Monday, 4 January 2010

My Compost Shame


It's time to confess all. I am absolutely  rubbish at making compost.   So far all I've managed to make is a giant stack of stalks and mould. I could blame my husband but that would be too easy. He was the one who made the bin but when he nailed the pallets he neglected to leave one side open for easy turning. Actually I probably wasn't very clear about just what it was I wanted.  A few years in I tried hacking a hole in the side with a rusty old saw but that didn't really work. What I have now is a top loading square bin to which my neighbours happily add their woodiest waste ( lots of cabbage stems and sweetcorn stalks) whenever my back is turned. An ancient vine and a mass of convolvulus have grown up over it making it hard to get too. It's dispiriting and as a result I don't really bother using it. I can't get down my allotment every day or even every other day so kitchen waste builds up quickly. In summer it rots and even when I do go I invariably forget to take the reeking bucket down. This may have something to do with the fact that carrying a pungent slop of half rotted vegetable matter on your back whilst cycling is pretty unappealing.

Not being able to crack the secret of great compost may not seem such a dark and dirty secret but as someone who loves both cooking and gardening it has always seemed singularly shaming that at the place where those two worlds meet (the turning of kitchen scraps into rich, crumbling, soil-enriching humus) I should be such an abject failure. But no more, our new house has enough garden to house a modest compost bin. I have turned my back on the plastic Dalek like bins which seem to make a tower of woody waste. Instead, in the spirit of the allotment I am doing it on the cheap, by making a circular bin of chicken wire held up by posts of salvaged wood then lined with cardboard. It will be a small and hopefully not too smelly bin popped out of sight in a corner of our back garden. This may not seem much of a New Year's resolution but if I can  produce something worth putting back into my garden I will finally feel less of a kitchen gardener imposter. With the help of a Christmas present (Joy Larkcom's classic "Grow Your Own Vegetables" which has a long and very clear compost chapter) I hope to wash away the year's of non-composting shame.

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