Composting in autumn

Have you ever wondered why so many people have so many compost heaps? Well it’s because they have different ‘maturity’. Young compost is hot and wet, mature compost is brown and friable (breaks up easily, to you and me) and there’s every stage in between, but hopefully not the black, slimy, fetid stage which is called ‘failure’!

And different heaps, made at different times of year, have different properties – the best heaps are made between late summer and late autumn because healthy compost requires around two thirds 'brown’ material such as leaves, shrubs and twigs and one third 'green material' – grass clippings, green leaf clippings, fruit and vegetable peelings and kitchen scraps. Usually you have no problem supplying the green material but it is the brown material that is more difficult to find. However, the situation is reversed in autumn when leaves, shrubs and twigs become plentiful and by creating a compost bin in autumn, you’re stockpiling this carbon-heavy material which will improve your compost composition no end.

If you have a bazillion leaves, say for example you’ve just taken over a plot with a pear tree on it, and the leaves are not diseased, you can create a wire bin or separate leaf pile under a polythene sheet and compost down the leaves there, as they will take longer, up to a year, to break down, but leaf-mould, as we all know, is pure garden gold.

And remember that, as it gets colder the composting process slows down to hibernatory levels so if you want a faster composting rate, you can line your compost bin with cardboard or pile blankets on top to trap the heat generated by the biodegrading process.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Saturday, November 1, 2008


Blogger Green Lane Allotments said...

Sorry that this is probably a totally inappropriate comment for this posting but I am trying to spread the message about the nationwide problems with contaminated manure. I hope you have heard about it - if not try this link to our website

You may have already done this but I am afraid I haven't had time to browse your website fully, but if not would you consider placing a warning on your website as this problem hasn't gone away - contaminated manure could be in the system for a year or two yet even if the herbicide that has been temporarily withdrawn is never used again.

Now is the time that many gardeners will be obtaining manure and anything we can do to prevent others from experiencing the problems faced this year is worth a try.

November 3, 2008 at 3:36 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

That's absolutely fine GLA - as 'Madam Secretary' I've just written an article about this for our allotment newsletter, so it's a timely reminder of the problem. On our site we sell mushroom compost, so it hasn't been a problem for those who've purchased through our allotment association, but certainly there are people in Sussex who've had the rotten luck to invest in manure that was contaminated. I shall do a post about it next week, but meantime I urge all allotment holders and gardeners to visit the GLA link and educate themselves about the problem - because it hasn't gone away!

November 3, 2008 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Green Lane Allotments said...

I have moved my website Green Lane Allotments to a different system Our new web address is

I still have lots of visitors reading about the problem and as the herbicide has been relicenced it is important to have information to hand in case the new stewardship is ineffective so hope you will continue to help make this information easily available. The manure pages link is

May 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

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