Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We've had a big list of things to do ever since we moved in, one of which was to get a compost heap up and running to reduce what we put in a black bin liner. When I lived in Brighton, I ended up with a rat problem with my bought plastic composter, and the council pest control man, who was both discrete and efficient, told me that a big proportion of his job was created by compost heaps. He told me how to design a rat-proof heap, and I've incorporated his advice (basically creating a cage of wire mesh, no larger than 1cm square holes) in my one metre cube made out of old pallets destined for the tip, which I obtained free from a local hardware shop.
The other advice I've been following is the Centre for Alternative Technology's (see our links) factsheet "Cool Composting: a Fresh Approach" (as opposed to a French approach!) which is £3.50 well spent. Forget about creating huge heaps of stuff that spontaneously reach high temperatures (the classic approach) and have an altogether simpler task of making sure that your "cheese" (kitchen waste and grass cuttings) and "bread" (cardboard, paper that can't otherwise be recycled, straw) are layered in roughly even quantities, to create a balanced "cheese sandwich."
I started peeing on it, but have stopped, as it's rather exposed to the neighbours. So I have created an outdoor "pissoir" from a plastic bucket full with wood shavings, which I get in bags from the dust extractor of a carpenter friend of mine. The combination of carbon (the wood) and nitrogen (my urine) should create a healthy compost; time will tell.


seedling said...

Do you have your compost heap close to your veg patch - we've had problems with snail in our veg, maybe because of the compost heap. Any snail tips (I don't want to eat them!)

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Dear Seedling,
No, our compost heap is not near the veg patch but we do have a slug problem. CAT’s 50p tipsheet (see link) “Slugs: What Can You Do About Them”, actually suggests putting slugs you’ve picked off your garden into your compost heap where they perform a useful function.
According to CAT, “They stay there because it’s full of good things to eat … (and) of course the slugs may well breed in the compost but we have never found slug eggs in the finished material and assume they are eaten by various insect predators also living in the compost.”
Their tipsheet provides lots of advice on slug lifestyles and therefore how best to control them, and they also have a book dedicated to the problem, called “The Little Book of Slugs”.
Perhaps, therefore, your compost heap isn’t the villain in your garden and you just need to find a way of reducing the slugs and snails; we’ve just taken delivery of some nematodes (micro-organisms that we’ll water onto the garden and who’ll eat the slugs from inside!) I’ll tell you how successful we are on the blog and, in the meantime, it’s out, every night after dusk, with a torch and a bucket!

vanillablush said...

Hi Stuart and Gabrielle

Sid and Phil told me about your blog.Slugs-tell me about it.We've tried everything in the garden of our victorian terrace there are brick walls which seem to host thousands of snails and slugs.
I'm going to try the disturbing the soil you recommend and carry on just manually removing them at night.

In a permacultural spirit, do you know if there is some use for slugs other than as food for seagulls or people with an adventerous palate?

Like the blog, got one of mine own whilst looking for yours called 'Beastbourne Chronicles'.
(don't ask)

We are visiting Brittany in the last two weeks of August, maybe we'll drop in and say hi if you're around.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Dear Limlam,
A use for slugs? When I lived in Brighton, I did actually cook and eat some snails out of my garden, following the instructions in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook, and I'm still here to tell the tale. I'm no expert so I suggest the Centre for Alternative technology's factsheet on slugs and they do a book, The Little Book of Slugs for a fiver, which might help.
Do pop in in August, get our email and phone number from Phil & Sid and get in contact.