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Hi frances, I'm replying to you as a citizen of northern Scotland, well Skye as you can see, and certainly not as an expert! However if I can add my two'penneth. I created my first raised bed 2 seasons ago and filled it with loam and compost from the garden centre. It's only one planks depth and I've topped it up several times, partly i must add with my own excellent compost!!, and this year, with onions and garlic planted, I noticed after all the rain it settled down to only half way up the board. I don't know the science of it but I've put a lot of material onto my beds and there's still room for more.
I had been very frustrated with my first efforts at composting, but since starting a new garden 2 years ago I have read a lot about the subject and have now reached the point where I am delighted with my compost. I presume the temperature outside the bin plays its part but the make up of the bin can create its own heat. Bearing in mind, to get to your point, about our position in the country, although my bin is in full sun ( is that the big yellow thing that appears in the sky occasionally?) it is very exposed to all the wind and rain and has only ever felt warm....never hot. I have now used compost from the bottom half of the bin several times in the last year, and although not perfect it is doing the job in my veg patch. The next lot, weather permitting, will go on my beds in a month or so and is really good, and there's plenty of it. Four lessons that have helped me personally in the last year were:- chopping up garden waste and straw to speed up the process ( I've ordered a cheap shredder to help even more); putting large amounts in at once; turning the heap regularly ( quite awkward and tiring in my bin, but well worth it ); and using cardboard in fair amounts.
I looked at this part of the forum because it was about cardboard.......and i must say I love cardboard! We own a shop where we sell loads of stationery and consequently have a lot of packing boxes left over. We give a lot to customers to re-use but I use a fair amount on my garden also. I have always used scrunched up kitchen and toilet paper rolls, but for the last year I have been adding broken down cardboard boxes that have played another roll first. I now have five veg beds and started off killing weeds and grasses over winter by covering the earth on two of them with black plastic liners......didn't work well at all, and because I had so much spare cardboard ( and it was quite thick...no good for the compost bin as it was) I covered the other beds in that and topped it off with wet grass cuttings. It worked a treat. At the start of spring I scraped off some of the grass, but not all, and I had bare soil and very few weeds. I then pulled up some of the broken down soggy cardboard. What was left on the soil dug in easily, and the excess was great for the compost bin, even in fairly large amounts, mixed in with drier materials obviously. Two birds with one stone! Hope this is helpful and also hope for a better years weather!
Thank you, Steve. With no lawn, I've no grass clippings, which I know heat up a compost bin, and mine never seems to warm up at all. I have the feeling that the shredded paper from my cat's litter tray should work like torn-up cardboard, but I just don't know enough about it.
Frances, it sounds like your biggest problem is not having enough bulk to put in the heap at once? That was my problem until I moved here, so I have now solved that. However I have still 'shopped around' ( local friends gardens and stables ) to find supplies of leaves and manure ( very good on its own or in smaller quantities in the heap). Do you live near the coast? If you do, seaweed is a wonderful activater. It is amazingly heavy carrying in a bin liner, but if you can get good amounts it also adds the bulk as well. Dry it out and then chop it up first though otherwise it takes along time to break down. Good luck.