Friday 8 December 2017

The blessings of compost

Reading today that Guy Watson, entrepreneur and impresario of the wonderful Riverford Organic Vegetables, from whom we buy 90% of our vegetables for the table, has recently embraced the joys of composting, I thought I would add my own mite to the mix. I can honestly say that for the last ten years almost nothing organic has gone from our household to landfill. Either the guinea pigs eat it, or we compost it (mainly garden weeds and grass clippings as out here in the wilds on the edge of Bodmin Moor we have lots of rats who are encouraged by composting any food waste, and which have to be kept down, to my great regret, with poison), or if all else fails the wormery gets it, and the worms will eat almost anything. 

I’m not a terribly good composter - sometimes it all goes down quite quickly and can be put on the vegetable garden or at the roots of any new plant I’m putting in the garden, but sometimes it seems to take forever in the compost bins. But I persevere, on principle. It simply isn’t right  that organic material should go in the bin. It  fuels greenhouse gases in the form of methane, for one thing, and it is a waste of good organic material for another. The principles of composting are simple - green and brown matter mixed in together (the green is literally green, as in freshly harvested weeds, grass clippings, cut flowers etc., and the brown is anything dry such as dead leaves, brown paper, or very small twigs), turned occasionally, not too wet, not too dry, and Bob’s your uncle, at least most of the time. I put in cold ash from the fire, too (the sharp alkalinity keeps the rats from nesting in the compost bins) - not sure whether that counts as brown or whether there’s a separate category of grey? But it seems to work. 

Also it just feels so good to be recycling organic material the way you recycle paper, metal cans or plastic bottles. The consciousness of virtue is part of the joy of it. I hate waste, and in our modern society we tend to be so wasteful, what with plastic packaging (don’t get me on to the plastic island in the Pacific ...) and polystyrene (which ought to be outlawed, as however good it is at packing items for transit, you can’t do anything  with it except put it in the landfill). It isn’t very long (a generation or two, no more) since even people in towns re-used pretty much everything. A definite decision seems to have been made to discourage this - definitely a wrong turning, rather like Dr Beeching’s railway cuts which are only now finally being reversed (in a few places, at least - I’m looking forward to a railway station at Okehampton).

The wonderful thing about compost when it’s finished, all crumbly and brown, is that it’s the very best fertiliser for your garden, improving soil texture as well as adding plant nutrients, and no risk of getting the balance wrong as there is with artificial fertilisers, or contaminating water courses with chemicals. 

So, my friends, get composting!