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Some questions from a novice (clueless) gardener...

(5 Posts)
noslimbody Tue 18-Mar-14 15:19:00

Hi there, have been lurking on this forum and enjoyed reading all the threads. But can't find the answers to these questions:
I have no compost of any type, which compost should I buy for general mulching, planting out, beds, tree (got one coming (cherry) to plant)?
How do I start composting? Should I get a plastic compost bin, or a wooden one(seen one on crocus.co.uk) I prefer the look of the wooden one?
I am planting the tree, should be arriving soon, and am worried because temperatures are dropping next week, what precautions should I take? How should I approach planting the tree?

Ok, here we go
'compost' splits into two broad types for very different purposes.

There is compost that you use in pots and containers as a complete replacement for earth. It's designed to feed and grow stuff all by itself. There are lots of slightly different types - ones for seeds and small plants, some that don't have peat in them and so forth, or 'multipurpose' ones that will work ok on most things. Don't stress over these - fyi Gardening Which? recommends a couple of the B&Q own label Verve ones this year. Often called potting compost or multipurpose. You only need this for pots or containers, not for the general garden.

Then there is 'compost' i.e. the stuff you make for yourself in your garden and use to improve the soil but not replace it. If you are buying stuff for this purpose look for things that call themselves 'soil improver' rather than potting compost. It can be very confusing.

What your compost bin is made of doesn't matter, as long as it's on bare earth and is a decent size. There are two approaches to making compost - the 'chuck it all in and wait' approach vs the 'careful recipe' approach. Both work the same but method 1 is a bit slower. If you want it to work you do have to apply some rules: woody stuff needs to be chopped very small, not too much of anything at once, give it a rummage every so often, don't let it get too wet or too dry. Don't put in roots of perennial weeds (e.g. dandelion roots). If you can keep weed seeds out that's great but frankly you'll be lucky. Human wee is an excellent addition, really gets things going. Shredded paper is a brilliant thing to mix with grass cuttings in your compost.

The tree will come with instructions but you need to dig a good big hole, improve the soil in the hole with some soil improver and maybe some fertiliser (e.g. chicken pellets), plant the tree at the level it was in the pot firming it in well, give it a good drink of water and that's fine. It won't need protecting against the weather we've got coming but if you feel sorry for it you could wrap it in a bit of horticultural fleece.

Sorry for the essay! Enjoy your garden.

Gooner123 Tue 18-Mar-14 18:40:30

You may need to stake the tree if it's on a windy site,Re,compost bins,I made my own with pallets & plywood,was dead easy,I find having two of them much easier,for turning one into the other.

JazzAnnNonMouse Sun 30-Mar-14 10:07:17

Why not add dandelion roots etc? We've been doing just that confused

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 30-Mar-14 10:19:09

I add dandelion roots; but then I'm a composting nazi and have bins and heaps on the go on all my gardens [I teach hort]. Perennial weeds will grow back unless they are killed first. If you turn your compost regularly, the heat can kill perennial weeds but if you are just bunging them into a bin and emptying it once a year, it's likely they will grow back once the compost gets used.

Best thing with perennials is to dry them out to a crisp before composting, or drown them until they die and then add them.

This goes for dandelions, docks, couch grass - anything which can grow back from a piece of root.

OP - you can have whatever compost bin you want. It really doesn't matter. What matters is having one in the first place. The trick is to make sure you are adding browns [paper, cardboard, loo roll innerds, coffee grounds etc] as well as greens [veg and garden waste, grass clippings etc]. Layer them if you can. Keep the bin or pile damp as this stops little friends from burrowing in them. Turn it as often as you can. The smaller you can chop things the quicker you will get your compost.

I don't have a specific area for compost any more. I compost on the beds direct. Then I turn it and the stuff at the bottom of the heap that is 90% composted gets left on the soil and raked over. Saves much backache, barrowing, shovelling etc and you put the effort into turning it not moving it around your garden/site. I make small wooden compost boxes [around 2ft square, 6inches deep] that I pile up 3 or 4 high and just put everything to compost in those and then move those around the garden several times a year. That way all the soil gets mulched at least once every 3-4 years.

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