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Compost - question and answer thread

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Post by freebird on 25th June 2012, 10:12 pm

Ooh, Dandelion, you sound very well organised. I have pretty much the same issues as Chilli-head. I have three wooden compost bins, each about 1 cubic metre. I tend to keep going until one is full, then start on a new one. It takes quite a time to fill one, so by the time a second is nearly full, the first is fairly well composted at the bottom at least. So I take off the uncomposted/semi-composted material from the top and add it to the newer heap.

I haven't attempted to use any of my compost for seedlings - it just tends to get added to the plots or used in potato planters. It is usually too variable to do much else with. I do tend to take the view however, that it is going to rot down eventually (unless I inadvertantly add couch grass to it, which I swear never, ever dies).

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Post by Chilli-head on 27th June 2012, 9:50 am

Thanks for that Dandelion - it confirms what I thought about hot composting. I have two heaps side by side, one half full of halfmade compost, so I'll start the new heap and plan to accumulate the nearly finished stuff in the other.
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Post by Hairyloon on 30th October 2012, 11:01 pm

I have read that glycerol is quite a good compost activator, but I am not entirely convinced.
We have literally gallons of impure glycerol, so it would be good to know if this is something good to do with it...
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Post by Chilli-head on 9th May 2017, 10:27 am

I was having a quick scan of this thread to see if I could find a view on something that occasionally troubles me when digging out compost, the nearest I came to it was this:

Compostwoman wrote:
Is it safe to add card and paper to my compost bin?I thought the inks were harmful?

Paper and card is usually printed with fairly harmless inks now (in the UK at least) and I certainly don't worry too much about that, as anything in there is well diluted and a lot of inks are ( I understand) vegetable based now, with the glossinesss being from clay particles.

But my thought is whether I should be concerned about composting corrugated cardboard boxes. Obviously I remove plastic tape and plasticised labels. I remove staples, and avoid that annoying glass fibre reinforced packing tape that Amazon seem to prefer. But I still find strips of what looks like hot melt glue in my finished compost, presumably from the seams of the boxes. And it also occurs to me that the corrugated board itself must have some sort of glues holding it together. So, it is mostly harmless ? Is it diluted enough not to worry about ? Any thoughts ?
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Post by Hairyloon on 9th May 2017, 12:44 pm

I would go along with mostly harmless. They won't be using epoxy type glues, which might be a bit nasty, and the only cheap glue I can think of that is likely harmful is the formaldehyde based ones and I'd think they're biodegradable.
Hot melt glues probably wont degrade: they'll just stay as squiggles of plastic.
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Post by freebird on 9th May 2017, 4:19 pm

Can't add anything to Hairyloon's answer, but do have a question of my own.

As well as my general compost bins, I have compost 'dalek'. It's last use was a couple or three years ago when I filled it with couch grass. Now it's half full of very fine (probably due to the ants nest in it) composted couch grass.

I was wondering if, mixed with something for drainage, it would be suitable as a seed compost. I presume it would contain more nitrogen than anything. Any thoughts?
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Post by Dandelion on 9th May 2017, 4:52 pm

Definitely worth a try. I use homemade compost to sow seeds - I put a layer of coir compost on top, because it has less nutrients in it, my theory being that the seeds will germinate better on a less nutritious compost, but as they grow and push their roots down into the soil what is underneath is going to keep them going. It's been working OK for me.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Dandelion on 9th May 2017, 4:54 pm

Note sure about the cardboard question - I've been putting down board under compost on areas of the garden which I want to tame, so I will only find out about lumps of glue in a year or two. I'm so glad someone else is complaining about the weird Amazon sticky tape - I pull it off religiously if I'm recycling the card, and it takes time and commitment!!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 9th May 2017, 9:46 pm

Really a bother to remove that tape. I guess that's intentional ! I suspect / hope Hairyloon is right, and it is mostly harmless. I pick out any long ribbons of hot melt glue out of tidyness more than anything. We do get a lot of cardboard these days at work, so it seems a shame to waste it all.

Composted couch grass. That's brave ! I assume your dalek has an impenetrable base. Loam from composted turf is / used to be an ingredient in soil based seed composts, so maybe it will be good. You'll have to try and report back !

Digressing slightly, but on another forum, one of the regulars did a trial of raising seed in homemade compost with / without heat sterilising. To my surprise, the unsterilised compost gave good results, but the sterilised did poorly. I presume he has a hotter compost heap than me, I would end up with loads of weeds ! But it made me think, with all the recent thinking on the importance of soil fungi to plants, and the mycorrhizal fungi you can buy, maybe all that worrying about sterilisation is counter productive. My dad used to sterilise soil in a big steel tray over a garden fire to mix up tomato compost. I planted mine out in sieved compost direct from the heap - they look a lot happier than they were in their pots.
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Post by freebird on 9th May 2017, 10:00 pm

I stood the dalek up on paving slabs to prevent anything rooting. I have composted couch before, though always separately from the main heap, but that time just used the compost as a mulch around some fruit bushes. It looks really fine textured this time, so maybe I'll just bag it up ready for when I next sow seeds.

Regarding weeds in homemade compost, I do something similar to Dandelion. I will often make up the bulk in a seed tray with my own, but the top layer use a bought compost, which pretty much suppresses weed growth from the homemade. I have never sterilised anything for gardening.
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Post by Ploshkin on 15th May 2017, 1:22 pm

Freebird, how about keeping a small amount out and see if any weeds pop up and /or sow a few seeds that don't matter and see how they do.

I've got a heap where I dump all the weedy stuff and excess grass mowings that I don't want in the compost bin. There must have been about 15 years worth there covered in nettles last year. I took the top layer off and used what was underneath for my polytunnel beds. It did a good job.
The thing that irritates me in compost is the non degradable tea bag skins!
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Post by Dandelion on 19th May 2017, 4:41 pm

Ploshkin wrote:
The thing that irritates me in compost is the non degradable tea bag skins!

Oh me too! I'm annoyed that I believed what it said on the boxes of PG Tips a few years ago: 'Did you know that you can our our tea bags on your compost heap?' I got all excited (yes, I must get out more...) and thought that the paper was now biodegradable. But no - I'm either pulling them out of the sieve when I sieve the compost, or picking them up off the surface of rough compost which I've put down as a mulch. They look so nasty - it always makes me think of Miss Havisham!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 19th May 2017, 5:51 pm

I hated the tea bag nets too. The paper is plasticised, so in never rots. I'm sure I've said before, but I now empty out each one. And with the amount of tea DW drinks, that is quite a chore. She refuses to do it. Perhaps I'm a bit obsessive ...
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Post by freebird on 19th May 2017, 7:17 pm

Perhaps the answer is loose tea and a teapot.....
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Post by FloBear on 20th May 2017, 10:15 am

Or, for one cup, an infuser device.
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Post by Ploshkin on 20th May 2017, 11:27 am

I have got an infuser teapot that I use if I'm only making tea for me but Mr P's views on tea made in a pot are the same as his views on crystals, tree hugging or anything labelled organic (though if he doesn't see it come out of the pot he doesn't notice any difference
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Post by Chilli-head on 20th May 2017, 1:48 pm

freebird wrote:Perhaps the answer is loose tea and a teapot.....

You would have thought so, wouldn't you. We do have an infuser, and a japanese teapot with a strainer basket in it for loose leaf tea. The trouble is, it doesn't taste the same. Teabag tea is much more finely divided, so that it infuses quickly despite being contained in the bag. Loose leaf tea is hard to make as strong without it becoming harsh and tannic. And Mrs C-H likes strong tea. Me, I don't mind so long as it is warm and wet. Coffee is my solution for staying awake !

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Post by FloBear on 23rd May 2017, 4:29 pm

The supermarkets' supposedly 'loose leaf teas' are very fine and much more like the contents of teabags. Mr Bear and I like ours strong too and, in the infuser teapot, those teas work out perfectly well for us. The holes in the teaspoon - style infusers are too big and the stuff floats out!
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Post by Ploshkin on 23rd May 2017, 10:59 pm

That's useful to know Flobear, the tea I have at the moment is really nice but I have to use a lot and leave it brew for a long time.
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Post by Dandelion on 30th May 2017, 11:23 pm

I bought some decaff tea (loose leaves) from Whittards as a treat, but having read this thread so I made made the tea a bit stronger than normal (and left it to brew) it was still very anaemic. I'll try the infuser for a single cup when Mr D is out and see if that is better.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Ploshkin on 31st May 2017, 9:17 am

Decaf tea takes some pounding to get a decent brew even with a tea bag - you lose the will to live before it gets a proper colour.
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Post by Dandelion on 31st May 2017, 11:17 am

I do like tea with a bit of taste, and it has been a bit difficult to get used to decaff tea since I was told that I needed to give up caffeine. I usually put the water over the tea bag then go and do a job, like visiting the compost heap, and by then it's a decent colour (unless I've become distracted, and then it's undrinkable!)

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Post by Dandelion on 31st May 2017, 11:19 am

We visited Ikea yesterday, and I automatically downed two cups of coffee without realising that it wasn't decaff. It didn't have an immediate effect (no palpitations, which was good) but although I drank the coffee at 6pm, I could not get to sleep until well after midnight - my brain was so active I could have written a novel!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Post by FloBear on 1st June 2017, 9:40 am

I find Tetley and Yorkshire decaf teabags give an acceptable brew. But there's nothing quite like the first brew of the morning made with (supermarket) 'leaves' in the pot!
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