Materials used for Compost Making
Some Materials used for Compost Making
In a, and especially where flowers only are grown, the range of material for compost making may not be very extensive. Apart from making fullest possible use of such material that is available, any of the following should be considered and advantage taken of their availability, as applicable.
In country areas, one may have access to this very leafy material which, cut green, in June and July, chopped up and mixed in with other vegetable material, makes a valuable addition to the compost heap. If used later in the season, the stalks may be rather woody, but if they are set aside, then chopped up and well watered, they too can be rotted down further and made good use of in the heap.
Any old scraps of wool or cotton material, after being well wetted, can be rotted down quite well, but keep such material in the centre of the heap. Carpet sweepings and material from the vacuum cleaner can also be used to advantage. If large items, like old trousers are used, cut these into small pieces first, wet them well beforeand use a little at a time for best results.
Soft, young clippings make an excellent compost heap ingredient, but here again, use the clippings as fresh as possible; avoid having them dried up and withered before use. Late in the season, if rather more woody material is available, compost as much as is practicable and burn the remainder, thus providing one source of potash.
Vegetable trimmings,leaves, surplus , orange peel, tea leaves, in fact any waste should be utilised in compost making. I find the best way is to keep a lidded container separate for this material, and to spread a layer on my compost heap as available, but to cover this with whatever material is on hand at the time, or with 1 inch of , to prevent attracting birds.
I have used these with good results in the bottom of sweet pea trenches, but all paper used in this way should be well wetted as an aid to rotting. Small quantities of newspaper will rot down in a compost heap quite well—best of all, I find, if some poultry manure can be mixed in with it.
I shall stress the value of lawn mowings in June as a mulch, but for composting it is excellent, as it heats up well and helps in rotting down other vegetable matter in the heap. I like to have a 3in. layer, then something else, then more lawn mowings, and so on. Lawn mowings and straw go very well together, but make sure that the latter is well wetted before being composted.
It is best to use lawn mowings as fresh as possible, for if they are just tipped in a heap by themselves and left, they “go to nothing” very quickly. If sufficient quantity of straw, leaves or other material is available, a very good compost can be made with such, and lawn mowings, in equal parts, plus an activator. In a small garden, especially where flowers are the chief crops grown, the compost heap may well have to be made up of whatever materials are to hand, probably in small quantities. It is here, I feel, that lawn mowings are especially valuable. In very dry spells, the mowings are best left on the lawn itself, but apart from this every opportunity should be taken to save all the mowings available. I have seen sown on a rough patch of empty ground in a new garden, just for the “mowings”, such material being extremely valuable in a new garden where compostable material may be in short supply.
If there are trees nearby, or if one has access to woodland, leaf mould is a valuable material for increasing the supply of organic material in the soil. If there are sufficient leaves to make up into a heap separately, these should be bounded by wire netting “walls” to keep them in place. It is best to weigh them down with planks, or some soil, and to wet them well as they are gathered into the heap, otherwise they are slow to rot down. If a heap is made of leaves alone, let it stand for two years, if possible, before use.
Mature rotted leaf mould can be used in potting composts, and should be rubbed through a mesh sieve for this purpose, but for forming part of acompost, use a 1/8 inch sieve. The rougher material can be placed in the bottom on the seed trays, in a layer 1/4 inch thick.
In small quantities leaves can also form a very useful part of the compost heap proper, in autumn, and each layer should be alternated with heavier material, such as soil, to keep them in place.
Although slow to decay, sawdust has a place in the list of compost ingredients if used in small quantities at a time. My own method is to leave the sawdust to weather, for a year, and then to sprinkle thin layers into the heap, not more than a 1/2 inch thick layer at any one time, and when possible to place it next to manure (either poultry or farm yard). I find it essential to wet the sawdust first. A mixture of equal parts wet sawdust and lawn mowings, in 1 to 2in. thick layers, is also a good method of utilising this material.
It is only in coastal areas that direct use can be made of this valuable material, and where it can be corn-posted, it is best to allow the surplus moisture to drain away first. Plenty of “bulk” is needed with seaweed (I have seen chopped upstumps used with good results) and my own method is to mix seaweed with an equal quantity of wet straw, and to keep the layers of this mixture as thin as possible, near to 3 to 4 ins. in fact. When I had a garden in Devon, a trip to the coast always meant bringing back a sack of seaweed and very valuable it proved, in the then current compost heap.
As well as being used directly in the soil, or on it as a mulch, spent hops is another useful ingredient for the gardener’s compost heap. Moisten it before use and keep the layers less than 4ins. thick in the heap. As this material is light, keep it in place, if it is the top layer, with a coating of soil.
This is often the basis of good compost. Semi-rotted or damaged straw can sometimes be purchased in country areas. Baled straw would, I feel sure, find a ready market amongst town gardeners, if an enterprising merchant or dealer gave it his attention. Straw, an activator, and water add up to a good compost, but usually the supply of straw is so small that the quantity available has to be mixed in with other materials in the compost heap. Wetted straw and poultry manure are a good combination, and where a 1 in. layer of manure can be alternated with a Sin. layer of wet straw, a very good compost is obtained.
Much fresh green material can be provided by the use ofin the compost heap. Remember, however, that if the compost is not well made and insufficient heat is obtained within the heap, some weed seeds may come through unharmed and increase the weed population considerably. To prevent trouble from weeds from the outer portions of the heap, “chip off” these areas and use the material in the centre of the current heap. Use weeds which have not yet run to seed wherever possible.
Farm Yard Manure, Poultry Manure, and Sewage Sludge in Compost Making:
Farm Yard Manure
If some farm yard manure is available, make good use of it in the compost heap, where approximately one part can be used to 5 parts of the vegetable waste material. I find it best to have a small oblong heap of farm yard manure, covered with a galvanised sheet to keep off rain, and to draw from this as vegetable waste becomes available. My method is to use a 2in. layer of manure alternated with a 4in. to 6in. layer of other constituents. If only a small quantity of material is available, the proportion may be as low as 1 part manure to 10 parts of other compost ingredients. If poultry manure is being used, the proportion can be approximately 1 to 20 parts.
This is especially valuable in the compost heap. It acts as an activator by “warming up” very rapidly. I find that as little as a lin. layer, alternated with 3 or 4in. layers of other material, works very well. Damp the manure over, if it is dry, but do not saturate it.
This, and other sewage manures, are available in some areas. Those in dry powder form are easiest to apply. Some types can be applied direct to the soil but all can be used in the compost heaps. 1 part sewage to 10 parts other (vegetable) compost material is suggested.
Compost Activators, Lime, and Wood Ashes in Compost Making:
One of the main needs in assisting the rotting down of material in a compost heap, and helping the work of the bacteria responsible, is nitrogen. This may be obtained by the use of chemical activators. I prefer the use of a herbal product (the Quick Return Compost Maker), which is very satisfactory. Follow the directions for use closely. The powder is first soaked in water and the mixture then poured onto the heap or into the ventilation hole. This product is a mixture of powdered herbs and other ingredients, including honey.
If you are lucky enough to have one of the animal manures to use as a compost “activator” this will serve the purpose admirably. Sewage sludge may also be used.
This is needed in compost making as a neutralizer for acids and to promote conditions suitable for the bacteria which are responsible for the rotting down process. For small
compost heaps, comprising a variety of materials, I find that 4ozs. of hydrated lime to each square yard of heap surface, or to every barrow load of material used, gives good results.
During the making of the heap, if wood ash is available (I like to keep some especially for the purpose), sprinkle 4 ozs. to each square yard of heap surface at intervals every 15 to 18 ins.