Monday, 3 August 2009

Life, the universe, religious experience, bodily functions and compost heaps!

"My whole life had been spent
waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence,
the kind of transcendental, magical
experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And
that is what I had with my first compost heap."

Bette Midler

WTA loves its compost, heaps! Both compost bins were constructed pretty soon after taking on the plot almost two years ago and have produced some mighty fine 'black gold' from a combination of veg scraps, lawn clippings, garden waste, cardboard, paper and cow manure thrown on them.

WTA kitchen waste (above) headed for the temple of compost.

Being pro-recycling, WTA's compost bins have been constructed from old wooden pallets for free and 10 wooden stakes - no fuss and effective.

A black plastic composting bin - used to solely compost weeds and nettles - has also joined the crew and has converted kilos of weeds and nettles - I try to keep the two open bins as weed-free as I can.

The Inspiration
'Grand' forebears of WTA, 'Technical Tom' and 'Fred the Chemist' were mad keen composters, both of them having their own techniques and apparatus to produce the 'black gold'. Technical Tom was a fan of the 'Compost Tumbler' - a commercially made drum mounted on a frame (see pic below) on which is could be turned. Fred the chemist favoured the big multi bin approach, constructing four huge adjoining squares made out of old corrugated iron and fence posts.

Whatever the shape or size - commercial or non-commercial - it's important to get a compost heap and find composting style to suit your garden/allotment and the type of materials you are composting.

Accelerators- keeping your heap in hyper drive.
Creating a 'Formula One heap' is a mix of art and science. WTA recommends a few inexpensive components to keep the bacterial engine of the your heap throbbing:
  • Bone meal/pelletised poutry manure - nitrogenous bacterial stimulant that feeds the microscopic buds doing the hard yards to break down the waste.

  • Gardener's Lime - great to cool things down and 'sweeten your heap' if things get to acidic in your rotting matter.
  • A good peace of thick carpet - vital for covering your compost heap warm and keeping bacteria working when the temperature drops.
  • Human urine! - even the beer or cuppa you have after a hard day's graft on the allotment can be recycled! Ensure no one is in vicinity (We don't want Allotment holders getting done for indecent exposure!) and have a good old wee (probably easier for blokes) on your heap.

Worm bins/cans
Wormeries are also an incredibly dynamic way of composting and also producing your own super quality . Wta has a an "off site" worm bin which to produce . One worm bin is far too small to handle the amount and variety of matter composted by the bins on WTA but I was lucky enough to pick a worm can similar to the one picture below on sale at a local supermarket chain. I use this little beauty to breakdown large quantities of paper waste (think of it as an enviro- shredder!) and a source of liquid fertiliser- an odourless, nutrient-rich liquid by-product, superb for fertilisng your crops.

Top Shelf composting material (But proceed with caution!)

Some of WTA's Jersey Girls - compost makers extraordinaire

WTA's custodiancan often be see roaming around the adjacent fields awith wheel barrow and shovel, followed closely by a small herd of inquisitive Jersey Cows, in search of quality cow pats. The occasional barrow load of cowpats on the compost heap does a world of wonders
for the end product. But be wary! You've got to know your shit! Problems with herbicide in some animal manure used on allotments was well publicised last year. Ask the owners of the land, on which the animals you get you poo from graze, what sort of pesticides and herbicides are used on the pasture. When in doubt leave it out! If you're new to the allotment game or missed the whole herbicide and animalmanure debarcle take a look at the relevant links and No. 10 petition listed under 'Hot Topics' on this site.

Get composting and grow really well!

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