How to make a natural soil conditioner without chemicals
Soil Conditioners such as compost can be made at home
Anyone can recycle their kitchen scraps and garden waste into a useful compost by using a composter.
There are all sorts of composters, the easiest is to buy a bottomless compost bin with attached lid. Remember it is easier if it has an access hatch at the front so that you can easily get the compost out in the spring.
The micro organisms in the compost will work best when the organic material is kept warm, moist and oxygenated.
BEFORE YOU START
You need to make sure that the composter is placed in a sunny spot in your garden on well drained soil- the compost thrives on heat. You could put your composter on concrete or another hard surface but if you are doing that you will need to place a layer of soil in the bottom of the composter.
Having selected the site loosen the soil at the base as this makes it easier for the worms to move from the soil to the composter. It helps if you place a layer of kitchen waste or manure on this area as this will help to attract the worms.
When you load your composter with waste you will get the best results if you have a mixture rather than say a bin full of grass cuttings. Try and add the waste in layers, three to six inches deep. I use two bins and alternate where the grass cuttings go.
A kitchen bin is really useful to store kitchen scraps, especially if you have a large garden. I fill mine with kitchen waste then empty it as and when it is needed. No more running down the garden in the rain with the potato peelings!
WHAT CAN I COMPOST
· Vegetable and fruit peelings
· Tea leaves, coffee grounds and crushed egg shells
· Weeds- ( not pernicious weeds like bindweed)
· Grass Cuttings
· Hair- yours or your pets!
· Paper- small amounts shredded or scrunched
· Evergreen clippings- small amounts only
· Pruning’s- small amounts and chop up well
· Straw and hay- soak if dry
· Animal manure- from vegetarian pets only
· Spent hops
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?
· Leaves- ( put in separate piles to make leaf mould)
· Disposable nappies
· Used paper hankies ( disease may not be destroyed)
· Hard objects
· Cleaning fluids or garden chemicals
· Meat- the smell can attract animals.
A good activator will speed up the effectiveness of your compost.
There are natural activators found in grass, nettles, pond weed, seaweed, manure and rabbit or guinea pig droppings. They help the compost to heat up and speed up the process which is really useful during the winter months- especially after the winter we have just had.
You can buy activators from your local garden centre. These give the compost a large dose of Nitrogen, which might not be what you want if you want to be completely natural
HOW DO I GET THE COMPOST WARM AND WET?
· Keep the lid on- retains heat and moisture when it is dry and keeps the rain out when there is a downpour.
· Site the compost out of the wind, this will help to maintain a high temperature.
· Site the compost bin in the sunlight- the plastic bin will absorb UV rays and heat the compost up
· Do not let it dry out, in very warm weather conditions try adding a little liquid.
· If you really want to speed it up , insulate the compost with old carpet of even bubble wrap!
HOW DO I GET AIR IN THE COMPOST?
· Stir the compost occasionally as this will let air in and this action will speed up the decaying process.
· Add scrunched up paper or shredding as this makes air pockets
· Avoid using too much grass as it is dense and heavy
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY COMPOST IS READY?
The compost is ready when it is brown and crumbly.
WHAT CAN I USE MY COMPOST FOR?
· Dig the compost into the soil in early spring or late autumn to improve the soil structure and let if act as a slow release fertilizer.
· If you have a clay soil the compost will make it lighter to work and allow better drainage of the soil and aeration.
· Use as a mulch- spread around the garden it helps to retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Worms will pull the mulch down into the soil, digest it and expel it further down into the layers of the soil.
HELP, ITS ALL GOING WRONG!
I have a problem - the compost is all wet and smelly
Answer- Put in less green material such as grass and mix it with brown material such as egg boxes paper and a FEW leaves
I have a problem - My compost is very dry
Answer- the moisture has evaporated owing to dry weather. Make sure you water your compost until it is moist and then make sure that you keep the lid on it.
I have a problem - There are many flies around my compost bin.
Answer- Make sure your compost is covered with paper, the lid is on and bury any kitchen scraps in the body of the compost.
I have a problem - My compost has a very unpleasant smell
Answer- Not enough air is getting to your compost- aerate the compost using a stick or aerator