From Plant Waste to Plant Loving Compost in as Little as Four Weeks

Here's the third instalment of wisdom from compost expert Andy Davenport who's also available to answer your compost questions - just post them in comments and he'll respond!

Spring is probably the best time of year for making compost. After the long winter rest, nature begins to wake up; the sap starts to rise, bulbs throw up their shoots, seeds germinate everywhere and life returns to the garden. The fresh leafy spring growth is full of the vitality, energy and nutrients that plants have been slowly storing up over winter and is especially good at kick starting the compost heap. The first batches of weeds and grass clippings are full of life and vigour and contain high amounts of simple sugars and nutrients which are the perfect food for the bacteria in the compost heap. They soon get to work quickly breaking it down and their frenetic feeding, breathing and rapid reproduction soon gets the temperature up in the compost heap.

Compost heaps that were built last autumn will have come to a standstill over winter. These can be re-energised and finished off by taking the compost heap down to about half its height and rebuilding the top half of the heap, alternating layers of fresh green materials, such as grass clippings and weeds, with the old compost. It is very important that these materials are fresh otherwise they won’t raise the heat and will have little impact. Nettles are particularly good because they are full of iron and other minerals - they also make an excellent activator and can generate high temperatures in the heap. The layers should be no more than 4” (10cm) deep and should be built by placing handfuls of material working from the outside towards the centre of the heap. Sprinkle QR activator on the heap prior to the addition of each layer and remember to place some hessian sacking or old carpet on top of the rebuilt heap to retain the precious heat. If the bin isn’t fitted with a lid, place some rainproof sheeting over the heap to keep out the rain. A heap rebuilt in this way will make excellent compost in about 4 to 6 weeks.

Alternate layers of fresh green materials, such as grass clippings and weeds, with the old compost

All those dry winter stems and clearings from the borders can be used to build a new heap but they need some preparation first. They need to be shredded or broken up into small pieces which can easily be done by chopping them with a spade in one of those floppy plastic buckets. If they are dry then give them a good soaking overnight. Rainwater with some soil added, urine or rain water mixed with some well rotted manure are all good for the job and will also add valuable minerals, nutrients and enzymes to the heap which will assist in the breakdown of tough materials . After soaking, leave them to drain off for a couple of hours so that they are not too wet. They can then be used to build into layers of the heap alternated with layers of fresh greens. Add the QR activator, heat retention and shelter as explained earlier. A heap built like this in the spring can make great compost in about 6 to 8 weeks. As the seasons progress the vitality and nutrients in the plant materials gradually reduces and so the time to ripen slowly increases, despite warmer summer temperatures. The summer compost heap usually takes about 8 to 12 weeks to reach maturity and an autumn heap about 12 to 16 weeks. However these timings are still very fast compared to other methods - it is no wonder that Miss Bruce called her system the ‘Quick Return’ method.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Anonymous allotments4you said...

it sounds great but a lot of work which I don't think I would have time for...especially with just having been issued another neglected plot. I will be keeping at all in mind though!!

March 31, 2010 at 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Damo said...

Great tips thanks very much

March 31, 2010 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Where does one procure the QR activator?

March 31, 2010 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger QR said...

Dear allotments4u

Yes I agree it does all sound like a lot of hard work and many people have said this to me. Given this, I think of the advantages and benefits as a whole which far outweigh the time and effort exerted in building the heap:
Labour is saved in not turning the compost, less digging in the garden, less watering and easier weeding.
The number of compost heaps required is cut to a minimum saving valuable space in the garden or allotment.
Healthy crops mean increased resistance to pest and disease and they also makes us more healthy too!
Over the 6 years or so I have been making QR compost I have scarcely bought any growing media, let alone the cost savings on fertilisers and pest controls, organic or otherwise.
I think it probably does take a leap of faith to give the QR method a try, but I have good reason to believe that those who do tend to stick with it. The books written by Maye Bruce offer sound advice and excellent instructions on making compost as well as many invaluable ideas and tips which hold good for making compost in general.
Whichever method of making compost you wish to choose, I wish you successful and happy composting!

Dear Damo,

Thanks for reading the blog and glad to be of help.

Dear Paula,

The activator can be purchased from QR Composting Solutions: (01434 672594) or from Chase Organics (01932 252707)

April 4, 2010 at 1:55 PM  

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