West Carlston Garden Centre, Campsie Road, Torrance, Glasgow G64 4EZ, Tel: 01360 620248
 

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Composting

Composting can either be done by making a traditional compost heap, or by using a worm bin. There are numerous containers now on the market for making a compost heap, although perfectly satisfactory ones can be constructed from scrap timber, old tyres, bricks or wire mesh. Advice on making a compost heap is widely available through gardening books and magazines, or from sources listed under contacts and further information.

The natural composting process
Leaves/other organic matter breakdown by organisms humus mixing of humus and soil with the aid of the organisms natural soil improvement

Compost forms as a result of the natural breakdown of organic material derived from living animals and plants. The "breaking down" is aerobic i.e. an oxygen using process performed by the bacteria, fungi, insects and animals, which inhabit soil. In a compost heap these organisms generate heat as they decompose organic matter and break it into fine particles. Composting is nature's own and oldest method of waste disposal and soil fertilisation.

Traditionally, gardeners have created their own compost using leaves, grass, shrub clippings and other useful organic materials found in the garden. Applying compost to soils provides an excellent conditioner and mulch, which fertilises and provides soil structure, retains moisture and can restrict weed growth. Man-made compost is an alternative to the peat-based compost extracted from important natural wildlife sites.

In recent years there has been interest in the creation of garden compost from organic household waste, as a result of the growing awareness of the environmental problems created by the traditional disposal methods. In the UK around 30 million tonnes of domestic refuse is produced each year, which contains on average about 38% organic content, such as vegetable peelings, tea bags and food scraps

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Leaf Mould

Leaf mould can be made by placing leaves in a large black bag or in an open topped wire cage. After one year they will form a mulch, and after two years a fine textured potting compost will be produced.
Adapted from the information sheet

Garotta Compost Maker

Liquid Garotta

Gem Compost Maker
Making a Wormery

A worm bin is a container housing a colony of special types of worms, known as brandlings, tiger worms or redworms. Worm bins can be kept indoors (with careful management) or out, and are ideal for households with no garden, as they produce only a small quantity of compost and a liquid, which forms a concentrated plant food. There are a variety of worm bins available for sale, complete with "worm starter kits". However it is possible to make your own, and suitable worms can be obtained from fishing shops.

How to make a worm compostertop of page
Worm composting is a fantastic and natural way of recycling all those vegetable scraps, banana skins and tea bags from your kitchen. And it's easy to make one! Just follow these simple steps but remember to get an adult to help you.

WHAT YOU NEED...

400 Compost worms (often called tiger or brandling worms). Available from most fishing shops or farmers' muck heaps!
A plastic dustbin.
A plastic tap.
Some sand or gravel.
Some small pieces of wood.
Some bedding material (for the worms!)
How to make your worm composter...
Drill some breathing holes into the lid of the bin.
Place 3 inches of sand or gravel at the bottom of the bin for drainage.
Place wooden slats on top of the sand or gravel, to separate the drainage material from the compost you are going to produce.
On top of the wooden slats, put down 4 inches of damp bedding material. An old growbag is ideal, or you could use shredded newspaper or straw.
Drill a tap into the bin just above the gravel / sand, where the wooden slats are placed. You can buy taps from most hardware or garden shops.
Once you have built your wormery, dig a small hollow in the bedding material and place the worms inside. Then you can start adding your food scraps. Always make sure the scraps are chopped up well. There are two main ways of feeding the worms:

Place the food scraps on the surface of the bedding in a layer (up to 2" deep), but never cover the whole surface as the worms need a small area to escape if conditions get unpleasant.
Alternatively you can bury small batches of food scraps in the bedding, around the bin. Some people prefer this way as they feel the waste is covered up and is out of the way of the flies.
With both methods you need to keep a thick sheet of wet newspapers over the surface to keep the light out and moisture in. Only add more food when the worms have finished their last lot. The speed the food is processed will depend on the number of worms, the time of year and the type of food added.

CAUTION...

Never overfeed the wormery. The food will just rot, upsetting the worms and making nasty smells!
You can keep your worm bin outside but in winter, the worms will be warmer (and hungrier) if you keep them inside a garage or shed.
After a few weeks you should be able to collect some liquid through the tap which you can use as a liquid feed for your plants. After a few months you can empty the bin, put the worms back and start again! And of course you'll have some excellent compost which the worms will have left behind to help everything grow better in the garden.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Q: I have lots of tiny flies in my worm bin - is this a health risk?
A: No. These are probably fruit flies, which commonly occur on rotting fruit and vegetables. A tight fitting lid will help to exclude them. Also, if you bury the vegetable waste as you add it, or keep it covered with damp newspaper, they are less likely to be a problem. Flies do not harm the compost, although they can be irritating and offensive to some people.
Q: I have masses of tiny white worms in my worm compost - are they a problem?
A:These are probably pot worms (enchytraeids). They do a similar job to brandling worms and are nothing to worry about; you find them in most worm bins. They are very tolerant of waterlogged/acid conditions so if you find them proliferating, and your worms are getting fewer, improve the drainage. Mixing in some shredded newspaper will help. You can also add a sprinkling of calcified seaweed or rock limestone (dolomite) to correct the acidity.
Newly hatched brandling worms are also whitish and only half an inch long. You can distinguish them from pot worms by their blood vessel which gives a pinkish tinge.
Q:
I opened my worm bin to find hundreds of worms around the lid - why?
A: Either they have run out of food or the conditions in the bin have become unsuitable for them. Worms hate waterlogged, acidic compost. Piling in a thick layer of kitchen waste so that it begins to putrefy and exclude the air will cause this sort of problem. Adding fresh green materials that heat up as they decompose will also kill worms or drive them away.
Plastic worm bins do not always allow enough drainage from the compost; make sure that liquids are not collecting in the bottom of the bin to flood the compost.
Q: I am going on holiday - will my worms die if not fed?
A: An established worm bin can be left for up to four weeks with no adverse effects if you feed the worms well before you leave. Left for longer periods the worm population would slowly decline.
Q: The contents of my worm bin are mouldy - am I doing something wrong?
A: No. This can happen as vegetable waste starts to decompose. It will not harm the worms and should soon disappear. Turning the waste into the bedding with a small fork can help.
Information adapted from the information sheet. - See also and



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Our Recycling Centre
is open 7 days

I hope you find these information sheets helpful as a basic guide.



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West Carlston Garden Centre & Tea Room, Campsie Road, Torrance, Glasgow, G64 4EZ
Tel: 01360 620248 -:- e-mail: info@westcarlston.com