Life for your soilThe wonderful world of compost
I’m writing this during the Great Big Green Week, a nationwide celebration of how communities are taking action to tackle climate change and protect green spaces, and it got me thinking about the best way Barnet’s gardeners can contribute. There were lots of options I could have talked about – using organic practices including no pesticides, encouraging biodiversity, growing and eating seasonal food, to name a few – but the one that keeps coming back to me as being an issue in Barnet is the recycling of kitchen and garden waste through composting.
Since Barnet Council stopped sending our food waste to be recycled via anaerobic digestion a few years ago – a hugely backwards step in my opinion – and added a charge for the collection of green bins, I’m hopeful the number of people composting at home has increased. But if you’ve yet to catch the composting bug maybe this article will inspire you to give it a go.
First, what is compost? It’s organic matter that’s been broken down by bacteria, fungi and tiny animal life that can then be used to feed growing plants. It can be made from a huge range of materials and each of the manufacturers that sell it in plastic bags via garden centres and supermarkets has their own secret recipe. Sadly, many of these still contain peat, a hugely important carbon rich plant material which comes from waterlogged conditions and is being used up at an alarming rate. I could write a whole article about peat (look out for that in the future) but for now, just know you should avoid it at all costs in any compost you buy.
The best way to do this is by making your own compost at home. Set aside a shady space in your garden, or, wormeries are good for inside composting, add some ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ to some kind of container – the ‘Dalek’ shaped bins are a good place to start – and let nature do its thing.
So what are the ‘greens’ and ‘browns’? Greens are nitrogen rich things like fruit and veg peelings, coffee, tea leaves or weeds from your garden. Browns are carbon rich items like twigs, cardboard or egg shells. Using a roughly even mix of both will give you a good balance but add more greens if the mixture looks dry and more browns if it looks wet.
Creating optimal conditions of moisture, air and temperature, plus using the right combination of organic matter to make your microbes happy, will create a thriving ecosystem and the perfect compost. But if this part-art part-science process puts you off then just get started and see how it goes.
No matter what comes out of your bin in a few months’ time you can be sure that it will be plastic-free, peat-free and full of food for your plants and life for your soil. And the end result will be a flourishing garden that you can sit back and enjoy with a clear conscience.
Follow @HaveAGrow on Instagram or visit Wendy in her community garden Incredible Edible in New Barnet