Gather together a hundred gardeners and ask the question: what's the best
method of constructing a compost heap? – and you'll receive a hundred
different answers with a few strong words thrown in for good measure. Folk
can be so possessive of their 'expert' knowledge, can they not? You'll
certainly get a heated debate, anyway, with much colourful "rabbit and
(slang for 'talk' apparently) thrown in for good measure.
I once made the mistake of engaging in a 'compost heap' debate
again. The other guy, a man called Bill, for there was only two of us left
the room by the time we'd really got stuck into the topic – the others
beaten a hasty retreat – wouldn't talk to me for months afterwards and
now regards me as some sort of subversive element who's in the habit of
routinely undermining other people's tried and tested methods. But then
gardening does that to people sometimes, doesn't it, just like any other
human preoccupation, when 'Expert' meets 'Expert' and neither is prepared
give an inch.
"What I do is pee on it," one 'expert' might proclaim, whilst shoving his
nose conspiratorially into your ear, "adds just the right amount of
and potash. Good for the vegetables, especially the cabbages."
"Human hair is water retentive," another might bellow (a local barber of
district told me this once) "sow seed tatties on human hair, a tried and
Well, what can you say to that?
Personally I tend to grunt when confronted by any type of 'expert' these
days, a drawn out murmuring sort of grunt.This usually does the trick.
Approving yet neutral. Better that, of course, than respond in a less
charitable manner with something along the lines of: "Take your nose out
my ear, you pompous windbag!" Yes, much safer in the long run.
But what happens to the compost heap once it's started? If – like me –
lack the time and dogged persistence, then it quickly becomes a breeding
ground for the most intriguing collection of weeds, thistles and
woody-stalked vegetation that requires vigorous strimming to tidy the
mess up. Either that, or you're left with an untidy eyesore.You could call
it a 'wildlife garden' and leave well alone of course, that is if you can
live with such a notion; or you could strim it and then explain it away as
yet another giant mole hill to add to the already growing number of giant
mole hills at the bottom of the garden (simply another piece of lumpy
to cut on a regular basis).
Compost bins, of course, are the 'thing' of the moment just now: plastic
containers (inverted conical shapes resembling wheelie bins without
and bottomless. Cast an eye around next time you're out and about and see
you can spot any with weeds, thistles and woody-stalked vegetation
out of them. You might do. You just might do.
Despite all this, however, I may try one myself, see how I get on. But
I really pass it off as a giant mole hill if it was neglected through no
fault of my own? I doubt it.
Now there's a sobering thought.
(Copy right 2002 Patrick Vickery)