Composting in a small garden
Lafoosa · 17/02/2020 11:51
We have quite a small enclosed garden and would love to start composting.
However I've never composted before and don't know where to begin.
Do I need a certain container to compost with? Is there a certain way you do it to make sure unwanted critters aren't attracted to your garden?
We can't use things like rat poison or anything like that because we have cats and I also wouldn't want to just kill rats.
We also have a toddler so any way of making it so she can't play in the compost pile would be great.
FLOrenze · 17/02/2020 14:56
For a small garden, the best composters are the wooden slatted ones. For best results standing on the soil. Do not put any cooked food in it or any fruit. (Fruit Flies are not dangerous but are unpleasant) Vegetable waste should be chopped up a bit. Potatoes peelings teabags and the like just go in as they are. Green Garden Waste chopped up and Grass. Mowings help.
The reason for chopping it up is because, in a small container you won’t get as much heat as the large ones. Try to layer the stuff, i use wet newspaper or brown card, (thank you Amazon). This helps the heat.
Good compost will not smell or attract vermin. When you lift the lid and poke around you should see hundreds of red worms. These are doing the work for you and are a sign of good compost.
It does take a long while, but the advantage of the slatted composters is that you don’t have to turn the compost. Late summer, if you take out the bottom three slats you should easily get a few shovels worth. It is a good habit to dig it out late summer/early autumn and use as a mulch. It does not matter if there are some uncomposted stuff.Put the big stuff back in the composter and the rest n the garden, where the earthworms will take it down.
Sorry that turned into a Compost Lecture.
MereDintofPandiculation · 17/02/2020 15:01
I think your cats will deter the rats. Rats are intelligent creatures and suspicious of anything new, so disturbing the heap regularly, eg forking it through, would be another deterrent.
The heap works better if it's warm, and the amount of heat generated depends on the volume. The amount of heat lost through the sides obviously depends on its surface area. So to maximise the volume:surface area ratio means get as near a cube as you can, so use anything you can that will make the sides, and cover it with a bit of old carpet or a piece of plastic if you want to stop your toddler getting into from on top.
It will take 6 months or a year to compost, and the bit on top will be last to rot down, so when you come to use it, be prepared to take the top few layers off and keep to one side before you remove the compost, Then the stuff you took off the top can be put back to start the next heap.
FLOrenze · 17/02/2020 15:05
Your toddler can make her own compost and bug hotel. Get some bricks or big stones and put them together with gaps in between. No bigger than half a metre tall. Put wet news paper or card on the ground .She can put tea leaves, bits of garden Greenery and little bits of wood or sticks from the park. Put on some form of roof to sit on top held down with a stone. As soon as she/he lifts the lid and gives it a stir she will see wood lice, worms ant and all sorts of critters. We bought a child’s magnifying bug jar so that ours could see them close up,
PigeonofDoom · 17/02/2020 21:17
If you’re short on space I’d look at a hotbin, bokashi or wormery for composting. All use different methods (heat, fermentation, worms) to speed up the composting process which means you can get away with a smaller container as the compost turnover is higher. All require a certain amount of faff so do some googling and research to decide which will best suit your needs. The hotbin is good at containing smells which deters vermin. I think this is also the case for the bokashi and wormery but I don’t own them so can’t vouch for them! Love my hotbin though. It’s really just an expensive polystyrene box but it’s very useful in a small garden and we put loads of stuff in it (not meat though, alledgedly you can but it hasn’t worked well for us when we’ve put meat in).
susandelgado · 18/02/2020 20:01
I'm disabled and have a small raised bed about 8 X 6 feet. I've grown all sorts of things in it successfully. Last year it was peas. This year I want to try potatoes but have no idea how many seed potatoes to put in, and should I be chitting them now?
Any advice would be appreciated
FLOrenze · 19/02/2020 09:16
Hi @susandelgado , I would start a new post with your question. On this thread there will be many gardeners, like myself, who have no knowledge of growing potatoes.
TiddleTaddleTat · 23/02/2020 20:33
Worm tea is a great bonus
MereDintofPandiculation · 24/02/2020 08:52
susandelgado Not a potato expert but no-one else has answered: I'd plant about 18 inches apart, maybe you could squash them in at 12. I used to grow them in 18inch square tubs, one to a tub. Some people swear by planting them on Easter Sunday, ie April, and I'd guess start chitting a month before. I used to start chitting whenever I finally remembered to buy some seed potatoes.
woodencoffeetable · 24/02/2020 08:55
sue I used to grow potatos in a builder's bucket (a broken one with a hole in the bottom).
3 seed potatos per bucket.
WellTidy · 24/02/2020 08:59
Would you consider buying a Hotbin? I got one last year and I now have really good compost. They aren't cheap, but very straightforward and no-work and you can start composting straightaway.
Purplewithred · 24/02/2020 09:01
Small garden composting: depends how small your garden is. My garden is 6m x 24m and I have two Dalek type compost bins; one filling and the other 'cooking'. I also have a small electric shredder so I can shred small branches etc to go in the compost (but I love gardening and my garden is bursting with plants!). There are two recipes for making compost: chopping everything that goes in finely, carefully balancing what goes in (greens/browns), regular turning, keeping it warm vs using it as a glorified garden rubbish heap. Both work but the second method (mine!) is slower.
Purplewithred · 24/02/2020 09:07
Potatoes in a raised bed: they need a decent amount of space each if you want bigger spuds. I wouldn't put more than a dozen in your bed.
Chitting isn't vital but it's nice to do while you're waiting to put them in (traditionally St Patrick's Day, 17th March, in many places, which is fixed in the calendar). If you are going to chit they want a lot of light - you want short stumpy thick chits not long straggly ones. Potatoes need decent soil and a lot of water to get big.
If you haven't chosen varieties I can recommend Pink Fir Apple for 'new' potatoes - knobbly but delicious.
BiffKipperAndTwattingChip · 24/02/2020 09:12
I have a small garden too and am thinking of a wormery. We don’t need to compost as the council deals with all our garden and food waste, but I like the idea of feeding the worms and having something to poke about in.
jillandhersprite · 24/02/2020 09:27
Saw this post and thought this is the thread for me as have been considering it. Is it true about not putting fruit or cooked food in the compost? We have quite a bit of that kind of waste - scrapings from plates and lots of fruit peelings as well as the usual veg peelings, so if over 50% of our food waste isn't compostable then I'm not sure its going to be worth the bother?
woodencoffeetable · 24/02/2020 10:14
jill depends on the kind of composter.
I believe hot composters are rat proof and suitable for food waste as well (we were considering one for the same reason as you)
the dalek type has a strong mesh at the bottom and a firmly closing lid, so that might be an option as well. but you should never compost animal products.
we went with a dalek because it's almost smell free and has a very small foot print.
generally hard fruit peel (oranges, bananas) takes ages to compost. careful if you have a lot of those.
wrt layering, that sort of happens naturally in a garden - and I agree with a previous poster that if you can get things small it will compost faster/easier.
MikeUniformMike · 24/02/2020 10:39
You can compost food waste but should not compost meat-based products. Cooked food will attract vermin.
You can put leftover milk in. Some teabags don't decompose. You can compost fruit peel.
You can make a composting bin by cutting a large hole in the base of a dustbin. I have mesh under my dalek compost bin.
I have a wire cage for garden clippings - the clippings take ages to rot.
Human urine is said to speed up composting.
MereDintofPandiculation · 25/02/2020 10:58
Cooked food will attract vermin. This is always said, but I know of no evidence that rats will seek out cooked vegetables in preference to raw. And it's not even clear that they are particularly attracted to fish skin or meat bones. Main reason for not putting fish and meat remains on is that any fat attached to them isn't easy to break down.
Anything that doesn't rot down (bits of sellotape on cardboard, plastic interliners on what look like cardboard cartons, some teabags) can be fished out when you come to use the compost (not as yukky as it sounds - by then the compost is beautiful and sweet) - I keep a small water receptacle next to the bins for that purpose.
MikeUniformMike · 26/02/2020 08:45
The cooked food doesn't mean boiled veg, it means things like leftovers from mealtimes. Rats would probably find leftover spag bol or sunday lunch appealing.
picklemewalnuts · 26/02/2020 08:57
Wormery all the way. Just get an old kitchen bin, punch drain holes in the bottom edge. Put a couple of inches of soil. Buy some suitable worms on line, then add waste on top. It all disappears into compost which will build up from the bottom. When it's almost full, you'll need to start off another bin with worms rescued from the first one, and spread the compost they've made across your garden.
MikeUniformMike · 26/02/2020 09:23
A friend gave me some worms, and my daleks are quite alive with them.
I'm not sure that you need special worms, as if you have soil, the worms will find it.
I make comfrey tea, but often I just but the comfrey in the compost bin, along with nettles, grass, shredded newspaper and plain cardboard etc.
BiffKipperAndTwattingChip · 26/02/2020 11:07
pickle, that's v interesting, I thought you had to buy a fancy wormery! How do you stop the special wormery worms escaping?
picklemewalnuts · 26/02/2020 13:23
The drainage holes are too small, they only let water out. The worms stay within the dark moist soil/decaying scraps.
Special 'bought' worms tend to be faster at the job than ordinary garden worms. You can find your own worms, but you'd need to try and find the particular ones that will like the wormery lifestyle! Over time it sort of evens out, I'm not sure what lives in there now, it's been 8 years or so. There's plenty of them and I don't look too closely!
I've got a bought wormery, but I run a simple one alongside it for when I'm running out of space. With hindsight I'd have a three bin system like with compost bins. Much easier than the trays I mess about with.
MereDintofPandiculation · 26/02/2020 13:40
Rats would probably find leftover spag bol or sunday lunch appealing. But no more appealing that discarded fruit or any of various other uncooked food wastes. Though leftover spag bol or sunday lunch is not a concept I understand - my family have learnt that if it doesn't get eaten at this meal, it will reappear in disguise later in the week
MereDintofPandiculation · 26/02/2020 13:43
Special 'bought' worms tend to be faster at the job than ordinary garden worms. You can find your own worms, but you'd need to try and find the particular ones that will like the wormery lifestyle! Special bought worms are UK natives, but they're worms that like a high level of humus, rather than the Lumbricus type which are in ordinary garden soil. Worms breed very quickly, so if you have your compost heap open to the soil the "special" worms will arrive and breed very rapidly. But probably easier to buy if you have an enclosed system, although you could try talking to a friend who has a compost heap and take a handful of her worms.
picklemewalnuts · 26/02/2020 13:45
I'm with you, Dint. There really isn't left over food. It all gets recycled. I serve up a portion size that's almost certain to be eaten, with seconds for those who'd like more.
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