Sunday, 13 December 2015

Organic garden compost bins

Needing to keep myself busy so that I didn’t dwell too much on the events of yesterday morning, I set about creating our first compost bins.
The field that I will be turning into our fruit and vegetable garden has been home to alpacas and a pony for the last few years and whilst it is probably nutrient filled (at least the very top of the top soil should be) the soil is compacted and heavy and I will need to improve it as much as possible over the next years. As I am aiming for the garden to be fully organic, I need to start by adding as much composted material as I can to the beds. For this to happen, I will need to create some seriously big volumes of compost.

So yesterday morning I had a root around to see what I could use to make compost bins from and put in it. Great results of my search found several wooden pallets and great piles of poo. Pony poo to be precise. I took three pallets to the area where I want to build one of the compost bins and propped them up with sticks before lashing them together with twine. As and when I find some wire, I will replace the twine with that to make them stronger and more permanent.
 I want to make the compost bins in pairs or trios, so that I can easily turn the compost piles over to aerate them, but I decided to start with a single and get some material into it to start rotting down and then move on to make the other half of the pair later on. I hope to have enough pallets to be able to have at least three pairs of compost bins in different areas of the garden so that I don’t have to carry material to be composted too far. And, once the rotting materials have turned into rich black compost, I don’t want to have to transport it too far to the beds.
This morning I started to fill the first compost bin. Filling it with layers of material to rot down over the next few months, I plan to get it filled fairly quickly so that I create a hot compost heap. This means that the composting heap warms up and the material will break down more quickly turning into nutrient rich compost, which should improve the soil structure and make a variety of nutrients available to the growing fruit and vegetables. 
I started with a layer of half rotted manure from a pile at the back of the piggeries, this was mostly pony poo, but also some alpaca droppings and grass cuttings, then I added the fruit and vegetable peelings, teabags and eggshells from our kitchen that we have collected since we moved in two weeks ago. On top of this I added some wood ash and then leaves that have fallen from the sycamore trees behind the piggeries. After that I pruned the raspberry plants that we brought with us to add the prunings to the compost heap.
I was amazed to find that some of the raspberries plants are still flowering and still producing little berries. These are autumn fruiting raspberries, which I lifted from Mr J’s parents’ house before it was sold. Autumn fruiting raspberries are pretty easy to care for, they just need cutting down to the ground at this time of year as the fruits are borne on the same year’s growth, so old stems are a bit pointless for the plants to put energy into.
The pruned plants look really healthy so I’m looking forward to making raspberry jam, sauce and wine next year.

Tomorrow, if I have the energy, I will add further layers of pony manure, leaves and wood shavings from the stable and cover it in a piece of old carpet to keep the heat in. I hope to have the first heap completed by the end of the week and will go on to build the next compost heap on the other side of the field. But that's for another day.

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