Quality compost is a whole universe of diverse organisms, in just a teaspoon of compost the numbers of microorganisms is mind boggling. These microorganisms are incredibly beneficial to plants, working in ways we are only just beginning to understand.
Plants get their nutrients from the soil and the nutrients in the soil are made plant available by the microorganisms. The plants actually communicate with the microorganisms by releasing exudates (sugars), which feed the microorganisms and let them know which nutrients they need. The organisms living in soil also carry out a whole host of work in the ground such as creating organic matter. Organic matter acts as a sponge so this helps the water holding capacity of the soil – very helpful in a drought! Remember last summer?
So, long story short, having these microorganisms in the soil is like having a billion strong work force working for the good of all. This is how important compost is because good quality compost can be used to inoculate beneficial microbes into the soil.
Creating compost with all the necessary beneficial microorganisms is something we are beginning to discover as well, it is also very unique. There is not one perfect recipe that will work for all. There is a lot of poor quality compost being sold, which will only have bacteria in it and not much else – this is due to it being produced from green waste only and sterilised.
When you are managing food ‘waste’ (it is not waste when put it to good use in your garden!) there are a variety of options to convert this into high quality compost/ soil conditioner. A simple method for kitchen scraps is to have a worm farm. This can be as small as a bucket with a tap or as large as a wheelie bin. There are lots of DIY worm farm videos available online. We converted a bath tub into a worm farm at the garden, which works really well as it is insulated and can drain off the worm leachate – any moisture produced from composting, which is good plant feed if diluted and given to house plants.
Another option is Bokashi which is fermenting your food scraps – it can handle anything from the kitchen apart from liquids (water, milk or fruit juice), paper and plastic wrap, or meat bones. You have a bucket which seals, add in the food scraps and some Bokashi bran and once it is full it is sealed for a minimum of 2 weeks and then can be dug into your garden as a soil conditioner.
A compost tumbler works really well to create good quality compost quickly. Add in your browns first (ideally dry wood-shavings or small wood chips and then add your mixed food waste (greens). You want a ratio of around 40% browns and 60% greens and spin it every 3 days for the first 10 days and then once a week for another 3 weeks then it can be emptied and used.
Currently we don’t have the space to create compost in quantities large enough to sell (watch this space) so we stock compost from Melcourt SylvaGrow and Dalefoot wool compost because we believe these are high quality peat free composts.
We also have stock of our own crafted Biochar – which is soil’s best friend. Our char comes from a woodland just 6 miles away. It consists of 90% carbon and has an incredible ability to hold water, 3 times its mass. We crush then infuse our biochar with nettle and comfrey tea to pack in the nutrients. You can add biochar to your potting mix (we add 25-40%) and it makes a big difference. You could mix it in with your compost and mulch beds with it. You could add some in the bottom of the hole when planting plants. In drought years your soil will be able to get through much better. We sell nutrient-enriched Biochar at £5 per litre.
If you want to learn more about composting methods, how to improve soil quality and meet like minded people – we are going to run more courses that cover this. Please register your interest in the contact form below and tell us which day of the week and times would work best for you.