing it into a barrow giving it a mix then tossing it back, a watering can with a spray nozzle to wet is as you throw it back is enough. That gets the air in and it will warm up itself, I do cover it at all times to stop it getting soaked by rain.
You can enhance it with a cup full of granular fertiliser mixed in as you turn it, I do have two heaps in wood frames one to use one to fill, in time you get lovely compost, add custard you could eat it. "oh err" don't try this at home.

Frank.

19/12/2012 at 18:05

Wish I had the strength to turn mine every 6 weeks. Wow. At the moment  my in preparation heap is 2 metres by 2 metres by 3 metres tall. Cannot  get any more on top. It will get turned over  into the middle heap if and when I can get on to the garden to empty No. 1 heap. No2. heaps goes on to 1 and 3 into 2 if you see what I mean. Thus it gets 2 turns.

The matted stuff is just as good as anything else, it just needs burying a litttle deeper and wetting as you cover it over with soil.

19/12/2012 at 20:11

So I end up discarding much of my compost

Rachel, don't ever discard compost, (where? how? why?) it is valuable stuff.  You have just let it get too dry.

19/12/2012 at 20:56

Exactly. Even the horrible slimy stuff will eventually turn into good stuff.

19/12/2012 at 23:52
Berghill wrote (see)

Exactly. Even the horrible slimy stuff will eventually turn into good stuff.

Not quite right Berghill, the heap of grass cuttings on our bowling green never rotted down so we had to dig out and bag years of slimy black cuttings and take it to the tip, we learned the lesson and after that gave it to the green waste who could give it the mix and heat needed.
My own heap get a single layer of lawn cuttings about one inch, the rest goes to green waste.

Frank.

20/12/2012 at 07:09

We put all our lawn mowings (from both lawns) on our compost heap, and we layer them with guinea pig poo and the bedding from their cages which is made of shredded newspaper (I receive a carrier bag full every other week  or so from a colleague) and we also compost brown paper bags and shredded brown cardboard.  All our vegetable waste from the kitchen and garden goes on there, plus an occasional watering with 'recycled beer/cider'.  We keep it covered and dry-ish and although I only turn it a few times, I have a long iron bar which I poke into the heap and jiggle it around frequently to aerate it.  The heap heats up well and we get lovely compost 

20/12/2012 at 08:28

Thank you all for your comments. My heap is like Berghill's or even bigger! I inherited a wonderful three quarter acre garden with long, wide, packed mixed borders & sweeping lawn as well as a smaller wooded area. So I generate a huge amount of stuff! Luckily, I can have fires for all the woody material. I put invasive stuff in the wheelie bin, but that still leaves an awful lot to compost! I find it hard to believe the dry, bright orange, fibrous matted stuff has goodness in it, and will break down? It does seem though from all your responses that I'll need to add 'turning compost' to my long To Do list. Sttill working in my earth gym keeps me fit!

20/12/2012 at 10:21

Sorry Frank, I know we have had this discussion before, but all our grass cuttings eventually rot down into usable stuff, even without the fuss of mixing them and turning the heap over. In our previous garden where we did not have room even for a bin, I just did the trench method of composting the grass, across the Vegetable garden and they disappeared  into the soil, no trouble.

For those who do have trouble with grass mowings, when they have gone slimy like that, then the answer is to bury them in the garden.

20/12/2012 at 10:37

I agree with you Berghill, I have 8 "dalek" bins that occupy an area of the garden which is very shady and I fill them in rotation with soft garden waste with layers of grass cuttings and vegetable waste from the kitchen,cardboard, shredded newspaper and add sulphate of ammonia. I never turn them over (I'm too old) and after a year I have lovely compost and it is better than the bought one. No bother at all, I leave nature to get on with it.

20/12/2012 at 11:57

You live and learn.
After bagging a great heap of black stinking mess that had accumulated over the years you do not wish to do it again so the green waste get most of my grass, some does get mixed in the heap no trouble although I make sure never more than an inch at a time and like Dove I use my large crow bar to give it a tickle.

Merry Christmas all and good composting.

Frank.

20/12/2012 at 13:07

Talking to SWIAR, she pointed out that to put our grass mowings in the Green bin would fill both of them, 3 times over with no room for any of the other non-compostable material our garden generates.

Our old neighbours used to just throw their grass cuttings over the hedge into the field behind us. I was looking along the boundary not so long ago (missing cat!) and realised that there was a lovely mound of really good material. I told the new neighbours about it and I noticed the other day that they were collecting it and digging it into their Veg patch. Cat turned up 5 days later by the way.

If you ever want to start an argument in gardening circles then ask about Compost making and watch the stamens fly!

email image
14 messages