Composting Events and news

23. May, 2020

This note supplements  the page on Moisture levels at       link Compost Moisture

When the moisture level of the composting materials fall below 40% decomposition will start to slow down and will virtually stop below 15%. During hot dry spells it is worth checking the moisture level and adding more water if required.

  The use of a “corkscrew” type aerator Compost Aeration during composting will enable a sample of material to be removed from the centre and lower levels of the bin or heap to provide a sample for moisture checks.  A handful of the compost is removed from the aerator  and  squeezed.  The  compost should have the consistency and moisture content of a wrung-out sponge.

Alternatively,  the sample can be tested using a moisture meter or a probe moisture meter can be inserted into the core of the bin from above or the through the side of the bin

 In the UK water can be added to the heap. I tend to “open” it up using a garden fork so that the water penetrates the material rather than run off.

 In hot climates where the sun or high environmental temperature is causing the compost to dry out there are a number of options, in addition to adding greens and waste, these include composting in a pit, rather than a bin in full sunlight, and keeping the compost covered, so as to reduce water loss by evaporation.

19. May, 2020

On package labels and symbols are designed to provide information on the source and disposal of the packaging that  is quickly and easily understood. In most cases this objective is achieved without further explanation,  but this is not always the case. There is considerable confusion over the meaning of the Green Dot  which does not mean that the packaging is recycled or recyclable but that the producer has contributed (financial?) to the recovery and recycling of packaging.

Degradable and biodegradable also cause some confusion Degradable means the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within a  “reasonably short period of time after customary disposal. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) defines biodegradables as: Anything that undergoes degradation resulting from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae  within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal”, as indicated by reliable scientific evidence.

The “reasonably short period of time” for complete decomposition of solid waste products varies the US FTC suggest  one year while in the UK the test period is six months. Items destined for landfill, incinerator, or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so unqualified biodegradable claims for them should not be made. These terms can be potentially confusing to the public both in terms of where to dispose of the material  and what happens to it once discarded.

Compostable symbols also cause some confusion. The seedling and compostable designates that the package is suitable for only in an  industrial system. Where material can be home composted will have the term “home composting” on the pack.   Carry on Composting have prepared two free Power Point presentations covering over 40 on pack symbols that can be downloaded and used for training  and increasing awareness of the symbols they can be downloaded at or by using this link Compostable Bags 

15. May, 2020

Now that the lockdown has be lifted enough to allow travelling to the Compost Demonstration site to maintain the bins, we have the  challenge to clearing at least one of the Reception bins quickly to make room for fresh material from the allotments. During the past few weeks local  allotment plot holders have been able to work their plots as part of their exercise regime and as a consequence both reception bins have been filled.

Just before lockdown it was noticed that as result of the spring weeding prior to sowing and planting we were getting a high percentage of weeds for composting and unusually the soil had not been knocked off  the roots.  Luckily over the three of four weeks in the reception bins few had started to grow which will mean that we will be adding more soil to our bins than usual., as there will not be time to knock the soil from the plants when adding them to the bins. The lockdown also meant the main community pallet bins containing the compost made last year have not been emptied so the “household” bins on display will be used initial

Yesterday I started with two of our wooden bins a Lacewing    and Rowlingson Beehive kindly donated by GardenSite Both are bins suited for use in a modern small garden. The Lacewing easy load composter is slated bin has an easy access as all the front slats can be removed.

 The beehive bin makes an attractive feature in a smaller garden  and is easy to fill with a hinged lid and a prop to keep it open when material is being added. Harvesting is by means of a hatch at the base of the bin.

 The material added to the bins on this occasion, as well as including the soil on the roots the  mentioned above, consisted of a mixture of annual and perennial spring growing weeds as the mix in the reception bin made it impractical to separate them. While the official advice is not to add any roots from perennial plants many allotment gardeners just put everything in the bins  usually with out significant problems. Any  perennial weeds that  survive the composting can be removed at the end of the process. Progress will be monitored in future blogs. More information on the site and training available  can be found at and

8. May, 2020

Garden Organic have produced  new online content to engage with as many people as possible during Compost Awareness Week and while  Staff and Master Composters are unable to go out into the  community due to restricts during lockdown. as we would normally be doing and we are excited to send this out to you all today.

 'Composting: An online lesson for kids'. Initially created for upper primary school children this video is now open up to everyone by uploading the video to our YouTube channel and including a link to the quiz in the video description. This means hundreds of children could be using this resource every day of Compost Awareness Week... and beyond!

 'Get Composting with Garden Organic'. This is a shorter version of the above without the little animated character and the more light-hearted elements that were added to keep the younger audience engaged. The video and the description explains how people can contact the UK Garden Organic network (volunteers and trainers) to get more detailed composting support, so it is very much a taster, but should be enough to get people started.

 You can find both videos on the Garden Organic YouTube channel, link below:

More details of the master Composter scheme are available at or follow this link Master Composters

 Please follow, like and share @GardenOrganicUK on social media.

More computer based material on this site can be found by following this link 7. Compost Games

7. May, 2020

It is spring and as usual the thoughts of unlucky gardeners will turn to Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)  also known as mares tail found on allotments,  gardens and on waste ground and non-cropped areas. It has a thick, silica-rich outer layer and small needle-like leaves. And will now be appearing across the UK as light brown stems, 20-50cm (10-20in) before developing into  60cm (2ft) tall fir tree-like plants.

 There is another variety of Marestail (Hippuris vulgaris) which  is an aquatic weed found in ponds or slow-flowing streams. This advice applies to the variety found on allotments and gardens.

Horsetail can be a nuisance as it is difficult to eradicate and while repeated cutting will weaken the rhizomes it  is usually  ineffective as a mean of killing the deep-rooted plant. Control  by digging can make the problem worse because each broken root fragment can develop into a new plant by itself. However, digging and carefully removing rhizomes can eventually be effective. Regularly removing the shoots and rhizomes as soon as they appear will weaken the plants, but total eradication requires determination over several years.

An alternative method of eradication involves adding dolomite lime to the soil around the horsetail to raise the soil pH.  The lime is  worked  into the soil and watered  thoroughly. Fertiliser is applied after two weeks. The process is repeated annually until the horsetail weeds are eradicated This can take up to five years

It can be controlled by successive applications  of an appropriate   weed killer such as Kurtail Evo.  

On the more positive side.  The  weed can be turned to good use by drowning and using the liquid as plant feed and the sludge as a booster to the compost bin.   Drowning  the plants to make horsetail tea liquid feed as part of the eradication programme  can either be in a lidded bucket or a water butt depending on the quantity. (My photos tend to be bucket based as we want to demonstrate the process rather than just eradicate the weed).  Horsetail is high in silica and a when soaked to make a tea which, is said, to coat the leaves of treated plants producing a fungicide and protect against blackspot, mildew, and mint rust. 
 Allotment site Committees, or groups in affected areas of allotments,  might organise plot holders to spend a day on an allotment wide horsetail harvest and drowning.

The plants need to be fully submerged under the water so  are best put in a sack or an old vegetable net  pinned down with a large stone or suspended in a submerged weighted bag.  Regular stirring is recommended. The fermentation process can range from  10 days to 3 weeks, depending on the ambient temperature. During fermentation, the mixture will produce gas which will  bubble on the surface. Once the bubbling has stopped it has finished bubbling the liquid can be strained and used.

Usually when I write about the  eradication of this weed  some readers will stress that it can be grown as a medical or cosmetic herb which is fine in a private garden but  it should be remembered that the next occupant of an allotment plot, and possibly those cultivating adjacent plots,  will inherited a problem of a very persistent weed. I advocate banning the deliberate cultivation of Horsetail  on allotments.

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