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Organic Compost

For the keen or organic gardener in Bulgaria, making compost from garden and household waste is one of the best things you can do. Not only is it terribly simple but it also takes very little time and effort. And you'll fit right in with your Bulgarian neighbours too. Furthermore, you'll reduce pollution and cut down on all that waste either going to a landfill or, even worse, being dumped. The rewards will also come about in your garden, with healthier plants and less fertilisers having to be bought and used.

Composting can be as much or as little work as you want to make it but the more effort you put in, the quicker you will have ready to use compost.

What is compost?

Looking after your soil is all about compost. You could consider compost as a natural way of re-cycling. Instead of man made chemicals, it garners a natural process. It just takes a bit of manpower to do it. The main idea behind good gardening and husbandry is "feed the soil", not the plants as they will take care of themselves if the soil is right.

A successful compost heap contains a proper mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials. These are often referred to as the “green” and “brown” ingredients in a healthy compost heap. Composting is a small eco system all of its own.

One thing compost most certainly is not is a smelly hole at the bottom of the garden. There should be no smell and no flies.

What can I put on my compost?

The basics are that if it will rot, then you can compost it.

You'll need a variety of plant material to start it off. Grass cuttings and kitchen scraps (vegetable) provide nitrogen while leaves provide carbon. You simply throw in organic materials as you have them. If you turn the pile every week, this will speed up the process. What you are looking for is a nice diverse mixture of different types of material

Some things rot quickly and act as activators, others rot more slowly and give body to the compost. Grass cuttings and young weeds rot quickly, whilst old or tough plant materials rot more slowly. Woody things rot more slowly still and these should be chopped up first. You can recycle pretty much all of your plant based kitchen and garden waste. Don't put on dairy produce, meat or bread.

You can begin with a nicely chopped or shredded stack of woody items and place this at the bottom as it will allow air to circulate. Then add some grass cuttings, any weeds, etc. This kind of material will be quite diverse in size and texture. A bucket or two from the kitchen of vegetable scraps... and hey presto you've already started your compost heap.

It's handy to keep a receptacle in the kitchen for waste which you want to put on your compost heap. You can use coffee grounds too and even leave them in the filter as that will break down as well.

Do you need a compost bin?

You don't! It's possible to make good compost in a free standing pile. All you need is a shovel or fork to turn and move the contents of the heap. Don't build the compost against a shed or fence as compost heaps have bugs and worms in them, which you don't want in your shed. About two feet away is a decent distance.

As the compost starts to work its magic, it will gradually, from the bottom up, turn into stuff which looks like dark brown soil. You won't even recognise the items in there. The finished compost pile will have seriously shrunk! Probably to about a quarter of the original size. It should smell woody and earthy and crumble in your hand.

With just a little work you will have an endless supply of compost and mineral rich soil year after year giving you a healthy organic garden.

Tips and hints on contents

You can add autumn leaves to your compost heap. However, you can also make leafmould. Just stuff the wet leaves into recyclable black bin bags, then after a year or so, the leafmould is ready to use.

Grass cuttings
On their own you'll only end up with a horrid smelly mess. They should be mixed well with other slow rotting materials.

Take care with some difficult weeds such as bindweed. Rather than putting them straight on, mix them up with grass cuttings in a plastic sack. When you can no longer recognise the weeds, then you can add them to the heap.

Clippings and prunings
These should be chopped up or shredded as they will take a long time to rot.

Horse and cattle manure mixed with straw composts well. If you have a guinea pig as a family pet their droppings work wonders on the compost heap. If the manure is mixed with woodshavings, leave this to rot separately until the woodshavings have decomposed before adding it to the compost. Sawdust and woodshavings are extremely slow to decay.

If your compost heap is made up with a lot of kitchen scraps, cardboard and paper items can be useful to add to the heap. Newspaper can be used, but not in large quantities.