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Options for improving soil nutrients


I don't like spending money. That's the truth of it; I only have a very low income so the garden really does have to pay for itself. I bought 125l of compost today for £6. I want to try and find a way so that I don't have to buy any more, and I want to find ways to make my soil nutritious, because I am growing veg on some of it and some in pots and know that slowly but surely the goodness is getting converted into stuff I am eating.

I only have a small garden and I'm not talking about the "small" garden they showed on Gardener's World recently, but a truely small garden. Then to make matters worse it is north facing and the first quarter is patio, and the next half is grass so my daugher has somewhere to play. What is left is for plants and I have some pots along the path.

I was thinking of a composter but I don't have much space for one. At the end of my garden is my driveway which is next to that of my neighbours. I have a waterbutt coming off the garage roof on there, and my bins. This is really the only place I could put one but I wouldn't want to annoy my neighbours too much and I'd be concerned about smell and flies. How big an issue is that? It would be good to be able to make something positive out of food waste and weeds, as we always struggle to only fill one refuse bin a fortnight and this should mean less waste.

What other options do I have? I've read about growing green manures, and that's certainly something I may do over winter. Oats, or whatever, if i can get hold of some seeds cheaply enough.

Anything else?



  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 21,090

    A compost bin will never smell nasty, once it gets going its a lovely smell, but you do need two and then some bags to store it in, you never put cooked food in but i expect you know that.

    Our garden centre sells well rotted farmyard manure quite cheap, but if you know a farmer, he will probably give you some.  If its well rotted down, you can dig it straight into your patch.

    I have to do everything on the cheap as well, its surprising what you can scrounge from friends and neighbours, or swap plants and veg.

    Good luck with your venture, you will love it once you get underway.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • snowathletesnowathlete Posts: 138

    Thanks Lyn,

    presumably you need two so that one rots away into compost while the other is in use receiving new scraps?

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  • bekkie hughesbekkie hughes Posts: 5,294
    I think you may be better with a wormery, compost really needs turning, im nt sure how able you are to do that, i know i struggle at times, i use the method we used o the allotment which is, dig a large hole, fill it with compostanble stuff, drow beans or squash on it , dig a hole in another bed for the coming year, but this isnt practical in a small garden.

    I think Edd is probably the expert on a wormery, but its quite compact, you can add a wide range of things, then you can use the liquid that comes out as a feed (very well diluted) and the other stuff as a soil conditioner image

    Ive seen people make their own wormaries, but you would have to look this up.

    Im pretty skint too! I try to only buy compost for sowing seeds now, i usually buy compressed stuff from discount stores as its really light to carry image

    Dont be afraid to approach people with horses, they are usually only too happy to get rid of some muck-its flippin heavy tho! image
  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,949


    I've got four compost bins in the garden and one wormery - non of them smell, and with lids on you don't really get any flies or such like. One of the compost bins I got for very little off the local selling site on Facebook which really helps keep the cost down.

    I haven't had the wormery long enough to know how well its working but they are meant to be much quicker at breaking the material down than just a normal compost bin. Edd will tell you more when he logs in later.

    Another free option for you might be to make your own nettle leaf plant food. I made my first batch some weeks ago and it is stewing away in a sealed tub around the back of the shed. I'm sure you've lanes / fields / hedges / neighbours somewhere nearby that you could forage the nettles from.

    Here's a link on how to make it:

  • bekkie hughesbekkie hughes Posts: 5,294
    Told you Edd would know!image

    Closley followed by Clari image

    Quite fancy one myself, hmmm image
  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,949

    Bekkie if you get the chance do get one! I've been finding it really interesting being able to see the worms in action as they break the composting down. Edd is quite the source of knowledge when you're starting out too and has explained elsewhere on the forum how to get the worms (they're not like normal earth worms) cheaply if not free!

  • snowathletesnowathlete Posts: 138

    Thanks everyone for the replies.

    Very interesting about worm composting and worm towers. I'm very impressed with your ingenuity Edd. I can see the benefits. I think what concerns me is that my health is sometimes up and down and there would be times when I wouldn't be able to look after the little critters. Also, I sometimes don't like little critters. Not sure how I feel about worms really. I respect them but wouldn't like to handle them much. Perhaps I am mistaken but I figure that traditional composting wouldn't be impacted so negatively by my potential neglect at times - at least salvageable at a later point.

    Turning composting material over though would be tricky for me. I might be able to convince my wife to do it but I doubt it. Perhaps I could construct one of those turbine things to turn it more easily...might be time and energy costing though.

    I thought a bit more about where I might be able to put a composter and actually there is another space that I had not thought of: my patio by the back door. This is in shade almost all the time, but maybe that isn't a problem? The space actually doesn't get used that much because although it's a nice patio it is never in sun, so we sit on the grass up the garden. I might even be able to make enough space for two. If smell and flies aren't actually an issue then I doubt my wife would have any complaints.

    I like the idea of nettle tea. I plan to do that later this year actually.

  • WateryWatery Posts: 388

    Wiltshire Council subsidize composters.   Also, all of the household recycling centers sell Warrior Compost-- the stuff made by what is collected in the green bins.  It's £2.50/30 litres, which isn't a great price, but if your bring your own bags and bag it yourself it's only £1/bag and they weren't too particular about how big my bags were. (I used rubble bags and also bags from compost I purchased which were bigger than 30 litres.)  My husband was a bit embarrassed to have his wife rummaging in compost in public but I'm thrifty.    They have spades there.  It's not an easy job though.  I've also been reading about people who just mulch with their cuttings or spread thin layers of cut grass (Not too thick or it gets slimy.)  Alys Fowler of the Guardian writes about it and I think the lady from the Telegraph.    I have a Green Johanna composter from Wiltshire Council and it works OK.  It's a bit slow to compost but I haven't noticed an odor even when the insides are too squishy.    I just have one and it hasn't filled up over 2 years.   Also... there are compost mixers with phalanges which are easier than turning it with fork.  One came free with the composter (which was £25-30 from the Council I think.)   I read a book once called Compost Happens, and it does, whether you turn it or not!   And my bin has always been on concrete and yet no problems with brandling worms and other decomposers just turning up in it. 

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