Rotten Role

Top 5 bonkers things that can go into a compost heap
1. Nail clippings.
2. Human hair.
3. A pair of old leather shoes. Ta for Scarlett for telling us about that!
4. An old cardigan in a Val Doonican stylee.
5. Beer dregs.


Seaside special

Last weekend we were away in the land of glorious sunshine, Camber Sands. You’d honestly think you were somewhere exotic what with the glorious weather there. The picture above was taken down the road from where we were staying, and it’s an ingenious way to use a boat in the garden!

While I was at camber I took home a carrier bags worth of seaweed to use in the garden (I’m not sure about the legality of doing that) alongside tasteful bits of driftwood, shells, stones and the odd old beer can to stick around our pond. All I got off my kids was “why are you bringing all that rubbish home for, Dad?”, brilliant eh?

As soon as I got back to London I gave the seaweed a good hosing down to get the salt off and left it at the bottom of the garden. After a couple of days in the hot sun it frizzled down to such a tiny amount there weren’t enough left to use as a mulch. I could have always make a seaweed plant feed but as there’s already a bucket of foul smelling liquid stinking up the garden it’ll be bunged into the compost heap. Seaweed is a great compost activator and adds minerals and trace elements to the heap. Nowt wasted then!

Here’s a tune that got played a few times while chilling in the sun at Camber. It’s from a while ago but a tune all the same!

Oi! Get orfa me barra!

Old Bob Flowerdew was right, as soon as you produce some decent compost you can’t get enough of the blooming stuff! I’ve been helping myself to my second attempt of a compost heap for a good while now but today I filled up two barrow’s worth to mix in with some soil which I put in the second raised bed made with the scaffolding boards obtained free from our “Portuguese man with a van”. Owt for nowt for definite! If you can be bothered to collect up all your kitchen waste, turn it every now and again and wait a few months, it’s well worth doing for some top quality compost!

Great weather today so did a couple of hours, weeded around the salad bed and as it was root day, sowed some Carrots, Beetroot and Parsnip. If the weather keeps up I’ll do more tidying up and “tipping around with a hoe” tomorrow.

I’ve moved the portable cold frame (aka the old window frame I found in the street which stands on some old bricks from a skip) over a couple of Courgette and Squash seedlings to give them some protection and a bit of a head start.

I’m taking a risk with the Potatoes I moved the cold frame from as there’s still a good risk of frost, but I’ve covered them tonight with some horticultural fleece I’ve had kicking around since last year. Fingers crossed it won’t get too cold.

And I tell you what, I’m missing that “gloves in a bottle” stuff too!

This week’s post was written while listening to Friday’s Echo Beach on WLUW-FM Chicago with a great Pressure Sounds mix.

Holidays in the sun

I had a dream on Easter Sunday morning involving a presenter from a 1970’s TV gardening show (whose name escapes me, if he ever really existed!) whose last words to me before waking were “indoor lawns really thrive”. I don’t know about indoor lawns thriving this bank holiday but indoor activities have, what with the dreadful weather here!

Most of the weekend was spent painting the hall but I did find the time to sow and pot on some seedlings indoors but nothing much outdoors apart from chucking some veg peelings into the compost heap and feeding the worms in the wormery.

I found another couple of pics of our back garden a couple of weeks after we first moved in on an older computer this weekend while I was looping some shortwave stuff for some new Madtone tunage. I had forgotten how bad it really was. And sometimes I’m a bit hard on myself and think I’ve let the back garden get a bit untidy…

Don’t let the weeds (and the weather) get you down!

Compost heap, compost heap, compost heap

This morning they were filming next door in the newly built flats for some “Location, location, location” TV spin-off called “Secret location”. Yesterday it turns out they didn’t have any electricity, so they offered us £75 for using ours. I really could do with the brass, but have you seen those lights they use for filming? I can just about afford the leccy at home as it is without the added extra of a film crew, hangers on, catering team, mobile nail bar, P.A’s and stylists etc.

When the programme appears on the telly in a couple of months time If you look hard enough out of the back window into the next door garden you might see a bloke taking photo’s of his compost heap, that’s me that is!

Do it properly!

I spent a couple of hours in the back garden today dodging the old boy next door (he wants me to cut back my apples trees) and started my third attempt at a compost heap. With two behind me, one woody and as dry as a bone, the other formerly a smelly slush but since adding more “brown” material, it’s now on its way, I’m making sure I go by the book with this one.

In the new year I’ll be attending the composting course at walworth garden farm for pointers in the right direction but in the meantime, no twigs or woody material, getting the right mix of “greens” and “browns” and adding the material in two inch layers into the free plastic bin I got off the council.

It was filled to about three quarters of the way full with layers of shredded newspapers, kitchen peelings, leaves, nettles, a few handfuls of rotting material with writhing worms from the other heap and a unmentionable liquid to start it all off. Fingers crossed!

There will be irregular updates of how it’s getting on.

Are you ready to rot?

One of the best things you can do for your garden is to make a compost heap. It’s a brilliant way of putting something back into the earth for next to nothing!

When you add compost you’re not just improving the soil, you’re supplying plants with nutrients and elements, helping retain moisture in the ground and encouraging wildlife into your garden who will enjoy the warmth and protection of the heap. How good is that just for recycling your kitchen peelings!

A simple compost bin can be made from wood (the classic slatted version that you can add height to as the heap progresses), bricks and old carpet (definitely one to be kept out of view as even good quality Axminster will look crap after a few months outdoors!) There’s also the black plastic darlek type which some councils supply for free as part of their recycling package.

It’s best to keep the heap somewhere you can get to it easily, possibly screened off but in a sunny position as that will help add heat to the pile. Ideally you’d have two bins, one started the year or so previously which you will be using now and one that’s in the process of rotting down.

When filling the bin, put the various ingredients in layers of two or three inches deep to stop it turning into a big slushy mess which can happen when masses of lawn clippings are added. You can always add a thin layer of soil every now and again to help it along too. Turning with a fork every few months will benefit the pile, making sure it is not too compact so that air can circulate throughout it which ensures it rots down easier. Also check that the heap doesn’t dry out in the summer as moisture is also needed too.

To start off the rotting process you can use nettles, comfrey leaves and even human urine (better out of a pre-filled bottle I reckon, or your neighbours will be on the phone to the police!). As the material decomposes, the pile will start to create heat, so why not do like they did in victorian times and make a hot bed? It’s a compost heap with a raised bed on top which is kept warm from the rotting material below. Failing that if it’s in full sunlight, stick a courgette or a cucumber plant on the top of the heap which will thrive with the richness underneath.

What to add:
Shredded paper/newspaper (no glossy mags)
Used tea bags
Coffee grindings (free from coffee shops)
Autumn leaves (no evergreens)
Garden waste and clippings (softwood prunings, nothing too thick or woody or use a garden shedder on them)
Annual weeds that haven’t set seed
Old bedding plants
Overripe fruit and veg peelings (no cooked food or meat which will encourage vermin)
Nettles and comfrey leaves (which will help the composting process no end)
Dead flowers
Grass clippings

What not to add:
Perennial weeds, bindweed and ivy which can re-sprout from their roots or stems
Pet waste
Diseased plants (burn them alongside the woody prunings if you can’t afford that shredder)

One tip is don’t stick in woody stems like I did, as a couple of years on I am still pulling out sticks, so be warned! Also once you’ve got a heap in progress, get into the habit of sticking your peelings into a closable container in the kitchen which you’ll later transfer to the heap.

I’m fighting with my pile at the moment as it’s a bit wet and smelly, so I’ll be leaving out the “green” material and adding more “browns” like shredded newspaper and leaves etc. Composting might be an art form but when you get it right, it’s well worth it!

Happy composting, my friend!