Composting Events and news
Volunteers are wanted to help run a Community Composting and Demonstration site at Stokes Wood Allotments Leicester. The site is soon to be reopen on Wednesday mornings and for half days either Saturdays or Sundays . In addition will be running training sessions on composting techniques for beginners, enthusiasts, on cooked food composting, wormeries and making liquid feed. In addition to pallet bins for community composting we have over 20 bins suitable for home and allotment use as well as wormeries.
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In the UK, the nettles are starting to grow, and in the midlands, have reached the right height to cut to make the first batch of nettle liquid plant feed. If you are a home or allotment gardening this provides an opportunity to obtain a plant food for free. If you manage a Community Allotment or Garden, it could provide an addition activity to provide interest to your members.
Cut young nettles to about 5cm above soil level. Crush the leaves by scrunching the stems in gloved hands or by placing them on a freshly mown lawn and using a mower to chop them.
Put the crushed nettles into a bucket, it does not matter if some grass is included with the nettles, weigh the nettles down with a brick and cover with water. Use about a half a standard bucket full (about one kilogram) of leaves to 10 litres of water.
Nitrogen-rich nettles are high in silica. As with comfrey tea it is better to use a bucket with a lid to contain the smell. Allow to soak for 2-4 weeks. Stirring occasionally. When ready the liquid should be diluted to the colour of weak tea before being watered onto the plants being fed.
There are two approaches to maintaining a supply of feed throughout the summer. Either keep replacing the water as it is used and top up the supply of nettles ever two or three months. Or, my preferred option, once the liquid is used add the sludge to the compost bin, to help keep it moist and as an activator, and start again using the fresh growth that has replaced that which you cut.
The question is often asked as to the best way of emptying a conical plastic bin which either does not have a hatch or only has a small “clip in” hatch that is difficult to remove or replace. The simple answer is to lift the bin off the compost, leaving a heap a little like a large Christmas pudding. If the bin cannot be lifted off it may be necessary to push it over. The cone shaped bins such as the Rotol may be easier to lift than straight sided bins and it is easier if the bin is only half full as it does not need lifting as high.
Normally the top layers will not be fully composted, and these should be added to the bin when it is positioned.
Community composting covers a wide range of composting activities. An allotment community composting scheme which takes organic waste produced on the site and composts it for use on the site reduces the need to have bonfires, waste sent to landfill and can be used to make Society members more aware of the need to protect the environment and reduce global warming. Such a scheme requires little time. Our scheme takes less than 5 hours a week for a 60-plot allotment. and virtually no expenditure is required if pallet bins are used.
Unlike many Community Composting sites an allotment scheme which only composts waste generated on the allotments for use of the allotments does not result in a change of use, additional traffic, or a potential nuisance. And does not require planning permission. All that has happened is that most of the composting, which is a desirable and normal part of allotment gardening, is taking place at a central point rather than on each individual plot. However, it does require a permit under Waste legislation, but most allotment Community Composting groups will be eligible for a T23 Exemption Certificate (Aerobic composting and associated prior treatment) which will permit the composting of vegetation, cardboard, and food waste to produce compost. All exempt projects need to register their exemption with the Environmental Agency. This is free and may be completed online.
It is advantageous if the composting area is arranged so that material flows in one direction with a Clearly labelled Reception bay or bins at the entrance, followed by the sorting (and shredding) area. This are may include an area for killing perennial weeds by drying (we use a stack of 5 commercial bread trays) and drowning (a dustbin of water). The actual compost bins form the next stage. Banks of at least three pallet bins are recommended enabling the materials to be turned from one bin to the next. Using a bank of four allows the compost to be turned once a week for a month before being moved to a maturation area. Alternatively, several single bins, of at least 1cu metre, can be used where the materials are added in layers and left a year to decompose without turning .Additional storage near the bins may be required for additional browns e.g., cardboard, shredded paper or dried leaves, manure (if used as an activator), and bulking agent such as woodchip.
The final requirement is space for a sieving area and a collection point for the finished compost.