There's not much new in gardening. If you come up with something but you can't find reference to it anywhere it may indeed be brilliant and new - or it may be the case that it doesn't work/isn't worth the effort.
Having cleared the carpet off the beds and cleaned up the mess beneath I piled it all in a heap in the corner of my plot as the choice was spend time working the plot or go to the dump. I couldn't manage both.
I had been reading a great deal about composting, and best practice for composting. There were a lot of weeds being pulled up and I was looking for anything that would overclock the compost bin and speed up the process.
- "Hot" compost heaps degrade faster than "cold" ones.
- High heat was necessary to deal with perennial weeds and seeds that might sneak into the bin.
- The bigger the heap, the hotter the centre. It would need to be at least a cubic metre of fresh material to start to heat up.
- Occasional turning would be needed to introduce fresh supplies of oxygen to the centre.
I didn't have a cubic metre of garden waste, but I had filled a plastic "Dalek" style one to the brim.
From my reading, I learned that the plastic bin's walls don't provide much insulation, so any heat that is generated is drawn out the sides. So I started searching online for ways to insulate the compost bin. The answer I came across seemed to be about keeping the composting going during the winter, when the temperature drops and the microbial activity slows down - "wrap some carpet or bubble wrap around the bin".
- I have a large pile of carpet.
- I have pallets.
- If I put the Dalek full of garden waste in the centre, I could build a frame out of pallets around it and pile on the carpet. That would give a good few centimetres of insulation while the plastic bin would keep the contents together. I would cover the whole thing over with a tarpaulin to keep the pile dry and hopefully warmer.
As the bin was filled already, it was pretty much left to get on with it. One morning I decided that I had better give the compost an aeration, so I started to pull the tarpaulin and carpet off. Having reached the lid, I had a quick look in from the top to see how things were going - that's when I noticed a curious hole on the top of the heap. Not thinking anything of it, I pulled the plastic bin off the top and jumped out of my skin when a huge rat bolted for cover under the nearby shed.
While I'd been careful not to put food scraps in the bin, the relative piece and quiet coupled with the fox-proof covering had turned the heap into a five star Rat Hotel. It might have worked better if I was starting with an empty bin, and continuously disturbed the compost by stirring/adding water, but the narrow neck of the bin meant that wasn't easy.
I went through the heap with a garden fork, then restacked the material back into the bin. I didn't bother with the carpet this time. A couple of days later it went to the dump.
- Patience is a virtue. I didn't actually save any time as the amount of effort required to maintain this - for the results gained - it simply wasn't worth it.
- If you want/need a bigger heap, talk to your neighbours and see if there's space to build a community compost heap. One of the benefits of an allotment is you are part of a community, or at least one of a group of individuals with a common goal.
- Rot the weeds down first. I was trying to speed up the decomposition as I was trying to avoid burning weeds. It seemed a shame to waste all those nutrients the weeds had taken out of the soil. Now, on my plot there's usually a couple of barrels/tall buckets filled with rain and tap water. All the weeds go in there after pulling and get weighed down with a brick to drown for a couple of months. It does stink when you empty out the bucket, but that usually goes after a couple of days. The rotted mass goes on the compost heap, and the water gets poured out round the artichokes (since the "eating" bit is up high on the stalk, away from any splashes).
When I took on my plot I had to clear barrowloads of scrap metal and window glass. You could see the purpose behind it all – hoops for netting, window panes for cold frames but most of it had become too rusty or the wood of the frames was too rotten to be safe.
Anything I build is usually out of untreated wood. No stone, brick or glass and definitely NO CARPET. There might be some plastic sheeting or tarpaulin, but that's easily stuffed in a bin bag and it's light to carry to the bin.
My current policy with my plot is "a weekend and a bonfire". It should be possible to clear my plot in a weekend: dismantle everything and burn the bits that are no use - a clean, blank slate for the next tenant.
Hopefully when the time comes for me to move on, I’ll get a chance to do it myself but if for some reason I can’t then hopefully whomever comes after won’t be cursing my name too badly.
Frantically Failing from Ferry Road.