The Berry Cottage Gardener

The Berry cottage gardener

for gardens pretty and productive


Making Compost While The Sun Shines

"The ground's generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty. Try to be more like the ground" - Rumi

All good gardeners know compost provides a wonderful boost to soil.  It’s a natural and complete fertilizer, rich in micronutrients to promote healthy plant growth.  Yet compost is so gentle, seeds and seedlings can be planted directly into it, without harming root development.  Compost can of course be purchased, but it is so much more satisfying and eco-friendly to make your own.  Once you’ve mastered the art, you’ll never look back.

The Ingredients  In theory, anything which has once been alive can be composted.  Avoid weed seeds, diseased plants, meat, bones and bread however.

Dry Matter – autumn leaves, straw, small sticks and branches, shredded paper

Green Matter – fruit and vegetable scraps, prunings, grass clippings

Please note,  while I’m passionate about composting, I don’t want the proces to start in my kitchen!  I keep a large sealed plastic container in the fridge to store all my kitchen scraps including egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings.

Composting Systems  There is a wide array of composting systems available, ranging from home-made bays using old pallets, bricks or metal, to store-bought tumblers and bins.  To deter rodents from setting up home, it’s wise to place bins on fine chicken wire.

Cooking The Heap  Start with a layer of dry matter at the base of your heap to encourage good air circulation, then layer the materials in a ratio of four parts dry matter to one part green.

It’s important to keep the heap moist to encourage decomposition, and regular turning to aerate is beneficial too.

Is It Ready Yet?  Depending on your conditions, compost can be ready in as little as six weeks, or can take over six months to form.  Fully matured compost is rich, dark and crumbly with a sweet smell – think chocolate cake!  This can then be dug into the soil, or spread around the base of plants.  Be sure not to waste all your efforts by allowing it to dry out though, so cover with a good layer of much if it’s to sit directly on top of the soil.

The art of composting takes a little practice, however once mastered, the benefits to your garden will be sure to draw the admiration of vistors to your place. When they ask your secret, just tell them you make your own soil!