Com­post­ing Shape

DAVE AL­LAN

The Herald Magazine - - ETC | GARDENING -

OUR com­post bins work faster when we keep them hot. This partly de­pends on air temperature. So what­ever we do in Shet­land, com­post­ing is slower than in East­bourne and that’s a snail’s pace com­pared with Malaga.

And the time of year is also crit­i­cal. As I write, my New Zealand box regis­ters 15C, twice to­day’s air temperature, but only a third of what I’d ex­pect in the sum­mer.

The sun is piv­otal. With our weaker sun in Scot­land, we need as sunny a spot as pos­si­ble for our com­posters; par­tial shade is not ideal. You can, of course, make com­post be­hind a shed, but don’t ex­pect a re­sult any time soon.

A bin’s shape also matters. The rounder the bet­ter, as the sun shines on most of it dur­ing the course of the day. It can never reach one side of a square one.

When fill­ing the com­poster, try to en­sure there’s a good mix of green sappy ma­te­rial, such as weeds and kitchen scraps, with brown, wood­ier ma­te­rial, such as pa­per and plant stalks.

Too much green gives you a soggy, smelly mess and vir­tu­ally no com­post­ing oc­curs with only dry browns. A green-brown bal­ance gives you a damp, healthy brew.

Also, com­post ac­ti­va­tor won’t wave a magic wand and trans­form large lumpy bits of sprout stalk into mouth-wa­ter­ing com­post. It grad­u­ally speeds up a rea­son­ably work­ing pile, but there are plenty of free meth­ods to use.

The smaller the in­di­vid­ual pieces you add, the bet­ter. This is be­cause there are many more ex­posed edges for mi­cro-or­gan­isms, such as bac­te­ria, to work on. They then re­pro­duce rapidly, lead­ing to a larger work­force. At a later, cooler com­post­ing stage, crea­tures, like worms, also graze round the edges of ma­te­ri­als and this ex­tra food leads to an in­crease in their num­bers.

So these larger pop­u­la­tions pro­duce quicker re­sults.

Every­one knows that you get faster com­post­ing by turn­ing the heap to in­ject fresh oxy­gen. This works with New Zealand boxes and can be done as of­ten as your back can stand it. But small plas­tic units should not be treated this way.

Here there is fresh ma­te­rial at the top and fin­ished com­post at the bot­tom: the last thing you want to do is mix it all to­gether.

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