So I challenged a bunch of other allotmenteers I know online to update their gardening blogs, saying I would do the same. My big change on my allotment is I finally got around to making a compost heap. I could have gone and got a bin, but I was too impatient to wait the possible month for it to be delivered, so I decided to try the simple heap method. To give the heap a bit of shape, I started with one of our moving boxes. It's fairly large, not the 1 cubic metre that's recommended, but hey, you have to start somewhere. As it's made of cardboard, it's nice and biodegradable too, so it'll eventually lose its shape and become part of the heap as well. Anything that's biodegradable will eventually break down, but if you want to make compost fast, you can optimise the process. I've done a fair amount of reading about composting and here are some of the general tips I've pulled out.
- Keep an even mix of brown stuff (twigs, paper, manure) to green stuff (grass cuttings, vegetable peelings).
- If your mixture is too dry, add more green stuff. If it's too wet, add more brown stuff. It should be just slightly damp. Which yes, does seem to mean that you have to touch it with your bare hand. Gross, I agree.
- Compost has to get to a certain level of heat to be effective in breaking things down. The smallest size this works well at is the aforementioned one cubic metre. I think 3 cubic meters is even better, but I don't think I'm likely to acheive that on my plot. If it's smaller than 1m3, it will still work but it'll take much longer.
- If the stuff you add to your compost pile is in small bits, it'll be easier to break down. I'm tempted to use my food processor on the veggie peelings and stuff I have, but not sure I can deal with the idea of the mangy bits that weren't good enough for dinner being in my chopper.
- You can add manure, but don't add fresh manure; it should be aged like a cheap wine. 6 months or so. Manure from vegetarian animals is recommended, not that of omnivores or carnivores.
- Once your pile is producing heat, turn it every 3-5 days to keep giving the bacteria that produce the heat (and break down the stuff) fresh food.
- When it no longer looks like anything you put into it and is brown and crumbly, it's ready for use.
So I'm hoping that even though my pile is relatively small, it's starting to get the right bacteria in it to give off heat. I haven't been down there since Saturday morning, so tomorrow is a big day. Compost checking, adding kitchen waste to it, picking peas, pulling up blighted potato plants and weeding are on the cards. Assuming it's not bucketing down with rain. It hasn't rained in a couple of weeks, so a good drenching like today is okay. But I'm not keen on trying to take Lena down there in the rain and also to get some work done.
Speaking of it not raining, on Saturday morning, after a week of no rain, I was talking to one of my fellow allotmenteers (I love that word by the way, it's like a non-gun-toting musketeer). He said to me in his lovely accent, "I hope you don't mind m'dear, but I took the liberty of watering your plot for you a couple of times this week". It turns out he was doing that for my neighbour's plot while she was away and so he just turned the hose onto mine too. I had only been down in the evenings that week and he's always there in the mornings, so I had no idea. I did think that the plot was holding up remarkably well for no rain. I plan on bringing him some raspberry jam to thank him. He said he didn't need any thanks, but I'd like to thank him anyways. I thought it was awfully nice of him.
Lena is getting amazingly mobile for someone who cannot yet crawl. I'll upload a video of her in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for that.