Monday 2 June 2008

Shining my green halo

It really is amazing how much time one can spend in such a tiny garden. Mr. DBM does all the work, while I wander around admiring the flowers , taking photos and wondering what other flowers I could possibly squeeze into our little Garden of Eden. This weekend, Mr. DBM planted out the runner beans into pots and we now have our annual border in. We also have about 15 pots of catnip - well, I can't forget my furry little friends, can I? Mr. DBM is having a bit of a problem with this though. The other day, a whole catnip plant went "missing". I suspect Willow ate it and Mr. DBM is not happy. I do keep pointing out to him that that is the whole point of planting the catnip - for the cats to eat, but he seems to think that they should wait until the plants are bigger. Have you tried explaining something like that to a cat with a brain the size of a bean?

So, the green thumbs have been busy and I am feeling just a little bit smug about our newest purchase - a push lawnmower. No fuel required, no fumes, no noise, no greenhouse gases. All it needs is a little elbow grease - and yes, you have guessed it, it is Mr. DBM's elbow grease rather than mine. I am quite happy to admit that I only used it for about 5 minutes and then handed it over to Mr. DBM. I will also admit to the fact that we would not have bought it if we had a lawn larger than the size of a postage stamp. Still, the bigger the lawn, the better the workout.

Our green halos are also shining just a little bit brighter these days due to our efforts on the composting front. Our city encourages its residents to compost and provides (for a small fee, naturally) a composter. So off we go and pick one up. Turns out it is a rather cheap, black plastic one that can't really keep up with the rigorous treatment demanded of it. It appears to be breaking in two and leaking round the middle. Still, in its defence, it is rather full.........Mr. DBM has plans for a new and improved one, but I am just not sure where he is going to put it, or what we are going to do with all the compost that we will be producing. I would say share it with the neighbours, but apparently their ideas of gardening extend to spreading bright red mulch all over their front garden bed - well, it matches the front door, doesn't it? Hmmmmm, definitely no green thumbs there - more orangey red, especially after spreading that mulch! The other neighbours have an adorable puppy dog that spends his time peeing on the grass and eating the shrubs. Their plans are to pave the whole lot - not much demand for compost there then.

Anyway, on the composting front - English Mum has asked for some composting help. So, with input from Mr. DBM, here is what I know on the subject. I shall split the info into 3 parts, the container, the contents and the maintenance. The goal is to end up with lovely, rich, dark, crumbly, soil-like compost and not stinky, slimy, black, gooey and disgusting ooze. If you end up with the latter, you are doing something wrong!

The container:

  • Should be at least 1m x 1m x 1m. If it is too small, you will not get enough bulk for good heat build up.
  • Definitely needs a lid to keep unwanted rats, racoons, coyotes, foxes...........insert any other unwanted animal you don't want here.
  • Needs ventilation holes, since good ventilation is essential.
  • Needs to be situated on a well drained area.
  • It can be made of wire mesh, plastic or wood planks, depending on how sturdy you want it to be.
  • You need some way of accessing the compost from the bottom, since this is where it will be ready first.
The contents:

  • Any fruits or vegetables
  • Grass cuttings and other garden trimmings e.g. weeds, but avoid weeds if they are in seed.
  • Wood or sawdust - wood does need to be chipped first, since large chunks will take too long to break down.
  • Paper, tissues, cardboard, egg cartons.
  • Coffee grinds, tea leaves.
  • Egg shells
  • Straw and animal manure

So, you can put pretty much any organic, plant-based product in your compost. However, you should NOT include meat, dairy products, cooked vegetables, nappies, cat or dog poo. These will make your compost smell and will attract unwanted flies, leading to unwanted maggots and it will end up like an episode of CSI when you look in your composter. I guess if you want some forensic entomology training, go ahead and put a pig in there, but otherwise, leave the meat out. You do have to be a bit careful about putting too much rich plant material in e.g. all grass clippings and fruits will not compost well - you need to balance this with more woody material, such as straw, dead leaves, cardboard etc


It is very important to mix and aerate your compost. Proper decomposition requires oxygen and so you need to mix up your compost and make sure air is getting to the centre of the pile. If you don't do this, the centre will become starved of oxygen, different bacteria will start growing and a black, slimey ooze will be produced. Not good. You also need to ensure adequate moisture levels, especially in the summer, since you don't want the pile to dry out. Apparently, you are looking for the moisture level of a damp sponge.

So, there you have it. Now, go and do it! If you need further guidance, try this page - Composting Guide.

P.S. While Mr. DBM does most of the labour around our garden, I would like to point out that the hanging baskets and window boxes are all my own work. And no, that does not mean that I signed the credit card slip. I actually bought all the plants and the planters and potted them up myself!


Anonymous said...

Oh, aren't you good? Well done!

Our local council practically gives away both composters and water butts to encourage greener gardening, and we bought one of each. The water butt is still in use, and despite only collecting water from the (pitched) garage roof, is always full. Well, this IS England!

However, our experience with the composter was not good. It was about half full when I lifted the lid to pop another load of garden waste into it ... and surprised a nest of half grown RATS!! I can tell you, that composter was upended and the rats evicted in very short order, and hasn't been used again since.

Anonymous said...

I meant to tell you what gorgeous photos those are! Beautiful - especially the irises and pansies!

Anonymous said...

I can understand capturing rainwater, and using it on the lawn and the veggies and the flowers. But do be careful with the composter, as I too tried it here, and it was more successful in culturing bugs (I suppose you could take them to class) and mice, which I suppose the kitties could munch on, thereby saving the catnip plants for bit. Anyway, good luck.

I feel a bit sorry for Mr. DBM, for I too had a push mower, and I must tell you that the novelty wore off rather quickly. Far too much work, and too many midriff bruises - you will soon find out just how abruptly these little darlings can stop when they get a bit clogged, and they always do, and rather easily.

On a happier note, once again, the pictures are great. I think I may have some of these in my little garden as well. Sorry, no veggies though.

Anonymous said...


Good for you sis, I love that composter, and I think Mrs M will be keen to try it as well when we move ..

Don't feel too sorry for Mr DBM, the lawn is seriously only 10ft x 10ft... not really a football field, and have you seen the size of that mans 'Guns' ... which way is the gym Arnie ?????

Anonymous said...

'Nerd alert' hee hee!

K then, I'll give it a go. I notice D next door's got an empty compost bin doing nothing but blowing down the garden when it's windy.

Any thoughts on wormeries?? Hmmm?

Don't Bug Me! said...

Jay: I do have concerns about wildlife in the compost, but Willow seems quite good at beheading any small furry creature that gets too close - much to my disgust. As for the water butt - definitely want one, but it means re-routing all our guttering, since the downspout is in a spot that will not accommodate a big butt!
Glad you like the photos.

Cortes: As Moon implies, Mr. DBM could use a bit more muscle.....besides, he does enjoy all the gardening - no, really, he does.

Moon: I would like to dispute the nerd alert, but I guess if the name least I don't have tape holding my glasses together.

EM: We have tried the worm thing, but with little success. If you can get it to work, it would be great - gardens love worms. All that lovely aeration and worm castings. They also make great food for my toads!

Anonymous said...

Ah well, hopefully Willow will discourage unwelcome tenants!

We were able to use an existing downpipe for the water butt, although that's why it's on the garage, not the house. Nowhere suitable to stand it near the house!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say "Great information and beautiful, beautiful flowers" but the talk of rodents is freaking me out... Go Willow, go like the wind.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no respect for nurses! They're useless perverts.