Yesterday was grass cutting day in our corner of Wales. Our neighbours obviously thought so too as we could hear lawn mowers being used on the other side of the hedges and fields. Mr J got out our trusty lawn mower (which is far too small for the task really) and headed towards the paddock which we are slowly turning into our fruit and vegetable garden. In the meantime the ducks use this area to forage for nice things to eat and so, we don't want to let the grass grow too long.
Having a fresh batch of grass clippings meant that I could make another compost heap. I've been collecting the wood shavings, straw and poultry manure from the chicken and duck house together with finely chopped kitchen waste in readiness for having more green material to make a new compost heap.
As Mr J mowed the grass, he put the clippings into a pile and I raked the area for grass left behind by the mower. It didn't take very long before we had a decent size pile of grass cuttings. I put a layer of straw and wood shavings in the base of the wire hoop made from pig netting, then a layer of grass. Next I added a layer of partially rotted animal manure and wood shavings that I had mucked out of the stable earlier in the year, topped with some more grass. On top of that went some garden soil to add the essential microbes, bacteria and fungus to aid the breaking down of the grass and brown matter.
Between each layer I soaked the heap with water to ensure that the compost heap would rot down well. And as with previous compost heaps, we will turn it regularly to mix the contents and to add air into the heap.
This was as much as I could do yesterday, so today I will continue to layer grass, partially composted manure, straw and garden soil on to the heap and water well between each layer. I will also sprinkle on some wood ash from the wood burners and shredded paper and cardboard that has been saved in the recycling bins. Then I will cover it with some pieces of old carpet that have been saved for the purpose to keep the heat in.
The amount that we have in the heap at the moment is approximately the size of the heap that I put into the green compost cone a week or so ago. The new heap should end up about twice the size it is now and if there is still some grass left over from this mowing I will keep it in a separate pile. Then I will mix in poultry bedding and manure as I clean out the chicken and duck houses each day until there is a decent size heap in a 50/50 green and brown mix and I can cover that and leave it to rot down too.
We hope to source some more used pallets so that we can make solid structures for the compost heaps on this side of the garden. They work very well on other side of the garden in the chicken's field, allowing us to pile one cubic metre of composting material into each bin. I would also like to find some more of the compost cone bins because, although they don't hold as much as a pallet bin, I can move them more easily around the garden when I want to create a compost heap in another area. To this end, I am checking Gumtree and FreeCycle daily for any that are being offered free of charge.
Over the next few days, Mr J will tackle cutting the grass in the chicken's field and the front garden, which will add to the grass cuttings pile. Actually, it will more than double it. This means that I should be able to create two or three more large compost piles that can rot down over the summer and go into the raised beds in the autumn.
The soil in the paddock is rather poor despite having been home to alpacas and a pony with the last owners of our house. I would have expected the manure from these animals to have improved the soil over the last four years, but it is mostly a very sandy, poor quality soil that has been highly compacted under the animals feet. It will take several years and a large amount of well rotted compost to improve the soil to a rich and fertile one.
It's time to put the kettle on before I head out into the garden.