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Composting Problem

3 years ago, I inherited a large, mature garden. I've made my own compost heaps using chicken wire. I make sure there is a good mix of materials, not too much of anything and nothing on the 'forbidden' list. I start the heap in Spring, filling it till autumn, then cover & leave for a year. I'm finding when I come to use it  there is some wonderful brown, crumbly soil, but a lot of it has turned into a dry, orange, fibrous mass which I doubt has any nutritional value at all. So I end up discarding much of my compost. Is anyone able to tell me what I'm doing wrong?



  • sotongeoffsotongeoff Posts: 9,802

    You are probably not turning it enough-grass cuttings will often "mat up" if not mixed in-every now and again take it all out and re-heap it-this where more than one heap/bin comes in handy image

    Nutritional value of any homemade compost is debatable by the way-it is usually just used as a soil conditioner

  • Thanks, sinderfella, in fact I don't turn it at all, as it's a very big heap and so would be very hard work. Perhaps I should consider turning it, otherwise all my hard work creating it, goes to waste. Leaving fallen leaves for a year in black bin liners has, by comparison, produced some wonderful soil for very little effort!

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414

    Rachel, Compost needs air heat and moisture, damp not wet.
    I turn my compost every six weeks or so by tossing it into a barrow giving it a mix then tossing it back, a watering can with a spray nozzle to wet is as you throw it back is enough. That gets the air in and it will warm up itself, I do cover it at all times to stop it getting soaked by rain.
    You can enhance it with a cup full of granular fertiliser mixed in as you turn it, I do have two heaps in wood frames one to use one to fill, in time you get lovely compost, add custard you could eat it. "oh err" don't try this at home.


  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,304

    Wish I had the strength to turn mine every 6 weeks. Wow. At the moment  my in preparation heap is 2 metres by 2 metres by 3 metres tall. Cannot  get any more on top. It will get turned over  into the middle heap if and when I can get on to the garden to empty No. 1 heap. No2. heaps goes on to 1 and 3 into 2 if you see what I mean. Thus it gets 2 turns.

    The matted stuff is just as good as anything else, it just needs burying a litttle deeper and wetting as you cover it over with soil.

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,114

    So I end up discarding much of my compost

    Rachel, don't ever discard compost, (where? how? why?) it is valuable stuff.  You have just let it get too dry.

  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,304

    Exactly. Even the horrible slimy stuff will eventually turn into good stuff.

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414
    Berghill wrote (see)

    Exactly. Even the horrible slimy stuff will eventually turn into good stuff.

    Not quite right Berghill, the heap of grass cuttings on our bowling green never rotted down so we had to dig out and bag years of slimy black cuttings and take it to the tip, we learned the lesson and after that gave it to the green waste who could give it the mix and heat needed.
    My own heap get a single layer of lawn cuttings about one inch, the rest goes to green waste.


  • We put all our lawn mowings (from both lawns) on our compost heap, and we layer them with guinea pig poo and the bedding from their cages which is made of shredded newspaper (I receive a carrier bag full every other week  or so from a colleague) and we also compost brown paper bags and shredded brown cardboard.  All our vegetable waste from the kitchen and garden goes on there, plus an occasional watering with 'recycled beer/cider'.  We keep it covered and dry-ish and although I only turn it a few times, I have a long iron bar which I poke into the heap and jiggle it around frequently to aerate it.  The heap heats up well and we get lovely compost image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thank you all for your comments. My heap is like Berghill's or even bigger! I inherited a wonderful three quarter acre garden with long, wide, packed mixed borders & sweeping lawn as well as a smaller wooded area. So I generate a huge amount of stuff! Luckily, I can have fires for all the woody material. I put invasive stuff in the wheelie bin, but that still leaves an awful lot to compost! I find it hard to believe the dry, bright orange, fibrous matted stuff has goodness in it, and will break down? It does seem though from all your responses that I'll need to add 'turning compost' to my long To Do list. Sttill working in my earth gym keeps me fit!

  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,304

    Sorry Frank, I know we have had this discussion before, but all our grass cuttings eventually rot down into usable stuff, even without the fuss of mixing them and turning the heap over. In our previous garden where we did not have room even for a bin, I just did the trench method of composting the grass, across the Vegetable garden and they disappeared  into the soil, no trouble.

    For those who do have trouble with grass mowings, when they have gone slimy like that, then the answer is to bury them in the garden.

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