Making your own compost from garden and household waste is one of the best things any gardener can do. It's easy and costs very little in time or effort.

What can I compost?
If it can rot it will compost, but some items are best avoided. Some things, like grass mowings and soft young weeds, rot quickly. They work as 'activators' or 'hotter rotters', getting the composting started, but on their own will decay to a smelly mess.

Older and tougher plant material is slower to rot but gives body to the finished compost - and usually makes up the bulk of a compost heap.

Woody items decay very slowly; they are best chopped or shredded first, where appropriate. For best results, use a mixture of types of ingredient. The right balance is something you learn by experience.

When is it ready?

Compost can be made in six to eight weeks, or it can take a year or more. In general, the more effort you put in, the quicker you will get compost. When the ingredients you have put in your container have turned into a dark brown, earthy smelling material, the composting process is complete. It is then best left for a month or two to 'mature' before it is used. Don't worry if you compost is not fine and crumbly. Even if it is lumpy, sticky or stringy, with bits of twig and eggshell still obvious, it is quite usable.


Compost Words

What does composting and writing have in common? Anyone who really loves to write knows that you have to have a lot of writing miles under your belt if you want to write a novel. Bryce Courtney wrote that one should 'never attempt to write a book until you've written one hundred long letters to ten good friends.' Julia Cameron, who wrote 'The Artist's Way', talks about morning pages. If you have written one hundred letters to ten good friends and kept morning pages for one year this represents a powerful lot of writing compost.

In the world of gardening hot rotters include things like young weeds, grass cuttings, chicken manure, horse manure. In the world of writing there is no better hot rotter than letter writing. When I first began to keep journals I always addressed my entries to a close friend. This seemed to help the words to flow.

The dedicated gardener knows that they have to provide a balanced diet for their compost heap. Most compostors add things like fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, old flowers, bedding plants, old straw & hay, vegetable plant remains, strawy manures, young hedge clippings, soft prunings, perennial weeds, gerbil, guinea pig & rabbit bedding.

For the writer morning pages represent just one of the ingredients that add to a balanced diet. In primary schools most students have a writing work book. This has the same effect if it is used often enough.

As a writer all you need to understand is that, to become an even better writer and to be rewarded with rich blooms, you need to take as much care with your compost bin as the gardeners at the Botanical Gardens.

I love to make special word compost bins with students. These are inexpensive notebooks covered with images of all the sorts of things that you need to feed your knowledge of words and your ability to write.

Grab some glossy magazines and have a think about what you will put on your notebook. Ask yourself what you will use to compost words. Perhaps you will just cut out lots of words and make it look like a magnetic poetry board. It really is up to you.

The main thing is that once you have the notebook you add something new to it every day. Trust me! If you feed your writing compost bin your compost will be ready in no time at all. You will find any writing task becomes so much easier to complete. Any dread of writing will be gone for ever.


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