Compost, Compost and Yet More Compost

A great deal of my time at the Priory is spent  gazing into the middle distance and humming, is spent dealing with the huge amount of grass clippings, leaves and general garden waste that the grounds produce.  All of this precious resource had, during previous years, been dumped in one enormous heap.  Rabbits burrowed and lived in it, nettles and goose grass smothered it and I fretted that all that beautiful ‘stuff’ was just going to waste.
So, ta daaaaa.  In January 2010, I built seven compost bins.  They’re pretty big at 5ft wide and 8ft long, and yet do you know what?  I may need more.
Presently two are full of one season’s grass clippings and garden waste.  There is an awful lot of grass at the Priory.  From March through to October I spend ten to twelve hours a week mowing (and that doesn’t include strimming).   And yet all that grass waste now sits in just two of my bins and week by week they reduce still further.  Unbelievable.  Clippings don’t rot down that easily, so I add newspaper and cardboard, leaves and straw to get carbon in to the mix.  Also, I turn the heaps regularly to oxygenate and aid the breakdown process.  Bit of an experiment but ever hopeful, I’m hoping to end up with two bins full of lovely  compost.

Both this year and last I bought 4 cubic metres of spent mushroom compost but I’m hoping that as my compost production shifts up a gear I’ll be self-sufficient soon.

I have more confidence in the leaf mould.  Two more of the bins are just full of leaves.  I’ve had to jump up and stomp them down in order to fit them all in.  This is my second year of leaf mould production and quite frankly, I can’t have too much of the stuff.  It is gorgeous; sweet-smelling and crumbly.  The relatively small amount I made last year was used up early in the winter, mostly as a mulch.  I’m hoping to produce five or six times as much this year.  All I have left now sits in a trug bucket which I add to potting compost when potting up ferns and the like.
Lovely innit?  Makes you want to rip your clothes off and dive straight in.

Now, bizarrely and totally unplanned for, one other bin is half full with …… duckweed.  A quick explanation called for – pay attention at the back.  The Priory sits in a valley surrounded on three sides by open grazing land.  When it rains heavily all the run-off from these fields flows into the Priory grounds and into the east pond.

The ditch connecting the two ponds.  The east pond is in the background,
the meadow to the left.

A ditch connects this to the west pond.  When the latter is full it overflows through a channel and then out under the beech hedge to a culvert and into a small river.  Last summer, for the first time, both ponds were blanketed with duckweed and all the rainfall a few weeks ago flushed most of it out and deposited it at the base of the hedge.  I had to rake it all up and lost count after I had filled 25 barrows!

So that’s five bins being used and the grass cutting season only a few weeks away. I was thinking of building another three bins but think that actually, I’m becoming just a tad compost obsessive.  Two empty bins will be more than enough.  Won’t it?



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