Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Compost boost

 Ooh, I've been sent what may turn out to be a rather nifty product to try out. Bio-Enzym make a range of products for the garden and first of all I'm going try out their Bio-P4 organic compost accelerator.

Now those who are familiar with my blog will know that I love making compost, that I make quite a bit of compost, in fact I make loads of compost! The reason for my composting enthusiasm has less to do with any green credentials and more to do with the soil here. Or should I say the lack of soil.
Photo from old property details

The field next to our house used to have commercial greenhouses on it, but sadly they were in a dilapidated state and so taken down by the previous owners of our smallholding. Inevitably some (a lot) of glass ended up on the ground. Then, when they were having the kitchen extension built, the sub-soil that was dug out for the foundations was put on top of the glassy grassy area. Grass and weeds grew in abundance on the field and for three to four years it was grazed by alpacas and a pony, which compacted the soil into a concrete hard base during the summer and a water-logged swampy area in the winter. I exaggerate of course, but only just.

Anyway, the lack of decent soil and the inability to get a spade into the ground to dig it over meant that I decided to create raised beds in which to grow our fruit and vegetables and to adopt a no-dig method of cultivation. But raised beds require soil and the best way to make more soil is through composting. We bought in some top soil but it's £40 a ton and it takes a ton to fill one raised bed to a 4 inch depth. I'd ideally like the beds to be about eight inches deep, so that would cost £80 per raised bed and there are twenty-two raised beds. My budget for creating the annual vegetable garden was, well, zero. So bought in top soil was not a sensible option for filling all the beds. But making my own compost was. It meant that a little top soil could be mixed with a lot of the compost to create a reasonable growing medium. 
Trying to be realistic about my capacity to make compost I've started with beds that are three to four inches deep so that I could at least start growing some food and I plan to build the depth of them year after year. I also didn't make all the raised beds in the first year, but I hope that by the end of 2017, all the raised beds will have been created.

So my composting adventure began quite soon after we moved in, I made one compost bin from three pallets that were lying around the smallholding and that was it, I was hooked on pallet compost bins. 
Since then I have built a fence made from pallets around the vegetable garden, which has made a series of compost bays. Some of the bays will also be for storage and for water collection, but most of them will be filled with compost in its varying stages of decomposition. 

At first I struggled to find enough material with which to make compost, but now that we have the poultry I have a never ending supply of woodshavings with poultry manure and the grass cuttings from the areas that could be loosely described as lawns, masses of leaves from the huge sycamore trees and of course all the green matter from the vegetable garden.

I used a fair amount of straw in the first compost heaps, but I am less convinced now that this is a very good idea. The straw has to be bought in and we have no way of knowing what chemicals were used on the crops before they were harvested and the straw cut. So I will use what is already on site, but will wait until I find a source of organic straw before buying in more for compost making.

Anyway, back to my trial of the compost accelerator, I plan to make a couple of compost heaps next to each other and try as best I can to fill them with the same proportions of materials, so that whenever we take out the kitchen compost bucket, I will divide it between the two heaps, likewise grass, woodshavings, wood chippings etc. will all be divided as equally as I can between the two heaps. Once the compost bays are filled I will use the Bio-P4 on one of the two heaps and see how it works. 

I can check the temperature and also see how well the organic matter is breaking down. Health permitting, I hope to turn the heaps at least a couple of times to add air and mix the 'ingredients' and will water them if necessary during dryer weather.

I will be honest in my assessment of this product, although I was given the product to try, I am not being paid for a review. I will give my honest opinion and as the two heaps will be next to each other, it should be fairly easy to compare the results.
You can find more information about Bio-P4 here and if you want to try it out too, I see that the product is currently half price. If you do decide to give it a go, please let me know in the comments below and we can compare our experiences with it.

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