DIY Compost, how to get a bit more for your money.
As your probably well aware I am not one for spending much money on my allotment, mainly because I don’t have it to spend and in my own mind it would be fruitless (pun intended) to spend more on the plot that it would actually cost me to go and buy veg from the shop, yes I know my allotment is also a hobby but I do get some satisfaction from the frugality and thriftiness growing there.
One of the things you cant really get away from buying is compost, yes you can have a heap and make your own, but this takes time, it’s also very time-consuming. gathering the weeds, leaves, bark, straw and other carbon and nitrogen sources needed. Because trust me, the bucket full of kitchen scraps and the few bags of lawn clippings the average house produces each week soon roots down to nothing more than a few liters.
Now I recycle all my spent compost, as you should all do, by this I mean the compost I use to grow my greenhouse crops, like tomatoes, is the following year used to mulch and top up the raised beds and sometimes even mixed with fresh compost to bulk out containers and plant pots.
Sometimes though it’s not always essential to use “good” compost if you have a 50 litre pot, putting a full 50Lt of brand new top brand compost can be wasteful, especially if like me you will be feeding your plants regularly with comfrey/nettle tea, blood, fish and bone or Chicken manure pellets. (all my favorites)
Obviously, you can mix your old compost with new but if you haven’t got any old compost and you have a few large pots, containers and beds to fill there are a few things you can do.
Firstly, if the beds are deep (2ft or more) at least half of this volume can be taken up with general green waste, lawn, and hedge clippings mixed with some hay or straw then the rest filled up with standard compost. grow shallow rooting veg in the first year and as the level sinks top it up and you will have a large raised bed filled and ready to grow for at least half the cost of filling one with straight compost.
If the pots/beds you have to fill are smaller or if you just want to top up existing containers then you can try mixing your own compost using cheaper items and free sources. one of the easiest things to get hold of is horse manure, (ideally well rotted, you’ll find this at the bottom of the muck heap) In the UK go to any stables or horse owners with a few bags and a shovel and I will almost guarantee they will let you take as much as you like. (OK maybe ring first!) but many have vast heaps they are struggling to get rid of. Now if you’re lucky the next one can also be FREE and from the same source. Woodshavings, you can buy these from a farm store, they are cheaper the more you buy. DONT buy them from the supermarket, they are 5 times the price! but again any stables maybe glad of a had mucking out in which case you can probably again get bags full for free.
Next, you need a trip to your local builder’s merchant for a bag of sand, if you have to buy all the ingredients then this will be one of the cheapest, then to finish good quality compost. my favorite is actually Wyvale as they often do a deal of 4 x 75lt bags for £20 and you get reward points. Woohoo!
Now my recipe is simple (it’s not exact, so please trial and make one your happy with) and I use it for growing just about anything. but obviously not starting seeds, as you will want a much finer seed compost.
Just a guide
50Lt Wood shavings
Then add a good feed of blood, fish and bone and/or chicken manure pellets.
So, get out there, get your fingers dirty and try and make some for yourself.
Its all about trial and error until you find a mix you are happy with after all gardening is all about confidence and you need to have confidence in your compost.
Start buy using your mix you grow a few potatoes in, maybe in barrels or pots and I guarantee next year you will be making more.