Friday, 4 November 2011


I'm visiting my parents in Northamptonshire for a few days this week and so I'm having to readjust to life in the family home. Remembering that dishes go in the dishwasher, not the sink, and that tea is made using loose tea and a tea pot, not just putting a tea bag in the cup. One thing that is almost the same as at home is the recycling. In Preston paper and cardboard go in one box while cans, glass and plastic goes in another. Here paper goes in one and everything else goes in the other. The food waste is similar except instead of mixing it all together and putting it out for collection the veg peelings and egg shells go on the compost heap.

I don't remember when my family started composting. I know we haven't always but we definitely have for quite a while. There's a plastic tub in the kitchen which gets periodically emptied into the compost bin at the end of the garden. It always felt very strange at university having to throw away food waste, as there were no facilities for composting and the council wouldn't take it away. I'm not sure how much compost we get out, the pile inside the bin always seems to be going down but not a lot of compost seems to come out the bottom. But it's nice knowing that the vegetable peelings from Sunday lunch is going back into helping the garden grow.

Compost is great for garden soils. The high temperatures caused by rotting material kill off seeds, weeds and some bacteria. The compost soil that comes out at the end is light and full of nutrients with a strong resistance to disease so less chemical fertilisers need to be used. Composting your veg waste and using it in the garden also has environmental benefits. You won't need to drive to the DIY shop to buy fertiliser as much and you also won't have to buy peat filled compost.

Peat compost has been used by gardeners for years, but its environmental impacts are really not good. Peat bogs takes thousands of year to develop and are some of the U.K. most specialised habitats. Already 94% of the U.K. lowland peat bogs have been destroyed and many species, such as cranberries and skylarks, depend on this habitat for survival. Also digging up peat contributes to climate change as it releases carbon and other gases into the atmosphere. In recent years through awareness campaigns organisations including the RSPB, Buglife and others have worked together with gardeners and garden centres to education people about the damage peat compost causes. Peat has always been seen as good for gardens because it's high in nutrients but it's not essential to a garden and plants can easily grown without it, especially if you've put lots of home made compost that's high in nutrients on your plants instead. So if you're buying compost from a shop remember to look for the peat free ones!

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