Composting Theory Vs. Composting Reality!

Adding Wood Ash To Our Compost Heaps

We are enthusiastic composters. We’ve got (and read) a couple of books on how to compost and have a reasonably firm grasp of the principles. We’ve built five compost bays out of wooden pallets. We invested in a ‘Hot Bin’ to compost our kitchen vegetable scraps, because our local council doesn’t collect food waste. But, but, but it’s all still rather unsatisfactory …

We generate a huge amount of compostable material. Far too much to be manageable in fact and what’s worse, it arrives at the wrong time. In the summer, we put a tiny fraction of our grass cuttings onto the compost heap. There’s just far, far too much of it and our heap would rapidly turn into a black sludge if any but a tiny fraction went onto it.

Right now, we’ve just started the winter cut back of our herbaceous plants. Again, we’re generating huge quantities of compostable materials. But in the same way that the summer produces a glut of ‘green’, the winter creates a glut of ‘brown’.

Another problem we have is that the composting process itself is just so darn slow! We turn our heaps probably three times per year. It’s a big job and I really don’t think we could manage it any more frequently. We carefully layer the heap, trying to mix green with brown. We water the heaps when they are dry. We try to keep them in full sun. Even so, we think it takes about two years to move from raw material to usable compost.

Overall then and much to our frustration, we generate far, far less usable compost than we ought and we consequently spend a small fortune each year buying bags of compost from our local garden centre.

How to improve our composting? We probably need huge composting bays, far, far bigger than our wooden-pallet efforts. But even then I can see no way round the slowness of the process, other than by making a significant investment in a shredder. A decent petrol shredder costs at least £1,500 but only by shredding all the material that goes onto the heaps, do I see any way significantly to speed-up our painfully slow composting process.

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