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!

Thursday 31 May 2012

Review - Water Butt supplied by Idealo

In the wake of the recent water shortages ( I know we had a wet April, but a few hot weeks in May may well have removed any benefit from that!) I think we are all particularly interested in ways in which to make our garden or allotment more water efficient.

Obviously watering wisely, mulching the soil surface after watering, watering late in the evening and growing less thirsty plants are all good tips, but saving rainwater and reusing "Gray" water is also a good idea.

Fitting water butts to downpipes on your house, garage, shed or greenhouse etc is one way to harvest free water from the sky. However since the announcement of the hose pipe ban in my county I have noticed is that there have been few or no water butts for sale in my local garden centres and I gather a similar situation exists in other areas.

I already have a couple of water butts but was thinking of getting a few more, as if our borehole water supply fails for any reason I have one or maybe two days, at most, saved up in the butts to keep the crops in the poly tunnel growing.

So I was delighted when I was contacted recently by  Idealo , who offered me the chance to have a water butt to review. Idealo is a UK price comparison website that compares a huge range of garden products, from hand tools such as trowels and shovels to larger pieces of machinery like lawn mowers and garden shredders.

I chose one like this one  as it was large ( 200 l) and a pleasant green colour. It also seemed a good price (£59.99) for all the fittings which it came with.

Idealo arranged for its delivery to me and it was ordered and shipped to me in 2 days.

Unfortunately it arrived the day the rain stopped and the sun began to blaze away, but I am sure we will get some more rain soon!

No packaging - apart from the black plastic and tape :-)

Stand and tap and connector kit all stored inside the butt - all included in the price which I was impressed with.

The tap plugs into the hole but you have to reach inside to do up the internal plastic nut which fixes it on  - good job Compostman has longer arms than me !

The capacity of the butt is 200 l, which is a good size.

I think it looks very nice, as far as such things can look nice.

There are pre drilled holes so you can fix it to the down pipe from either left or right - and which ever hole you don't use has a handy plug.

The lid locks in place so it is a safe feature if you have small children around.

I can't wait to put it in place and save yet more water, just in case! Thank you to Tommy at Idealo for sending the butt to me to review.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Watercress update

It has germinated and tiny green shoots have appeared on the surface of the growing medium.

Monday 28 May 2012

Review - ‘Kitchen Garden Estate’ by Helene Gammack

I have very recently been given a copy of this book by the publisher, National Trust Books, to review

Kitchen Garden Estate describes itself as "Traditional country-house techniques for the modern gardener or smallholder” and as an insight into the way things were done in great country houses in times past it is very informative, with wonderful illustrations and images.

The book is full of interesting information about how food and drink production was carried out behind the scenes in large Country Houses, over the last few hundred years. Fashionable trends are discussed ( I had heard of an Orangery of course, but had you heard of a Pinery, for growing Pineapples?) There are some wonderful recipes scattered throughout the book as well, for both food and drink. I was particularly taken with Gooseberries with Honey Saffron Cream   - yum.  There are sections devoted to bee keeping, fish ponds, poultry yards, deer and vineyards as well as describing how the more usual orchards, fruit and vegetables and herbs were produced. All of it is well written and researched, with excellent illustrations and photography

I was also really pleased to see mention of some of my favourite NT properties - Croome Court in particular is the area where I spent my childhood, and I often visited it and played in and rode through the ( then unrestored! ) grounds so it was lovely to see various places discussed and to see photographs.

I have one small quibble - the sub title makes it sound like a book which a modern gardener or smallholder might turn to for advice. I did, however,  feel this book would not really be that much help if you were seeking practical advice on how to run a smallholding or even an allotment.

But that minor quibble aside, the book is lovely, printed on good quality paper, brimming with illustrations and superb photographs, just the right size hardback to be comfortable to hold,  and with a clear index at the back and a comprehensive bibliography - very important if, like me, you like to "read around" the subject matter in other books!

In conclusion,  I really enjoyed this book, and found much to interest me - the ways things were done in "olden days" often give me much food for thought and I have gleaned some  ideas for things I would like to try from this book

( and I really want a "crinkle - crankle" wall now to grow fruit trees up!)

The book is available to purchase directly from the National Trust website for £15 and makes an interesting and informative addition to a general garden book collection, or would make a lovely present.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Growing Watercress

Something I am very pleased about this year is my success at growing Watercress "Aqua" - never tried this before as I thought it needed clean flowing water ( like the watercress beds in Hertfordshire near where I grew up as a child) but no! you CAN grow it in a pot! and it is lovely!

As the seed is very small you need very fine graded growing medium. - sieve it if it is a bit coarse

See how tiny the seed is?

Sprinkle the seed on the surface and just pat into the growing medium, do not cover.

Label and sit the pot in a container of water - do not water from the top as you will wash the fine seed away!

In about 8 weeks ( or maybe less) you will have this - you can keep on cutting and it will regrow as long as you cut the tips out and leave some nodes for regrowth to occur.


Friday 25 May 2012

In my polytunnel now

it is VERY hot indeed during daytime. I have to do any work in there either very early in the morning ( pre 10 am) OR wait until after 8 pm, and even then it is quite uncomfortable!

I also have to make sure all the plants have enough water to get them through the hot day, first thing - I don't want my precious tomato and pepper plants wilting with thirst!

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Chicken antics

THIS is what happens when I am sitting quietly in the shade at the edge of the wood, sowing seeds and pricking out small plants

A hen appears opposite, having jumped up on the bench. It is Marjoram, who peers myopically at me from behind the seed storage box.

Then jumps onto the bench top to inspect my work

  Babs sees what is going on and comes over to have a look...

- and jumps up onto the bench, crossing over to me.


 And up onto my shoulder

Cassi Cat, who is always around me when I am outside, jumps up to glare in disgust at the liberties being taken by "one of THOSE creatures"

Marjoram, meanwhile,  has taken the opportunity (while my attention is distracted) to investigate (i.e. trash) one of my planted up pots

I sometimes wonder how we get any work done around here!

Monday 21 May 2012


One of the things I learnt as a child, but then forgot, ( like knitting) was how to crochet.

I have painfully re learned how to knit - but crochet was not so easy

so I enrolled on a short course at THE WOOL GARDEN, in nearby Newent.

I enjoyed myself and got a bit more confidence, as well as buying some lovely DEBBIE BLISS yarn from them.

I can recommend the shop and Bron ( the owner) is lovely.

Am now crocheting a huge granny square throw :-)

Sunday 20 May 2012

A busy, sunny Sunday

Finally it is dry and sunny! Hurrah!

After getting up and doing the usual chores ( food, hens, tidy up etc) I put on the first of three loads of washing

And then washed a load of flower vases which had been lurking in the cupboard over the sink in the Futility Room - so I gave them a good scrub. I have lots of flowers available to pick from the garden and I like to have nice clean vases to display them in. I washed out some ceramic plant pot holders as well.

We have lots of hot water, courtesy of the sun and the solar thermal tubes, so I did a few washing and cleaning jobs today.

I have been getting more irritated by getting hit by this shrub whenever I come and go through the back door - so I gave it a pruning

Aided, as always, by one or more hens - this is Babs, investigating the camera strap

Babs and Titch keeping an eye on my work

And inspecting the prunings to see if they are edible

Babs was pretty disgusted that there was nothing tasty in the pile!

That's better! and so then I re potted and tidied up the herbs which have been overwintering in the Polytunnel, and put the containers by the back door so I can use them in cooking ( and becasue they look pretty and smell lovely). As always Cassi Cat was nearby me.

Some of the washing drying on the line.

After lunch, Compostgirl had a friend around to play so I got on the mower and mowed ALL the grass, except where there are still spring bulbs dying back.

Washing in, more washing out...and I scrubbed out the spare hen drinkers and feeders and put them to dry in the sunshine. I also scrubbed out plant pots which had contained tomato plants - they are now in their final positions in the polytunnel so I washed out the pots and put them out to dry in the sunshine as well as it is a  good disinfectant

Tidier lawn

The Guinea pig girls went out as soon as the dew dried off the grass, so I moved their run around a few times during the day to give them some fresh grass to eat. If I had loads of them, I wouldn't need a lawnmower!

Compostgirl cleaned out their run during the morning - one of her jobs, as is re filling all the bird feeders. She is very good at doing these jobs and does then very carefully.

Compostman spent some time working on the JCB, repairing and fettling it. He also helped me with a few odd jobs and then cooked Sunday dinner :-) I harvested some veg for him to cook.

Finally at 6 pm we sat down to roast chicken and veg from the garden - the last of the purple sprouting and some more of the kale , also roast spuds using our own home grown ones but I suspect the rest are too shrivled to use any more :-( So we will have to buy some from now until the new spuds are ready (eek!)

Then out to water the polytunnel, feed and say goodnight to hens, guinea pigs etc.

We watched Countryfile ( a bit later than live - we timeslipped it) and then Compostgirl headed off to bed.

Then finally a collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine, a book and my crochet.

It felt good to be able to get on with outside work, at last! And so good to see some sunshine after all the dull, wet days we have had in the last few weeks.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Sunbathing hens

As soon as there is some sunshine - they are flaked out, sunbathing

It can actually be a little alarming, as they often look, well, dead!

But then, when they hear or see me approaching, they move...

Friday 18 May 2012

A wander around my garden

 I think our garden looks at its best at this time of year - lots of early summer flowers are in bloom and everything looks lush and green

Finally the rain stopped and I could mow the grass!

I love this north facing boarder, it is full of aquilegias, iris, tree paeonies and all sorts of lovely flowers

I am in the middlle of digging out and restocking this east facing boarder, lots of new plants waiting to go in - when I have a few spare moments!

Still have patches of wild flowers in the lawn, so I do not mow them but leave them be.

I love Honesty :-)

Another tree paeony - they seem to do really well in our garden, such exotic looking blooms!

The last of the bluebells, still bravely flowering in the wood

And I couldn't resist bringing some of the flowers inside