17 messages
03/07/2014 at 00:02

Hi,

I don't like spending money. That's the truth of it; I only have a very low income so the garden really does have to pay for itself. I bought 125l of compost today for £6. I want to try and find a way so that I don't have to buy any more, and I want to find ways to make my soil nutritious, because I am growing veg on some of it and some in pots and know that slowly but surely the goodness is getting converted into stuff I am eating.

I only have a small garden and I'm not talking about the "small" garden they showed on Gardener's World recently, but a truely small garden. Then to make matters worse it is north facing and the first quarter is patio, and the next half is grass so my daugher has somewhere to play. What is left is for plants and I have some pots along the path.

I was thinking of a composter but I don't have much space for one. At the end of my garden is my driveway which is next to that of my neighbours. I have a waterbutt coming off the garage roof on there, and my bins. This is really the only place I could put one but I wouldn't want to annoy my neighbours too much and I'd be concerned about smell and flies. How big an issue is that? It would be good to be able to make something positive out of food waste and weeds, as we always struggle to only fill one refuse bin a fortnight and this should mean less waste.

What other options do I have? I've read about growing green manures, and that's certainly something I may do over winter. Oats, or whatever, if i can get hold of some seeds cheaply enough.

Anything else?

Lyn
03/07/2014 at 01:35

A compost bin will never smell nasty, once it gets going its a lovely smell, but you do need two and then some bags to store it in, you never put cooked food in but i expect you know that.

Our garden centre sells well rotted farmyard manure quite cheap, but if you know a farmer, he will probably give you some.  If its well rotted down, you can dig it straight into your patch.

I have to do everything on the cheap as well, its surprising what you can scrounge from friends and neighbours, or swap plants and veg.

Good luck with your venture, you will love it once you get underway.

03/07/2014 at 02:10

Thanks Lyn,

presumably you need two so that one rots away into compost while the other is in use receiving new scraps?

03/07/2014 at 06:56
Ideally you need two ( or three) but if you only have room for one then that's fine. You just need to realise that it may become full so that there may be times when you can't compost your waste, while you are waiting for it to rot down. Being where it gets some sun will help with speed.

Compost bins work quicker the bigger they are but again if you don't mind it being slower a small bin should be fine - you see lots of quite small ones shaped like little bee hives, I know these are expensive but if you have a look it will give you a feel for the size.

Have you tried looking on freecycle, you may get someone offering a compost bin on there.

Some green manures are also pretty flowers such as phacelia. But they are quite space hungry for the goodness they impart so good for beds but not pots. You could let some grow on to get the flowers and dig the rest in when ready to plant you beds.

If growing beans you could dig a deep trench ready and put compost and shredded newspaper in over the winter. You then bury this and plant the beans above. It helps with nutrients and soil structure and would be another way of composting alongside your bins. You could do this over the whole bed, not just for beans.
03/07/2014 at 07:15
Just thought are you near a brewery?

Some give away their spent hops for free. We have a small local brewery that let's you collect as many bags as you like. They don't have a large amount of nutrients but they help improve the soil condition - and a good soil texture helps the plants take up nutrients more efficiently and is also better at storing nutrients.

You don't need to compost them. You can just dig them in or use as a mulch.
03/07/2014 at 10:04
I think you may be better with a wormery, compost really needs turning, im nt sure how able you are to do that, i know i struggle at times, i use the method we used o the allotment which is, dig a large hole, fill it with compostanble stuff, drow beans or squash on it , dig a hole in another bed for the coming year, but this isnt practical in a small garden.
I think Edd is probably the expert on a wormery, but its quite compact, you can add a wide range of things, then you can use the liquid that comes out as a feed (very well diluted) and the other stuff as a soil conditioner
Ive seen people make their own wormaries, but you would have to look this up.
Im pretty skint too! I try to only buy compost for sowing seeds now, i usually buy compressed stuff from discount stores as its really light to carry
Dont be afraid to approach people with horses, they are usually only too happy to get rid of some muck-its flippin heavy tho!
03/07/2014 at 11:19

Snowie,

I've got four compost bins in the garden and one wormery - non of them smell, and with lids on you don't really get any flies or such like. One of the compost bins I got for very little off the local selling site on Facebook which really helps keep the cost down.

I haven't had the wormery long enough to know how well its working but they are meant to be much quicker at breaking the material down than just a normal compost bin. Edd will tell you more when he logs in later.

Another free option for you might be to make your own nettle leaf plant food. I made my first batch some weeks ago and it is stewing away in a sealed tub around the back of the shed. I'm sure you've lanes / fields / hedges / neighbours somewhere nearby that you could forage the nettles from.

Here's a link on how to make it: www.nettles.org.uk/nettles/activities/nettlemanure.asp

Edd
03/07/2014 at 12:24

A stackable worm system sounds ideal for you snowathlete.

http://www.gardenersworld.com/forum/talkback/vermicomposting-for-begginers/255110.html

I recommend the green recycle bins.

Regards

Edd.

03/07/2014 at 12:35
Told you Edd would know!

Closley followed by Clari

Quite fancy one myself, hmmm
Edd
03/07/2014 at 13:52

snowathlete. You could also do a bit of research into 'worm towers' They are basically a wide plastic pipe with holes in that has been sunk into the ground, acting like a worm farm. Lots of videos on Youtube.

03/07/2014 at 16:00

Bekkie if you get the chance do get one! I've been finding it really interesting being able to see the worms in action as they break the composting down. Edd is quite the source of knowledge when you're starting out too and has explained elsewhere on the forum how to get the worms (they're not like normal earth worms) cheaply if not free!

03/07/2014 at 19:32

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Very interesting about worm composting and worm towers. I'm very impressed with your ingenuity Edd. I can see the benefits. I think what concerns me is that my health is sometimes up and down and there would be times when I wouldn't be able to look after the little critters. Also, I sometimes don't like little critters. Not sure how I feel about worms really. I respect them but wouldn't like to handle them much. Perhaps I am mistaken but I figure that traditional composting wouldn't be impacted so negatively by my potential neglect at times - at least salvageable at a later point.

Turning composting material over though would be tricky for me. I might be able to convince my wife to do it but I doubt it. Perhaps I could construct one of those turbine things to turn it more easily...might be time and energy costing though.

I thought a bit more about where I might be able to put a composter and actually there is another space that I had not thought of: my patio by the back door. This is in shade almost all the time, but maybe that isn't a problem? The space actually doesn't get used that much because although it's a nice patio it is never in sun, so we sit on the grass up the garden. I might even be able to make enough space for two. If smell and flies aren't actually an issue then I doubt my wife would have any complaints.

I like the idea of nettle tea. I plan to do that later this year actually.

07/08/2014 at 17:02

Wiltshire Council subsidize composters.   Also, all of the household recycling centers sell Warrior Compost-- the stuff made by what is collected in the green bins.  It's £2.50/30 litres, which isn't a great price, but if your bring your own bags and bag it yourself it's only £1/bag and they weren't too particular about how big my bags were. (I used rubble bags and also bags from compost I purchased which were bigger than 30 litres.)  My husband was a bit embarrassed to have his wife rummaging in compost in public but I'm thrifty.    They have spades there.  It's not an easy job though.  I've also been reading about people who just mulch with their cuttings or spread thin layers of cut grass (Not too thick or it gets slimy.)  Alys Fowler of the Guardian writes about it and I think the lady from the Telegraph.    I have a Green Johanna composter from Wiltshire Council and it works OK.  It's a bit slow to compost but I haven't noticed an odor even when the insides are too squishy.    I just have one and it hasn't filled up over 2 years.   Also... there are compost mixers with phalanges which are easier than turning it with fork.  One came free with the composter (which was £25-30 from the Council I think.)   I read a book once called Compost Happens, and it does, whether you turn it or not!   And my bin has always been on concrete and yet no problems with brandling worms and other decomposers just turning up in it. 

07/08/2014 at 18:21

Thanks Watery. I found the stuff at B&Q is made of the same stuff, our household waste collected by the council as I found bits of trash in it. 

At the moment I am giving trench/pit composting a go. It's easy and quick and takes up no room really so it seems brilliant, though I haven't seen the results yet. I guess I'll know in a few months whether it's working. Apparently the process is quite quick.

07/08/2014 at 20:31

A compost bin should be sited so that it gets some sun. But if that is not possible, the compost will get there in the end, just a bit slower.

Most Councils sell bins cheaply, but you can also get them on freecycle. It isn't essential to turn the contents of the bin, just rummage around every 2 weeks with a garden fork to get some air into the mix.

The mix should be 50% Nitrogen (greens) and 50% Carbon (browns).

Greens are stems, grass cuttings, plant leaves (not trees - they take a long time to rot down) cut flowers, old bedding plants, veg and fruit scraps from the kitchen etc

Browns are cardboard, newspaper, shredded bank statements etc.

Compost bins only smell if too much green has been added and no air is circulating. This is easy to rectify; stir up the contents and scrunch up each page of a newspaper and add to the mix.

Urine is a good free activator for compost, could be used perhaps once a month.

I was trained by Garden Organic as a Compost Master (doing an event on Sunday at an allotment open day) So any questions that you need answering, if I don't know I can usually find out.

07/08/2014 at 21:17

I have a compost bin which was here when I moved in.  I don't want it so if anyone in NW Essex wants one it's free but will need to be collected.

09/08/2014 at 22:02

Dyers End, suggest you put it on freecycle. But I have to ask; why don't you want it? Making your own compost is SO rewarding - it gets rid of a lot of garden and kitchen waste.

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