Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Compost mountain.

Soil temperature at 12o'clock today was 7oC

A mate of mine on the allotment said that I could have some of his compost heap.  This heap is about 6 feet tall and 15 feet long.  It is a monster of a compost heap.  It is obviously a compost heap that was neglected and forlorn because , as soon as I started to dig into it, I found various buried plastic trays, tubs, pots and other miscellaneous gardening paraphernalia.  It is reportedly about thirteen years old at the bottom.
Mega compost heap

The top and sides were covered in a mat of couch grass and bindweed rhizomes and they had to be removed before the friable, clean compost could be reached.  Now I can tell you that this compost has never been turned, layered, or otherwise mollycoddled, yet it was as good, if not better than, carefully crafted compost. 

Theory would have it that this compost, which continually grows through addition of extra material, should be a putrefying mess of foul smelling goo.  Compaction and water logging should have produced an anaerobic compost heap.  It is not foul smelling, slimy or putrefying.  
As I have said, it would be very difficult to produce compost that does not contain at least some pockets of anaerobic respiration; it would also be difficult to make compost that does not have any oxygen at all.  The one noticeable characteristic of this 6 foot mega compost heap is the number and variety of small animals that inhabit all parts of it.  I can testify to this because I have been up close and seriously eye ball to eye ball with them on a large cliff face of compost. 

It is unnecessary to list all the creatures that make compost their habitat; however worms could be found throughout the heap.  The role of these invertebrates in keeping a supply of oxygen throughout the compost and allowing aerobic decomposition to take place cannot be overstated.  They cannot be ignored when considering composting on allotments and in heaps that are more mounds of rotting material rather than pristine compost bins. 

It is truly unrealistic to imagine that people working full time  can possibly have enough time to turn their compost every week and it is unnecessary particularly if you can reliably leave it to the invertebrates – particularly the worms – to do it for you. 

I hear a "compost turning" myth exploding…

I took about 6 barrowloads of compost and put them onto the new pea bed spreading it out so that it covered a lot of the soil.  I will dig it in when I take out last years brassicas.  

After getting myself thoroughly tired, I decided to call it a day and take the bean poles out of the store shed and leave them where I will put them up for the climbing french beans.  

There was still a pile of rhubarb roots on Mike's allotment, which he did not want so I thought that it might be an idea to put them into the shed now that there was a little room in there and force them. They were already shooting so I think that they might give me some good stems later in the spring.  It is quite dark in that shed.  

The new sweet pea seedlings are just poking themselves through the compost today.

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