21. Feb, 2018

The Composting Year: Spring

Starting a bin

 Any time of year is a good time to start composting but each season offers its own advantages.

Starting a compost bin in spring offers the opportunity to take advantage of the warmer weather and the increasing activity of the composting microorganisms and compost creatures. However, you will need material to start and feed your bin. Once the   temperature is about 10°C for most of the time, material can be added to the bin knowing that the composting microbes will be active.  An alternative method of determining when to start is to wait until the grass on the allotment paths, or lawn,  has grown enough to need cutting. Conveniently this will provide a regular source “Greens” to start the bin if there is little in the way of other plant waste available

 Even if you are not planning to use a batch or hot composting technique when starting a new compost bin or heap in the spring, it speeds the process if the material is turned, or aerated with an aeration tool, regularly for the first few weeks to allow air into its deeper pockets. This is particularly the case if grass is being composted as it not only needs aerating but also will require mixing with a plentiful supply of Browns e.g. shredded paper, corrugated cardboard or leaves save from the autumn.

Reawakening Existing Bins

 An existing compost bin, or heap, will reactivate naturally as the temperature rises. The materials that have overwintered will  recommence decomposing as the temperature rises, although the addition of coffee grounds helps wake up the bins just as it does us. 

 The last remaining winter vegetables can be harvested, and their tops and trimmings added to the compost bin in March, these might include Brussels sprouts, celeriac, parsnips and swedes.  The Spring pruning from blackcurrants, blueberries, gooseberries and autumn fruiting raspberries can be also composted after shredding or cutting into short lengths. As with new heap aeration will speed up the process and as the temperature in the bin increases. 

  April may provide spring cabbages, cauliflower and sprouting broccoli as well as weeds removed when preparing seedbeds. The plums and cherries pruned in April might also be available for composting.

 May should see a rise in temperature helping the compost bin to move into gear helped by the addition of annual weeds a source of fresh young “green” material. The vegetable harvest may include tops turnips and trimmings from fresh garlic.

If growing Comfrey  the first cutting can take place when the foliage is 12 to 18 inches tall. Cut about two inches above the ground.  It should be possible to continue cutting the comfrey every 10 to 30 days through the summer months.  

Spring is also a good time of year to harvest compost for use on the garden. Compost, applied when the soil is moist, can be used as a mulch once the soil has warmed up in mid- to late spring. Over wintered compost can also be used to make compost tea, a useful liquid feed. It can also be used to make home made sowing and potting compost.  

 Details of liquid feeds and home-made potting mixes and other composting information can be found on at www.carryoncomposting