Recently on Real Men Sow, I deliberated about the things I was planning to do differently in 2015, like not growing as many courgettes and giving the tomato plants extra space.
It was a useful process to go through, and got me thinking: what would I do the same in 2015?
Well, one of those things is to use as much of my own kitchen compost on the raised beds as I can. My kitchen compost manured bed was absolutely tremendous this summer. Gluttoneous runners and monster courgette plants don’t even come close to describing the productivity!
I love homemade compost. There is something very magical about returning your plant-based leftovers back into the soil whence they came. That circle is a beautiful one for me.
Both runner beans and courgettes need lots of nutrients to thrive, and this year has been the best I’ve ever had for both. Well-rotted homemade compost is nicknamed ‘black gold’, and I can now see why. I just wish I had enough to do all my beds with it!
Getting the Right Mix
High in nutrients, compost is easy to make from an equal mixture of nitrogen-rich ‘greens’ (e.g grass cuttings, vegetable peelings, spent veg plants) and carbon-rich ‘browns’ (e.g. cardboard, paper, straw, dead leaves), either in a designated compost bin, or piled up and covered with old carpet.
Getting this mix right is important as the compost can become sloppy otherwise. You’re aiming for a dark, crumbly substance that will trickle through your fingers. The good news is that you can keep an eye on development and top up the decomposing mixture with anything it requires as you go along.
This can be done when ‘turning’ the heap. Turning introduces air, which allows composting to happen in a speedy fashion.
How Long Does it Take?
Of course, when I say speedy, composting won’t happen overnight. I’ve found my compost takes about a year to get how I want it. To quicken this up, I sometimes fill big plastic bags with the compost from the bottom and tie at the top. This warms up the compost and finishes it off faster.
I’ve found the Dalek style bins much better than the traditional heap, although turning is trickier. However, from my experience they heat up quicker and being that much more compact, are easier to hide neatly in a corner of the garden or allotment.
I Just Can’t Get Enough!
The only downside is getting enough of this wonderful stuff. I’ve got three Dalek bins, which produce roughly the right amount for two of my smaller raised beds, but some local Councils sell their own green waste compost which can be used to bulk up your own stock.