House & Garden

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stratigraphy of a compost heap

The weather was so good on Thursday that we spent most of the morning in the garden. I started raking leaves, but had nowhere to put them, so decided to investigate the compost bin that's been left in one corner of the garden.

It was an interesting experience. The bin is one of those with a 'gate' at the bottom so you can dig out the finished compost, and a lid at the top so you can add fresh matter. It was almost full, with a pile of green-black slime on the top. Not so much compost, as rotting grass.

However, the compost in the bottom of the bin, although very compacted, was dark and lovely. Hmmm.

Further investigation proved that on top of the good compost was a thick layer of dried, brown moss, and that was topped off by many mats of grass, in various stages of dehydration and failure to compost.

I suspect that the bin was originally owned by a keen gardener, or at least a keen composter. I think it was then neglected for a while (resulting in a luxuriant growth of moss), and then a novice composter has simply chucked cut grass on top of the whole thing each time they've finished mowing the lawn.

Anyway, the whole lot has now been dug out and the uncomposted material has been replaced in layers, along with layers of some of the mature compost and layers of fresh leaves. The green slime has been redistributed into small clumps, and may yet produce something worthwhile. We shall see.


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