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Composting Guide

Using compost will enrich your soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. It reduces (if not removes) the need for chemical fertilisers. It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

What exactly is compost?

Simply put, compost is decomposed organic material. Compost is made with material such as leaves, shredded twigs, old plants, kitchen scraps from plants, cardboard, paper, grass cuttings (non-treated please), horse manure (99% grass anyway), rabbit bedding hay, straw etc.
There are two simplified categories of organic material, green and brown (see How to make it below)

Why use it?

To gardeners, compost is considered “black gold” because of its many benefits in the garden
The resulting mixture is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, such as worms and fungal mycelium. Compost improves soil fertility in your soil with the obvious benefits that brings. The benefits of composting include providing nutrients to crops as fertiliser, acting as a soil conditioner, increasing the humus or humic acid contents of the soil, and introducing beneficial colonies of microbes that help to suppress pathogens in the soil.

How should, or could you use it?

1. Use as a mulch
2. Dig it into your soil
3. Use as an autumn cover to prevent weeds and to feed your soil through the winter (no dig principle)

How much do you need?

This will depend exactly on how you intend to use it. As a general rule if your soil is in good condition up to 7.5cm or 3 inches a year is adequate spread on the top. If you are trying to improve a poor soil structure then the same amount could be dug into your soil in the autumn, mulching with slightly less throughout the growing season.

How to make it

There are some posts already on this website to give you some ideas for making compost. We are lucky to get plenty of leaves, grass and wood clippings throughout the year delivered to our allotments so there should be no shortage of material available for you. Remember that horse manure is just grass and needs to be composted prior to use.
A mixture of green and brown material is required to make good compost and opinions seem to vary on the ration. Green is considered to be any living plant material (nitrogen rich) and brown is considered to be any dead or woody material (carbon).
It may be just a case of using what you have. Its worth considering making a good sized container on your plot (each plot should have some form of composting method). The plastic bins seem to work but can exclude air which is necessary to begin the decomposition process.

Other benefits

Composting is an important part of waste management since food and other compostable materials make up about 20% of waste in landfills and these materials take longer to biodegrade in the landfill. Composting offers an environmentally superior alternative to using organic material for landfill because composting reduces methane production, and provides economic and environmental co-benefits.

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