We have had continuing conversations about compost making. We have been composting for years and are still learning! One of the ‘services’ we offer to our customers is the disposal of garden rubbish, both the ‘compostable’ stuff like soft prunings and grass mowings, and the harder ‘twiggy’ stuff, which we put through our shredder. We re-started offering this service in 2014. The shredded, woody stuff is very good as a weed-suppressing mulch between our fruit bushes and on the paths between the strawberries. At first, we tried spreading them on old carpet to stop the shreddings disappearing into the mud, but found that weed seeds germinated in the mulch and rooted down into the carpet! So, we have carried on, but without the carpet – at least that made the weeding easier!
The Compost Experiment
In early 2003, we started on a new experiment, making compost entirely from grass mowings and these shredded prunings. As every gardener knows, composting grass mowings on their own tends to make a horrible slimy mass, but mixing them with the shredded stuff seems to stop that happening. Our first two heaps got really hot and stayed that way for some weeks. The only additives we gave them were the occasional thin sprinkling of soil (to provide the useful organisms that drive the composting process) and dustings of lime to prevent the whole thing getting too acid. The first batches went on our strawberry beds and in the polytunnel, and proved very effective.
This compost was so successful in 2004 that we decided to enlarge the bins to make more each year! Next experiment was to make ‘hybrid’ heaps, mixing the grass-and-shreddings blend with normal garden waste, to try to get it all to heat up more, so getting a better end product with fewer weed seeds in it! Early results were promising and we have carried on!
More recently, we have also used shredded paper in the same way and it seems very effective.
If you would like more information to get started with compost-making yourself, please just ask. For a while we have wondered about making up a little leaflet to help get people get started, but perhaps the simplest is to recommend the RHS webpage on composting. It seems they agree on our idea of composting shreddings with grass cuttings – that’s encouraging!