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, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs 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 work as an environmental educator, lecturer, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and have spent the last 11 years as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council. I offer talks and run workshops and events where we talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. We also make crafts and have fun.

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, 29 July 2012

We don't dig peat - do we?


The chair of the government’s Sustainable Growing Media Task Force (SGMTF), Dr Alan Knight, has recently published his chair’s report and draft ‘road map’, Towards Sustainable Growing Media.

I must admit I do wonder exactly why we need a "road map" about a move towards sustainable growing when, as John Walker has so eloquently written about on his blog  a growing number of gardeners have already found their way to using reliable and consistent peat-free composts with growing success.

But, regardless, this is the interesting bit.

“The Chairman is inviting feedback from all interested parties, whether Task Force members or not, by 30 September 2012. He would like your views on any part or all of the report and would particularly welcome details of specific actions that individuals or organisations would be willing to undertake that can be added to the roadmap. There are no specific questions to be answered and this is not a Government consultation.”
Feedback should be sent by email to the Secretariat: growingmedia@defra.gsi.gov.uk
I am not quite sure if this was the intention, but effectively this is an open invitation for we gardeners and growers to have our say on the issue of peat free growing.

So, if you are one of the many gardeners who grow beautiful flowers and veg without the use of peat, or just don't agree with the destruction of peat bog eco systems to provide peat as a growing medium, perhaps you would consider telling them so?

Just a thought

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hungry Bin update after 3 weeks

Here at Compost Mansion we generate a kitchen caddy full of waste every couple of days from our kitchen - tea bags, coffee filters and grounds, veg peelings and assorted bits of cardboard all go in there. The caddy lives in the corner by the sink, next to the sink. Typically, we empty about 5 kg of compostables out of it every few days.








I have been re filling the Hungry Bin with assorted kitchen and garden waste every day, a little and often is the best way and I have been adding a couple of inches of food stuff for the worms everyday, as suggested by the  Hungry Bin parent company in New Zealand


This was the view inside the lid of the Hungry Bin on Day 20 of the trial.I added some more assorted  kitchen and garden waste from the kitchen caddy and some of the packaging hay I recieved in my order from Rocket Gardens.

I have now owned a Hungry Bin for 3 weeks and am still delighted with it, despite the warmer weather recently it does not smell and it can handle a lot of kitchen waste.  I have also been using the "worm tea" from the tray at the bottom - diluted 10:1 with water  ( until it is the colour of weak tea, no milk, no sugar) the plants in the polytunnel love it

Next time I will hopefully be reporting on opening up the tray at the bottom to harvest some vermicompost ;-)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A busy day in the garden

A very busy and hot day in the garden - the composting area needed a lot of work doing as I have managed to mow the lawn , but not fill up the compost bins.



So Compostman and I got to work after breakfast and morning routine chores, while it was still relatively cool outside.


I had several bins needing the compost digging out and storing before I could refill the bins.


As always, we had henny helpers!


Compostgirl helped a lot, but then sat down in the shade,  to read for a bit.



Several of the wooden bins need replacements planks and uprights - a job for another day as I will have to remove 4 bins worth of compostable materials to get to the rotten ones and it was far too hot to do that today! Still, an advantage of the Recycle Works wooden modular bins is that you can just replace the individual boards and uprights as needed, and these are at least 7 years old so have lasted very well, considering that they have been buried in decomposing compostables!



Much tidier! And a bag full of finished compost to add to the collection.


While moving assorted mats, buckets etc around in one of the leaf mold bins I came across a pair of Wood mice.

One ran away down onto the ground...


While the other ran up the side of the compost bin


on to the top... and away. I felt sad I had disturbed them, but there were no young in the nest so hopefully no harm was done.


We also identified our mystery visitor to the bird table, a Nuthatch. Well a pair, actually but only the one came to the feeder today.







It took nuts away, so I don't know if there are still chicks in the nest somewhere in the wood. We have been hearing the call of a Nuthatch in the wood for a few weeks, so maybe there is a late nest somewhere? I hope so.

I finally went into Hell's Sauna (aka the Polytunnel) to water the ground in an attempt to cool it down in there - NOT a pleasant experience - I was wringing wet with sweat afterwards and had to have a cool shower to recover - far too hot to do anything in there after about 10 am! I am watering in the evening just before it gets too dark to do so. Harvest is good from inside it, though - loads of lovely tomatoes now and the peppers and cucumbers are looking very good.




Thanks for dropping by :-)

Useful i.d chart for slugs

If, like me, you have a lot of slugs in your garden - you might find this chart interesting.

I don't kill slugs but instead throw them in the compostbins, where they can eat something and be useful while doing it.

The hens seem only to like very small, tender little slugs - they turn their beaks up at any huge monster sized ones (shame)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Welcome

As I am appearing in the local media this week for winning the Innovation Award at the Garden Organic Masters Conference - here is the link to my write up of the day

http://www.the-compostbin.com/2012/07/master-composter-and-master-gardener.html

I am SO pleased and proud to have won this award - and if you are visiting me for the first time as a result of reading about it in the local press - a HUGE welcome from me! I hope you enjoy reading what I have written about, here in The Compost Bin, and that you follow my blog and become a regular reader. :-)

If you have any questions about composting or gardening, please comment on these pages

or contact me compostwoman@the-compostbin.com

and I will do my best to help.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A recycling/reusing sort of day - using the sunshine!

Today it was fine and sunny (hurrah!) so  felt the need to wash and dry stuff - but not just laundry, oh no!
 

I had a delivery of something wrapped in a HUGE length of bubble wrap, so it got washed and hung up to dry. I am sure I can use it during the colder months to protect some delicate plants in the Polytunniel


 As I am planting out all sorts of plants I have grown (finally! the weather is ok!)  - the pot mountain waiting to be washed and put away gets ever bigger!

So Compostgirl and I got cracking and washed a load of Rootrainers and pots - and left them out to dry in the sun - free sterilisation as well as free drying!




I bought a "pre loved" Can O Worms ( originally from Wiggly Wigglers) from a friend, washed out the trays etc and left them to dry - they are now packed away for use in demonstrations on my Master Composter and Master Gardener stands.






Oh! how wonderful to have sunshine available, after such a dull early summer - so we can dry stuff, enjoy  the sunshine, generate hot water and electricity and just - to enjoy :-)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Plant order from Rocket Gardens


As you all know we have had some very wet weather here. A lot of plants have been smashed to bits by the torrential rain, or just didn't even germinate at all this year.

I had little success with my courgette plants - the two in the polytunnel are doing ok, but the four I planted outside got smashed in the last downpour which also flooded the garden and polytunnel.

I have also had a complete failure of dwarf french beans and the latest set of pea plants. I have planted loads more seeds in the polytunnel, I tried looking on Freecycle, I have asked around friends and I have looked in my local garden centres for organic plants but with no joy - I guess growers are suffering the same way and what few plants are in the shops are snapped up quite quickly!

So I decided to buy in some plants online and thought I would see what Rocket Gardens plants were like. I have heard good things about them from various friends and from reviews in the media  Rocket Gardens, say on their website

All of our seeds are sourced from Soil Association approved organic seed suppliers.
The compost we use to grow the seedlings in is approved for use in Organic systems by the Soil Association.
Our plants are grown naturally under a fully organic regime.
 
So, I decided to order some courgette plants, some peas and dwarf french beans as well as some more spinach as I have been having trouble with growing seedlings and I wanted a back up in case of any more losses! I also ordered some late strawberry plants and some herb plants. When I ordered there was 25 % off all orders so I did buy a few more plants than I originally intended (cough!)


The cardboard box came promptly and the plants were packed in layers of hay ( organic, I later found out on checking :-) )



The herbs were very good plants, I have brought the Lemongrass plants inside ( after listening to what Jekka McVicar had to say!)


The mint was to replace a variety which died in the very cold weather last year.




I also planted up a herb planter with some of the other herbs I bought. All were a good size and very healthy looking.

The strawberry plants were quite the best looking ones I have ever bought and I will be planting up a strawberry tower with them in the next day or so.

I shall pot on the beans, peas, spinach and  and courgette plants into individual containers and let them get a little larger before planting them out, but they were a good size also. I just want to make sure they do not get drowned or bashed to bits outside (especially as it is raining here AGAIN!)

Also had a very nice chat to a lady on the other end of the phone, when I called them about the hay, so all in all am impressed with their service and their plants. The prices are pretty good, also ( especially with a further 25 % off...)

Will keep you all updated :-)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Time To Power Down? by John Walker - a really thought provoking post

A timely reminder from John Walker

As concern over Western ‘energy obesity’ moves up the agenda, can we really afford, financially or morally, to continue switching on our propagators and greenhouse heaters?

John Walker is one of my favourite writers. I used to really look forward to reading his column in Organic Gardening Magazine - and am really pleased to follow him on Twitter.  As he suggests in his article, I use our home generated electricity to run my heated propagators in Feb and March - and any shortfall is provided by Good Energy
I also follow his advice about utilising the power of the Sun to germinate seeds and get crops growing.

Even if it was originally published 5 years ago, in the much missed Organic Gardening Magazine, his article is still timely advice.
“John reminds all gardeners that there are some hard choices ahead, and changes we all need to make in the battle to keep the world cool. He writes of what he calls our Western ‘energy obesity’ and outlines a ‘diet’ to address it. There’s much individuals can achieve – how about switching off propagators and greenhouse heaters for a start? Those who throw their green fingers up in horror would do well to read John’s article to understand that a cooler greenhouse need not be the end of the world. In fact, it could help save it."

Judges’ citation, Garden Media Guild Environmental Award 2007.
Original article published in Organic Gardening, January 2007. John is the winner of the Garden Media Guild Environmental Award 2007.



Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers' Traps—A First

 Never quite sure why people are a bit surprised at stuff like this.


Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers' Traps—A First

MPs Challenge "Greenest Government Ever" to put nature at heart of economy


 The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister must lead a programme of action to put nature at the centre of the country’s economic decision-making, says the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.



MPs Challenge "Greenest Government Ever" to put nature at heart of economy.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Punk hens

 I have some VERY disgusted hens at the moment. They do NOT like being sprayed with Purple Spray. But I do not like them with pecked feathers - or pecked skin - so purple spray it is, to stop which even naughty hen is doing the pecking


 Poor Titch is still bald.


 Babs has some nasty peck marks on her poor head.


I strongly suspect Tiny Hen ...she has no pecked feathers now at all and has become top hen of the ex barn girls, despite being so tiny and recently so poorly.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Local activity - Back off badgers - Wildlife campaigns

Local activity - Back off badgers - Wildlife campaigns

Badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) | The Wildlife Trusts

Badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) | The Wildlife Trusts

Holt Farm Organic Garden, Yeo Valley visit

On Friday last week I had a day out ( a VERY long day out, but more of that, later!)

I was lucky enough to win two tickets in a givaway, from Lucy over at The Smallest Smallholding. I won tickets to a wonderful talk by Jekka McVicar all about herbs, at  The Organic Gardens at Holt Farm ( the home of the Mead family, who own Yeo Valley Dairies). This excellent event was last in a series of talks and tours being organised as a fundraiser for the Horatio Garden Appeal for the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust. (SSIT).




I was going to go with Compostman, but plans went awry as they often do so I travelled down to Blagdon, alone. The journey was uneventful, but rain made it slow.

I arrived ( in the pouring rain!) and saw...this! Loved this planter in the car park!


 

The walk up to the Tea Room (where the talk was being held) was wonderful, if a bit wet underfoot - it rained solidly for most of the morning.


The gardens were wonderful as well, even in the rain.



Full of quirky little touches which I really loved.

After some welcome coffee and a biscuit, we had the most wonderful talk from Jekka McVicar, Queen of Herbs - how herbs are not just a garnish - she was informative, entertaining, gave us so much information on growing and planting and using herbs , along with anecdotes from her "travels with herbs" and also from her very interesting life - if you ever get the chance to go and listen to Jekka I recommend you do so. I also treated myself to her latest cook book about using herbs,  which was very kindly signed by Jekka.




Another reason I was really pleased to have won this prize was because I got to meet a blogging friend for the first time "in Real Life"  - Sue and her Lovely Hubby  from Our New Life in the Country

Sue and I snapped each other at the same time!



while her LH looks on, wishing he were somewhere else I think!



The food at The Organic Gardens Tea Room was wonderful, so fresh and tasty, just-picked ingredients from their veg garden, and meat and dairy from their farms around the valley, with generous portions of salads, fresh bread and butter and either meat or a veggie option. And a glass of wine!


The pudding was pretty delish as well!



We then listened to a short talk about the Horatio Gardens Appeal  and how and why it was formed as an  innovative project to create a place of tranquillity and beauty for patients to enjoy, while being treated for life changing spinal injuries.

And then there was a raffle - I won a bottle of champagne.


beautiful sweet peas in a tin


Some of the Yeo Valley cows going to be milked.



After lunch we had a tour of the fabulous Organic Gardens - James the Head Gardener has my dream job!

As the Yeo Valley website explains
Our organic gardens are one of just a handful of Britain’s gardens to be certified organic. They’re the work of Sarah Mead (wife of Tim) who has spent the last 18 years turning six and a half acres of land into a diverse, seasonal and absolutely beautiful patchwork of ornamental and edible planting areas.

Sarah and her team of gardeners (James, Will, Marc and Eileen) have turned her vision into life, and the gardens are a constantly evolving project as everyone brings more ideas and experiments to the table.




This collection of trained Crab Apples was stunning.


The greenhouse was fabulous



And as for the Composting area - well I could happily have moved in permanently.


So well organised.






James explained how the Organic Gardens are "closed loop" so make all their own potting, seed etc mixes  and compost teas -  he demonstrated how to make seed compost and I was pleased to see I do it the same way .


Looking from the terrace by the tea room over the vegetable area.


A wonderful bed of assorted grasses.


Ornamental flower garden "Bronze Garden" with Reflecting Pool - this was absolutely alive with electric blue Damsel flies.



On past the hay meadow into a woodland walk


Looking across what should be a Wild Flower meadow, but sadly the weather has had an adverse effect on germination so it was apparently not looking at its best.


Still lovely, though!


Then on through a Birch grove planted underfoot with ferns, moving water everywhere, lots of damp loving plants.


and out into a more formal gravel garden. This was very beautiful, with a fabulous pool as a focal point.


Holt Farmhouse




The rear of the farmhouse house looks out over a haha to Blagdon Lake - a wonderful view.




I love looking at other people's gardens  -especially organically managed ones - as you can always get new tips and techniques  or new planting ideas. I came away from this visit full of inspiration.

The journey home was a bit of a nightmare - rain, accidents ( not to me, fortunately!) more rain, diversions, more rain, road closures and finally a flood near to home. But I got home in the end - tired but having had a wonderful day out.

Thank you to Lucy at The Smallest Smallholding.  for such a wonderful giveaway. if you ever get the chance to visit this place I would go!



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