Homemade compost is one of Nature’s great gifts. Composting turns waste material into the ultimate tonic for soil health, rich in the mysterious humus and beneficial microorganisms. Not only is compost a crucial part of our growing operation, but it’s easy to implement at home as long as you include all the right elements as long-term volunteer, Will Warin, explains…
As organic growers, we don’t use artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides so we need to grow vigorous plants that can outcompete weeds, fight off predators and shrug off diseases. A healthy soil is critical to achieving this. Adding compost helps by improving soil structure and by increasing organic matter and biological activity in our soil.
The key to good compost is the right mix of “greens” and “browns” in the heap. Too much green (high nitrogen) matter, and you end up with a sludgy, smelly mess. Not enough green matter and the bacteria which break down the waste never really get started. Technically the carbon to nitrogen ratio at the start should be 30:1 but there is no easy way to measure this so 2 buckets of green stuff to 1 of brown is the rule of thumb. The compost heap also needs air and moisture. Turning the heap improves aeration and consistency.
On The Farm our green materials come from waste vegetables in the warehouse and the residues of crops in the field and polytunnels. Our brown material is mainly woodchip from a local tree surgeon. Soil Association rules mean that we can’t use paper or cardboard, but you certainly can at home.
Ideally, we try to achieve a temperature within the heap of at least 60 degrees for at least a week to kill off annual weed seeds. We’re always busy on the field and it can be difficult to find the time to look after the compost which inevitably plays second fiddle to sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting in the summer months. Fortunately, Nature usually takes care of the process, and, if we are patient, we are rewarded with the ultimate boost for our treasured soil.