Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Sunday 24 April 2011

Growing Potatoes outdoors


To avoid introducing pests and diseases into your crop, buy good quality, certified seed potatoes and start 'chitting' them as early as possible. This process encourages the tubers to produce strong, sturdy sprouts and gives an earlier maturing crop.

This is what you do:

Store the seed tubers in a light, cool (10°C), frost free spot and leave them to sprout. This is known as chitting. Place the tubers rose end up (the end where the tiny buds can be seen), in a clean box or tray. An egg box would be ideal, or a fruit tray from a supermarket ( the thick card ones are good!)

If you have more than one variety, label the box ( :-) )

Keep in a cool dark place.

When you see tiny shoots appearing move the tubers to a cool (8-10°C), light place.

Potatoes in the ground.

Dig in well-rotted manure or garden compost (apply no more than one wheelbarrow-full of well-rotted strawy manure, or two of compost, per 10 sq metres of ground) Plant tubers into trenches or in individual holes, 7-15cm in depth, cover with soil. See spacings below:

I make a shallow trench and then dig a hole for each tuber in the trench, this gives me soil to earth up the growing plants as required.

I use a shovel of my home made compost in each of the holes with a tuber in, plus a scoop of wood ash and a scoop of organic "Rooster" chicken manure (available from the Organic Gardening Catalogue).

1st early – 28-36cm apart, 38-50cm between rows.
2nd early & maincrop – 36-45cm apart, 65-75cm between rows.

Potato planting can start from mid March in milder areas, where frost is rare. If the soil is slow to warm, wait until April or May, or protect early plantings with fleece or cloches.

I have been very busy planting spuds, I have already got the Earlies (Orla , Rocket ) in the ground and I got 2 rows of Early Maincrop in a few weks ago A really nice waxy salad potato called "Nicola" and also "Charlotte"  which we have found keep as Maincrop really well.

Compostman dug over the ground for me and then I made some trenches and dropped each spud in a hole in the bottom of the trench, with some organic chicken poo pellets, wood ash and some grass clippings (they help prevent scab)

I then tucked the spuds up nice and warm with a good covering of soil....

Unfortunately various hens thought all this was purely for THEIR benefit and came along

and rather destroyed my nice earthing up ridges of soil in between the trenches, but hey ho...never mind...I can rebuild them. The chickens are meant to be fenced out of the area of the veg plot but someone left the gate open....

Every year we grow enough spuds to last us from late June/early July until the following May... so we only buy potatos for about a month or so every year.

But in 2007 we lost virtually all our Maincrop harvest to blight (oh what a surprise, after all the wet weather we had!)

We had to start buying potatoes in October!!

2008 was a bit better, because we had good weather in Feb and March I got the earlies and 2nd Earlies in, well..... early ;-)

so when the blight hit again, we had a good crop to harvest, which stored well.

Similar stuff in 2009 and 2010 so this year I am growing a lot more 2nd early varieties and only one maincrop varieties and they will be in bags and tubs away from the veg plot so if blight DOES hit us I can keep a physical distance between the maincrop and the potato patch.

I am really hoping that, this year

a) The weather is better, which it has been
b) Getting them in a bit earlier will help if we DO get blight again
c) I have spaced the rows out even further AND left a larger gap between each spud within the trench, so hopefully more air can get in between the potato plants.
d) I am not growing maincrop varieties ( apart from Desire) which need a longer growing season to mature and so are worst affected by blight.

Fingers crossed!! That all this will help and once again we will have a decent harvest.

BUT We have put a 50 m length of electric fence netting around the veg garden so the hens cannot get in to dig everything up...

and they were VERY miffed that they couldn't get in to flatten the potato ridges I have made HOWEVER hard they tried!!

Potatoes are very tolerent so IF you have some earlies or early maincrop I WOULD get them in the ground or a grow bag NOW....even if they don't have big shoots on them....you will get some harvest and it will taste yummy.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Tomato plants

These were about six inches high a month ago. My how they have grown! They are more than 2 feet high, now! Some with flowers on them!

This year I have grown Pink Cherry, Red Cherry, Aunty Madge, Gardeners Delight (Cherry toms)

Costoluto Fiorentino, Costoluto Genovese, Big Boy, Beefsteak, Black Russian, Atkins stuffing, Carlton (Beef toms)

Shirley, Moneymaker, Latah, Roma, Golden Sunrise, Yellow Perfection ("normal" sized toms)

I have already sold some and have others "in waiting" to be collected by people who asked me to grow particular varieties.

I have about 170 plants all growing well, some in the cold frame in side the polytunnel and some hardening off in the Polytunnel itself. I cover them all over with fleece at night just in case we get a cold night as temperatures can get quite low inside a Polytunnel at night!

The peppers, Californian Wonder, Nardullo, Marconi Rosso, Romano and Hot Cayenne chilli, are all doing well. They love the heat of the double glazed porch so will stay in there until the nights are a bit warmer, then I will put them out in to the Polytunnel also.

Saturday 16 April 2011

These are what the wood looked like in mid March

 And these are from today, just 4 weeks further on in the Wheel of the Year.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Potato bed - how four weeks have flown!


On the 15th March I emptied out the old compost from this 2 m x 3 m raised bed and filled it with my new season compost. I planted out 20 "Charlotte" and in the next door raised bed I planted out 20 "Nicola" chitted, organic tubers. I then covered the 2 beds with geotextile to warm them up and keep them safe from frost.

Today I uncovered the 2 raised beds and replaced the Geotextile with open woven mesh. This keeps the hens off the growing spuds AND provides a bit of frost protection.

They are growing really well!

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Master Composter training

Ooo so busy! I have been busy teaching Master Composters today, was great fun and I enjoyed the work a lot Very Happy I like my job! Very Happy

Also had a friend Paul here afterwards ( he was on the training session) and we talked about a lot of stuff over lunch.

Now drinking cider and about to eat chicken with leeks and cheese and saute potatoes and other stuff.

Have also done yet more seed sowing and planting of stuff in the veg patch. Am amazed at the progress of some stuff - tomatoes in particular are very advanced!

Have been up since 5.30 so bed beckons, soon-ish.

How are you all getting on?

Monday 11 April 2011

Peter and Crystal

No, these are not some reality show so called celebs! But my two rabbits!

We moved them into the outside run , a few weeks ago. They have a house to go into at night, but basically they live in the run all the time. We move it around every few days and they are very happy in there.

 We moved them over into the orchard a few days ago, because Crystal had started digging in the lawn, so we decided she could dig in the orchard instead. See what she has been up to!

She is making a nest! She pulled lots of belly fur out, took all the hay from the feed rack and carried it down into her underground chamber.

She isn't actually in kit, as Peter has been castrated, but obviously Spring is in her blood and is telling her it is time to have babies.

Cassi Cat looks on, bemused by all the flying soil.

Tuesday 5 April 2011