Real Men Sow

6 Tips for Composting Down Your Spent Crops

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squash

Now Autumn is here, I’ve begun the process of clearing down my veg beds. Even on the smallest of plots, there can be a wide range of plants that need disposing down, with some even provide a little challenge along the way.

Just this year, I’ve worked up a sweat yanking out a well rooted courgette and channelled my inner puzzle solver trying to retrieve tangled squash runners without pulling everything else up that they’ve grabbed on to!

I like to reflect and make mental notes as I clear each plant. It’s the perfect time to observe how they grew, the levels of success and what I might do better next year. If you can note this down all the better, as unlike me, you then might remember all the useful information for next year!

One thing you’ll soon realise is that clearing down the beds creates a big volume of stuff to dispose of. I’m always amazed by the size of the pile that I’m left with at the end of this particular job.

The best place for your dead plants is the compost bin. Remnants of old plants, dead leaves and unwanted prunings provide an excellent ‘brown’ to a compost mix, contributing a useful source of carbon to the decomposing process.

Here are 6 tips for composting down your spent crops.

Keep the Mix Consistent
Don’t over do the combination though – a good compost mix should be equal parts green and brown, so try to match what you put in with the same amount of grass cuttings and kitchen scraps. If you sense that all the plants are going to make for a sloppy mix, add in scrunched up pieces of paper or strips of cardboard. Some leaf mould or compost will also help create a good consistency.

Dig Out the Bottom of the Bin
If you’re running out of room in your compost bin, dig out some compost from the bottom and store it in old, plastic compost bags. This will finish of the decomposition a treat, and give you more space to compost down your plants.

Keep the Infected Plants Out of the Bin
Avoid adding any infected fruit and plants to the bin. This will spread infection amongst the compost and is particularly important for potatoes as they are effectively still alive so continue to harbour blight long after harvesting. This will increase the chance of disease in your compost should a tuber decide to regrow in the cosy compost environment the following Spring.

The best place for disposing of these crops is Council green waste bins either at home or the local tip, as Council composting facilities will reach the temperature required to kill off most diseases.

Subject to plot rules, you can also treat yourself to a little bonfire to dispose of anything bad (and any surplus good bits if you like). You can’t beat a bonfire on a chilly Autumn afternoon.

Peas and Beans
If you’ve grown any peas or beans, chop the plants off a few inches above the ground for composting, and let the roots and base rot down into the soil. Peas and beans contain lots of good nutrients for the soil.

Chop Up the Thick Stuff
Before adding to the bin, chop up thicker plant stems with a spade so they don’t take too long to rot down. Use a spade to reduce the stems to 6 inch lengths.

Weeds
And keep any weeds away from your precious compost mix! I know plotholders who compost down everything, including their weeds, but I prefer to keep my compost bins free of weeds as I reckon they’re perfect environments for the critters to revitalise and end up back in your soil.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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