Jenny Mollison on gardens: 'It seems odd that people pay good money for something they could make themselves'
My toes have just thawed out after going behind the scenes at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh to learn about their composting.
Rain, and occasional hail, was falling and the ground was just a big muddy puddle. But it seemed as if nothing was going to dampen compost guru Tony's enthusiasm for telling our small group about what goes on there.
For our part, we were so impressed at what the RBGE achieves in this area, that a small matter of some nasty weather was not going to put us off inspecting everything.
Tony explained that really tough woody stuff is stacked up until it starts to decompose. Other organic garden waste is just heaped up in mountains to let nature take its course. The mystery added ingredient which ensures success is a regular delivery of horse manure.
Down on the allotments, there is absolutely no excuse for not dealing with waste organic material in the same way, although my smaller compost heaps might not heat up quite like those at the Botanics.
There are no rules which tell you how long the stuff will take to decompose as the weather and mix of materials will play their part. But, in time, it will break down and if on inspection there are still some chunky bits, they can be used as the starter for the next bin.
Cultivating an allotment is pretty intensive gardening, and without that regular boost of organic matter being returned to the plot, the soil will become impoverished and crops are bound to suffer. It seems odd that some people pay good money at the garden centres for something which they could make themselves and may even have originated from the contents of their own brown bin.
The kind of compost which comes out of the compost bin is not the same as potting compost which can lead to some confusion. Like Tony at the Botanics, Frank is another perfectionist and enthusiast.
He grows prize-winning vegetables on his Aberdeen allotment. No bags of shop-bought multi-purpose potting compost perform well enough for his exacting requirements.
With recipes that evoke Macbeth's witches, he blends a bucket of this with a scoopful of that and mixes it all in a cement mixer. While a cement mixer hasn't made it on to my Christmas list, I am glad that there are people like Frank prepared to go to such lengths to achieve the best results.
This article was first published in The Scotsman, 11 December, 2010
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west