Decanting the Compost Heap

I always thought we had the compost heap for years and years. Turns out – after hunting through old photos – that it was made around this time only three years ago. There’s a photo of the “inauguration” showing the first barrowloads of compostable waste being dumped into it and spread around the edges.

It’s been filling up ever since. In the intervening three years, uncooked food waste, fallen leaves, grass clippings, small prunings, dead herbaceous plants, dead annuals, grass sods and more have all ended up piled on the compost heap and it became fuller and fuller. It’s not a small area either and so it’s a lot of material. The whole decomposition process is noticeable in the way the height of the heap changes. It looks very full when fresh stuff is piled on to it, especially in the autumn but then after a while, it’s suddenly dropped in height by a foot or more – presumably as it breaks down. In the three years since the heap was made, we’ve allowed the heap just to fill up and do its thing, never actually using the compost in it, but just letting it gradually pile up. I don’t water, cover or dig over the compost heap, there’s just too much material. It would only make sense to turn the heap if I had a mini digger, or a willing assistant.

Recently though, the heap has been getting pretty full, to the point where new material is spilling over the top or falling down the front onto the path. It’s timely that we’re making the Willow Border this year as we are decanting the compost heap (the broken down stuff only) onto this new border. Manure will then be mixed in with it (as you can never have enough organic matter) and we will plant into this mix.

Compost heap decanted and sanitised

We’re coming to forty wheelbarrows of compost, the border is nearly six inches deep in it and we’re only about two-thirds of the way through decanting the material. I’ll tell you that the stuff is amazing, you simply can’t buy it in the shops, it has the most amazing dark, crumbly, fluffy texture, light and airy with an earthy scent. The plants going into this black gold had better appreciate it and do well. I’m surprised at how just how quickly the garden waste breaks down into compost. It’s the quality of it that had me convinced the heap had been there for years – but no, apparently it only takes a couple.

Piles of various soils and composts

There are bulk bags of manure on the drive (still) that will also be spread over this border as well as excess soil in the corner where I was re-laying the paths. It’s all going to end up here and it’s all going to be mixed in with the electric tiller,. We won’t be digging down and mixing it into the base soil as we’ve done for the other borders as the whole area is full of tree roots and we need the trees standing and healthy. I’m probably also going to dump the large tubs of Growmore and Bonemeal here as well, just for luck.

It’s taken quite some time to make this border. I was aiming for it to be finished around a month ago, but with laying paths, new fences, making rockery walls, doing the edging, clearing the rubbish, weeding – basically doing the 101 prep jobs – it’s taken until now to see the end coming into sight. It will still be ready for Autumn planting and that’s when the fun of going out to buy new plants to fill the border will begin, it’s the best part of the process. The border is deceptively large and it’s going to take quite a few plants to fill it. It’s a good job I have a long list of “favourite plants” that can go here.

2 Comments


    1. It was a slog, Jason! We had to sift through every spadeful to take out bits of plastic, stones, string, glass, wire, un-rotted things – all manner of bits and pieces I didn’t want going back into the soil.

      Reply

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