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, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and spent 10 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!
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
So, the end of July and tomorrow is Lammas Day . The garden is in full production now and I am bringing in loads of assorted vegetables and fruits for us to enjoy.
Unfortunately the Rivers Early plum tree split under the sheer weight of plums ( again) it has done this before and we really can't think how to prevent it - the branches are not really suitable to prop up - I think a severe prune is needed.
My pumpkins are doing very well - this is Jack o lantern - should get some huge pumpkins off these plants - I have five of these and five Butternut Squash plants and all are setting fruit very well.
I am picking lots of chard and spinach and today I gathered onions, the first leeks, turnips, beetroot and courgettes - but the salads, caulis and calebrese all seem to be bolting. I guess it has just been too hot for them, even though I watered them every night. I am ppicking the brassica leaves so we will still get to eat something off them :-)
And of course I am picking tomatoes every day, and now the aubergine and pepper plants have ripe fruits to pick. Today we also harvested the last of the broad beans. Which means we are eating lots of lovely fresh produce at every meal.
Off to bake a loaf of lammas bread and walk in the wood in the dusk :)
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Some of you may remember I am taking part in a #GrowYourOwn competition run by Ice , a new, flexible customer reward programme which identifies sustainable products and services, from high-street retailers to small independent businesses, presents them to you in a one-stop shop and rewards you generously when you buy them via Ice.
The Ice #GrowYourOwn competition uses seeds from The Organic Gardening Catalogue (one of its partners) to encourage home grown, sustainable produce. I was sent a selection, which I planted a couple of weeks ago. on the 12th July
The seeds popped through the soil surface on 15th July
And look at them now !
I decided I had better do a bit of
|Trug after the lunchtime leaves were removed|
I harvested a bit of the Celery I grew from my Rocket Gardens plug plants - still growing well in the wicker basket in the Polytunnel - I also picked some tomatoes and the first of the Aubergines.
Add a cucumber picked from the polytunnel yesterday and I reckon that will be a tasty salad.
And so it was, with quiche and some potato and chive salad ( not shown), all from the garden or hens.
I like radish leaves so I ate the thinnings whole as part of my salad, but Compostman and Compostgirl don't like radish root (but do eat radish leaves) so I cut the ends off for them. The pak choi leaves were very tasty, as were the baby beet leaves. I also had some rocket on my plate (from a Rocket Gardens plug plant) but I am the only one who eats it ( funny lot my family!)
So far the carrots and the salad leaves and rocket from the #GrowYourOwn competition seeds are still a bit too small to use but in another week I should have some tasty additions to the plate from them as well.
More from me on the Ice #GrowYourOwn competition in the next few weeks.
Monday, 29 July 2013
Nutmeg is still broody. And even more "in the zone" of broodiness than before. I got severely pecked today when I was getting her to go out and have a drink and some food. And I shall draw a veil over the GINORMOUS poo she did; lets just say it was VERY smelly!
I think she is going to stay this way, so I am investigating what fertile hatching eggs are available from my local sources. I fancy some more Cream Legbars. So, I have moved her tonight into the Broody Ark. She is furious and despite moving her after dark she is still trying to peck her way out through the wooden sides back to her Rightful Place in the Compostman hen house nest box.
This move has caused a Major Shake Up in the pecking order of the other Ginger Girls; having lost (temporarily) their Leader, there has been a coop ( no I didn't spell it wrong, I was being funny!) and Babs has seized power. She is now ensconced in the Compostman built house and run ( where all the Ginger girls were living and where Nutmeg was malevolently squatting, broody, in a nest box) . She has Bunty as her deputy and side kick.
Titch (still mourning her friend Tiny Hen) took one look at the new dynamics and was having none of this so has joined the new girls in the Mega Hen Pen and Flytes House, along with a subdued moulty Marjoram.
Apparently the new girls are ok with all this, but sadly, in other news, Treacle the Partridge Hen was taken by something tonight - don't think it was a fox as it was very fast and right by our House :-( The feather pile looked more bird of prey -ish than fox attack, and the other hens were not alarmed by whatever happened.
RIP Treacle hen, pretty and nervous and soft feathered. And too young to be dead.
All the girls are on "only out when I am there to watch" duties, as a result.
Saturday, 27 July 2013
Some time ago I was sent a SeedSava to try out . The SeedSava is a plastic device which allows delivery of seeds in a more controlled manner than the usual sprinkling by hand method.
From the website
SeedSava is the brain child of Suffolk engineering entrepreneur John Hoare, founder of the leading drainage supplies company JKH Drainage Units Ltd. Mr Hoare, now in his 80s, has a lifetime of innovation and vegetable growing behind him.They go on to say
John devised an early version of the SeedSava for his own use, which gave him many years of service – now he has refined it and made it available to everyone.
AndSeedSava is a simple but revolutionary new product, designed and manufactured in the UK, based on many years of vegetable growing experience, to help any gardener to sow seeds neatly, economically and efficiently.
This device will, quite literally, change the way you garden.
I read that last bit and thought "wow that is quite a big claim". I think it would take more than a (however carefully designed and engineered) plastic item to do that, here! A couple of JCBs and a few strong gardeners, maybe...
Anyway, I digress. The SeedSava is a set of hoppers with different sized holes in, which fit into a base and which allow delivery of seeds in a more controlled manner than the usual sprinkling by hand method.
It comes with comprehensive instructions and a lot more information is available on the website.
I did use the SeedSava on the soil in a raised bed, back in April, but the slugs ate the results so I didn't think it was a very good illustration for you.
So I decided to show you how I sowed some carrot seed in tubs using the Seedsava
You have to select the hopper with correct hole size for the seeds you want to plant. There is a very clear colour coded chart to tell you this. To use the SeedSava you have to put the clear plastic base and chosen colour hopper together, which I found a bit fiddly to do - if I had limited mobility in my fingers I think I would maybe struggle a bit to do this. I also struggled to change the hopper for a different colour one.
Having set it up I placed the SeedSava on the surface of the growing medium and loaded it with seed (the orange hopper is for carrot seed) I held the SeedSava with one hand and, making sure seed was over the closed off hole in the hopper, I slid the hopper in the carrier so the two holes (carrier and base) then lined up and the seeds fell out of them.
It worked just as the instructions described, but I did think there were still a lot of seeds per "hopper hole" when compared with me just sowing a small pinch from my fingers, slowly distributing along a drill at regular intervals.
I covered the seeds with a thin layer of growing medium and watered them - we shall see what the rows look like when they germinate.
I had a similar experience when I used the SeedSava to sow Spinach seeds in my raised bed in April.
So, what do I think of the SeedSava so far?
It came in compostable/recyclable packaging
It is sturdily made (of recyclable plastic)
The instructions are clear and easy to understand.
It works as it says.
If you are new to veg growing it reduces the chance of sowing too many seeds in one place - a common mistake made by enthusiastic beginners!
It is easy to clean after use (very important)
It packs away tidily and can be hung up (very important).
I have a certain amount of limited mobility in my fingers and I found it quite hard to set up/change the hoppers in the base unit.
I also found it quite fiddly to use the unit, once setup, as it needs a certain level of manual dexterity to operate.
The seedlings sowed using the SeedSava still need thinning although to be fair SeedSava does not claim to eliminate thinning, just reduce it.
My personal opinion
Would I buy one? No. I think that, for me, the hand sowing method is as good as using the SeedSava and actually easier than using a device.
I also have a bit of a personal issue with using items like the SeedSava in that I like sowing seeds by hand. To me it is an essential part of the process; the making of the seed bed; the drawing of the hoe corner along the soil to make a drill to sow seeds into; the careful sprinkle of seeds so as to get the correct number to grow - not too many and not too few - I love the whole process of touching and sprinkling. But I acknowledge that this is a very personal view!
I am not a huge fan of straight rows of veg seeds anyway and am quite happy with slightly wayward lines of veg.
I personally don't view thinning seedlings as a chore - I tend to use the time to also weed and generally check over my seedlings. I also don't tend to have lots of seedlings bunched together.
The SeedSava is not for me BUT it does what it claims, works well and I can see it could be useful for anyone who keeps on sowing too many seeds and wastes lots of seeds and time thinning out the results.
Disclaimer - I was sent a SeedSava to trial and review. As always, the words I write are my own and are my honest opinions.
Today started out warm and dry, so I settled down to do some much needed potting up of herbaceous perennials at my outside potting bench
I managed to do quite a lot of work and had done 20 or so rooted cuttings into pots, when I realised it was getting very dark.
and then I heard a rumble of thunder, and then another. At this point I decided to get all my stuff off the bench and into the dry. I loaded up the wheelbarrow and two trips saw all the assorted potting paraphernalia into the polytunnel.
At that point I thought I would go inside and have a drink,
but then the rain started to fall. Epic quantities of water fell from the sky.
And I was trapped in the polytunnel, with no coat, so I decided to stay where I was,
I thought I would have a good look round at all the plants, seedlings, cuttings and check on everything to see how it was faring.
My turmeric has finally sprouted! I planted a bit of rhizome back in Feb, and it has finally grown :-)
And the Lemongrass has all grown - so I now have far too many plants for me to use - will have to add "lemongrass" to the list of herbs for sale!
My temporary prison - not that I minded as I love being in my polytunnel.
Aubergines nearly ready to harvest
Still poring with rain after 30 mins and it was lunchtime so I made a dash for the house - I got very wet!
But I could see the ground soaking up the much needed water like a sponge and all the vegetables immediately perked up and grew a few inches, so I didn't mind in the least getting a bit wet :-)
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Nutmeg the Ginger Hen, the oldest hen, the nearly-stopped-laying-cos-I'm-much-too-old hen, the kind, gentle matriarch of the Ginger Gang, the even tempered and generally delightful hen...
has Gone Broody. Now a Broody Hen turns into the Hen from Hell, pecking and growling and fluffing and generally behaving in a very slightly bonkers way.
A sort of " take me on if you think you are hard enough" gleam comes into their eyes and they have a tendency to peck at you and draw blood.
I am hoicking her out of the nest box several times a day to make her eat , drink and poo.
I have never had a commercial Ginger gybrid hen go broody before. We shall see if it sticks; if it does I might get her some fertile eggs to sit on :-)
At her age! honestly!
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
I love taking photos. I love to document my day. I carry a small Fuji Fine pix camera around with me all the time and I snap away, documenting and capturing what I do, as I do it. I use these images in so many ways - I obviously use them on here :-), I use them to illustrate talks and lecture notes; I refer to them to see what I was doing and when, I check back to see what "this time last year" looked like in the garden, and so on.
I don't pretend to be a particularly good photographer, but occasionally I do see an image I have captured and thought "ooh I like that - I wish I could have that as a print" but somehow I never get around to actually printing it off. I used to print off a lot of my shots in the good old days of film but since the advent of digital cameras I haven't done much printing.
Anyway I was thinking about printing off a couple of my recent images, and wondering if I had enough printer cartridge left and if I had any of the "special" photo paper left, when I was contacted by SnapBox an innovative digital photography service newly launched in the UK by established fine art printing company, JONDO.
Now Snapbox have conducted some research and apparently I am not the only person who no longer prints off their images. Their press release highlighted that
people have fallen out of love with the tradition of printing and displaying photos in the home with the top reason (19 per cent of respondents) being that they now have far too many photos to choose from, possibly following the surge in daily smartphone photography.
over a third of Brits (36 per cent) have lost valuable photos after relying on their smartphones to store them. New innovative digital photography service, SnapBox, found this includes ten per cent from dropping their phone down the toilet (4 per cent whilst drunk!) closely followed by eight per cent in the bath.
Disclaimer -This post features a paid link to a company who sent me a voucher for a free print, in return for me trialling the website and going through the ordering process.
As always, the words I write are my own and are my honest opinions.
Friday, 19 July 2013
I was very kindly sent some money by MoneySupermarket.com as part of my entry to their home improvement hero competition.
They are asking
Is it possible to change the look, feel and even functionality of a room on a low budget? We’re asking bloggers to provide step-by-step instructions to help educate the nation on how to carry out simple, yet effective home improvements. Whether you have skills in craft, art or DIY, we want to see what you can do with a £50 budget.My bright idea was to use the money from this competition to change the look, feel and functionality of my "garden room" ( ie flower beds) outside my sitting room.
I wanted to improve the view from our sitting room and (nearly finished - yay!) newly refurbished bedroom, so when we looked out of the windows we would see lots of colour and insect life. The view is not very attractive at the moment, with weeds and a half dug patch of soil on show. This area used to have Leylandii trees, but they blocked the light and shaded the sitting room so last year we cut them down .
Compostman then dug the stumps out (using the JCB) and we moved a large tree Paeony into the hole, but that is all that has happened so far. It is a bit of a mess and as it is by the road and we look directly out on this area I felt it could do with a makeover.
|View from sitting room and bedroom window|
I was working with the idea that if I improve the view out of the window, I have also improved the room itself. Inspired by some of the planting I saw at Hampton Court I came up with a design for planting up a new herbaceous perennial flower bed, as well as some improvements to at least one other existing bed. I used some of the money to buy some nice new plants but this is going to be frugal flower planting as I can't afford to spend the sort of money on plants that I saw at Hampton Court!
I marked out where I wanted the new bed to go and then Compostman got to work digging, while I gathered up plants and seeds and took stock to decide what I would need to buy.
At the moment I have quite a good collection of plants I have grown from cuttings or seed. I also always keep an eye open for "past their prime" plants sold at a discount. I bought three plants late last year (Coreopsis, Solidago and Aster) which would have been £8 each full price, for £1 pound each and re potted them and over wintered them. These have been earmarked to go in my new flower bed.
I also took advantage of the good deals on plants at various local nurseries with "4 for £10" offers which I used to buy some rather nice RHS award of merit Geraniums as well as some Campanulas and Nepetas. I am also a member of various Garden Centre loyalty schemes so was able to get BOGOF deals on some of the plants I wanted to buy (the two Dahlias in particular were a bargain at £4 each) I also got lucky at a local garden supermarket where they were selling various herbaceous perennials cheap because they looked rather tatty. A bit of tlc and some dead heading and they looked pretty good again and will look even better next year. They cost me £1 each rather than the £5 each full price.
I had no need to buy in soil improver, either! I dug out a lot of wood chip compost to enrich the very hard clay soil in the new bed. Note my lovely new wheelbarrow - thank you, Argos!
I then got cracking and and laid out the plants in their pots on the soil and arranged (and rearranged) them to my design. Then Compostman and I got to work planting them. As it is so hot at the moment we waited until the evenings so as to be a bit cooler.
I also had some summer flowering bulbs which I planted in the bed in drifts of colour. These were reduced at the end of last year so I got them cheap (£2 each pack) and planted them in pots to overwinter in the polytunnel - some of them came in handy today. I also planted some of the Crocosmia bulbs I got free from Spalding Bulbs.
I had a lot of (free) wildlife friendly seeds stored up, which I scattered around the herbaceous perennial planting. Hopefully it is not too late for these to flower if the weather continues fair. If not, I have more seed packets and will be sprinkling them on the bed next year. I have also planted some daffodils and snowdrops in this bed - we have a lot from where we were digging around the pool so I have moved a lot of bulbs across
|part way through planting up.|
|Compostgirl helped me with some of the watering|
The colour scheme starts yellow at the left, moving through orange, red, blue, purple, pale lilac and then finally white on the right of the bed, with the backdrop of the honeysuckle and the climbing rose on the fence. It still looks a little sparse; I wish I could afford to buy lots of each plants to re create the dense planting effects I saw at Hampton Court, but I can't so have done what I can, with what I have. I do have lots more cuttings growing, especially Lavender, Geraniums, Nepeta and Daisy though, so will be able to add more plants to this bed as time goes by.
|Finished, for now|
|View through the sitting room window now|
I view my garden as a part of my house; an "outside room" if you like, so I want to make it all as attractive as I can. With the money I got from moneysupermarket.com I could have bought a picture to hang on the wall in the sitting room but rather than a frozen image in a frame I have chosen to improve the view of the "living picture", outside. The wildlife love it as well!
I spent a total of £43 on plants for this new bed, both new and bought at a discount. I have also planted three Pulmonaria and a couple of extra Lavender plants, which I grew from cuttings for free.
Wildflower Seeds (free)
many different Bulbs (free)
Globe Artichoke x 3 (from Rocket Gardens delivery)
Geranium (split into two plants)
Campanula Globerosa (split into two plants, one used)
Nepeta (split into two plants, one used)
Pulmonaria (several, split from plants in the garden in spring)
Campanula persicifolia (split into two plants, one used)
Most of these plants would be £5 each, to buy full price, some (like the Buddlia and the Philadelphus shrubs) would be £8 - £10 to buy so I think we have managed well to buy so many plants with the money :-)
So, if you want to plant up a frugal-ish herbaceous perennial flower bed, have a look round for discounted plants and give them some tlc, maybe re pot them into a bigger pot as well? If you can, split plants into two or maybe three? Also look out for discount flower seeds which you could sow now and then plant out as plants next year? At this time of year a lot of gardening magazine are giving away free perennials and biennials seeds on the covers, why not buy one and sow the seeds? And look out for BOGOF and multi - buy offers to collect lots of plants together.
Monday, 15 July 2013
One of the ways I find easiest is to take soft cuttings and put them in water until I see roots forming and then pot them into growing medium. I do this with all sorts of plants, Basil, Lavender, Rosemary are the ones I have been planting out recently but I have many jars full of cuttings on the go at the moment.
I take the cuttings ( well quite often they are "tearings" as I just pull bits off the plant ) and put them into water label them and keep them somewhere not to hot and not too sunny.
This is a jar full of Lavender and Rosemary cuttings which I made on 30 April 2013
Can you see how well they have grown roots?
Lovely strong healthy liittle plants
I potted these on into multipurpose Fertile Fibre growing medium
Here is a video I took of me doing it :-) I love my outdoor potting bench
and I now have 10 Lavender and 3 Rosemary plants growing well
The seeds I planted on Thursday night last week have germinated :-) These are The Organic Gardening Catalogue Salad mixed leaves
I am doing this not just to grow food but because I am participating in a competition run by Ice. Ice is a new, flexible customer reward programme which identifies sustainable products and services, from high-street retailers to small independent businesses, presents them to you in a one-stop shop and rewards you generously when you buy them via Ice.
Ice want to promote sustainable living and keeping things organic, including encouraging more people to grow their own fruit and vegetables from home. As part of this ideal, Ice is running a ‘Grow Your Own’ competition alongside The Organic Gardening Catalogue (one of its partners) to encourage home grown, sustainable produce and they asked me if I would take part :) hence the collection of lovely seeds they sent me which I am now watching grow.
Exciting to watch, as always. I never tire of seeing seedlings emerge from the soil. I can't wait to get harvesting :-)
Sunday, 14 July 2013
RIP Tiny Hen :(
She died in her sleep this morning :-( She didn't look poorly last night, just a bit tired with the
heat. I think she may have been trying to lay an egg and just died. She looked very peaceful.
I am making a new flower bed full of bee attracting flowers and she (her ashes) has been buried in the middle of it.
Tiny Hen, small but top hen in every way. She was still terrorising the cats and trying to get into the house yesterday
This is what she looked like back in March 2012
Tiny Hen became a house hen this time last year, she became very weak and was being bullied by the others to the point of terror and had stopped eating or drinking. I brought her inside and gave her food, water, love and cuddles. Gradually she recovered and grew her feathers back and became a very feisty, bold little hen:)
Tiny Hen was rescued from an "Barn" system, so she lived crowded together with thousands of other hens, under artificial light, inside a huge shed. Never seeing daylight or going outside. "Colony" or "Enriched" eggs mean the hens are also shut inside a small cage, inside the huge shed.
RIP little hen, fly high and free.
Thank you for reading :-)
Saturday, 13 July 2013
I had a lovely visitor today; fellow blogger Meanqueen called in on her way back home from visiting Glastonbury and Bath.
She arrived about noon and stayed for lunch and a natter.
She admired the various animals
and cuddled the guinea pig girls,
We ate lunch, we chatted, we looked around the garden, we chatted, we met the hens, we chatted, we walked down into the wood where we sat down and chatted some more. I think you get the picture? We did a LOT of talking and discussed lots of different things. We also ate a fair bit :-)
Typical, for those of us who blog, to immediately think about words and pictures to describe our meeting up.
Meanqueen is a lovely lady and absolutely fascinating company. I really enjoyed meeting her - and she gave me one of her lovely handmade bags! I was so pleased :-)
Friday, 12 July 2013
RHS Hampton Court images
If you want to know what plants were used in The Ecover Garden, here is a full list. After we visited the Ecover Garden we moved on to look at the Ecover Bee and some of the Ecover planters
This is "The Bee" an amazing sculpture made from recycled materials and Ecover plastic bottles. It was really quite spectacular!
This is Adam Frost's "Bee friendly planter" which was smothered in bees and other insects, so it obviously worked!
Lots of watering was going on, even at one o'clock - I think a lot of plants would have just died in the heat without a lot of " topping up" of watering during the day.
Maria and I spent four hours at RHS Hampton Court and it was very hot indeed on Monday ( and has continued so all this week) and I must admit after a couple of hours looking around and walking around we got to the point where we were hiding in every available patch of shade and drinking lots of water.
We took some food with us but also purchased a sandwich - and this was a pleasant surprise because the food outlets were "RHS" branded and all were the same price and not very expensive, for what they were. I bought a rather nice tomato and herb bread roll with salad and lemon mayo roll for me and a roasted veg and mozzarella version for Maria. We sat by the very large water feature, in the shade of a rather fine tree and ate our packed lunch. Fortunately we had both brought lots of water with us - and we needed it as it got hotter and hotter during the afternoon.
We carried on looking around and discussing what we thought the judges would make of the gardens, and after lunch we began to see award signs popping up on the gardens. Maria and I were spot on with our awards for virtually every garden <smug grin>
Best Summer Garden was A Cool Garden, I tried to get a decent photo but the camera boom was always in the way!
This is A Room with a View which won Gold - here is Monty Don getting ready to film a piece to camera for one of the THREE (!) Gardeners World specials which were on BBC TV this week.
This is Spirits of the Land, designed by Mariko Naka, which I thought was simply beautiful. It won Silver ( I thought it should have been Gold, personally)
Apart from The Ecover Garden, my favourite was Athanasia, designed by Weald Design, which won Gold in the Show Garden category. This was billed as " ... a place for reflection, rest and a celebration of the beauty of nature. It is a serene garden that offers a moment of tranquillity, as well as hope for the future."
I loved the wooden block seating and the planting was ( yet again) in the "cottage style" which I love. The fact there were lots of geraniums on display probably helps my view.
"Ashes to Ashes" a bit strange looking but the dark coloured planting looked spectacular in the sunshine - this also won Gold.
We also looked at the Flyte of Fancy chicken house decoration competition
I liked this one best decorated by Philippa Forrester
I also really loved this beautiful Buff Orpington cockerel
By about 3.30 Maria and I had had enough - we were just too hot and tired and sun baked to stay any longer and also aware that we still had a more than four hour journey home. So we headed for the exit, pausing only to take a closer look at the very first garden we saw on our way into the Show.
Desolation to Regeneration the very first garden we saw when we arrived, also won Gold and Best Conceptual Garden.
I really liked this, the nearest end of this garden had accompanying sounds of a forest fire and the most amazing planting of "hot" coloured plants, then as you walk through the garden you come across charred sculptures and a lot of very new, green planting conveying what one might see after a forest fire. It was stunning.
A fabulous day, thank you so much to Ecover UK for the tickets and thanks to all the fabulous designers and gardeners who made it all happen.
I have not discussed all that we saw yet, and there was so much more we did not see but I hope you have got a flavour of the event. If you want to see the complete list of all the gardens you can find them on the RHS website here