For a couple of years now I have been searching for a good source of compost to mulch my garden and allotment, with no success. It has been frustrating to say the least. It wasn’t as if my soil had gone completely without any new organic matter. There have been toppings of leaf mould, spent compost from containers and the occasional dollop of home-made stuff but none of it goes very far. There’s something about mulching your soil, covering it in rich, crumbly organic matter, that makes me feel like a proper gardener but the soil levels in some of my raised beds had dropped and I knew I needed to get hold of a large delivery and soon.
For sowing and in containers I tend to use New Horizon’s multi-purpose compost but it would be an expensive habit to use this as a garden mulch. I have a compost bin in the garden for kitchen and garden waste and another at the allotment but it’s surprising how little compost they actually generate. The regular supply of horse manure that used to be delivered has dried up too. My local council used to sell green waste, once it was composted, at a local garden centre. It was pretty dreadful stuff though. We went along one day to have a look at it but we could smell it as soon as we got out of the car and the aroma wasn’t good. As you approached it you could feel the heat coming off it. I’m generally of the opinion that if something smells bad it’s best avoided, and there was no way it was going inside the car. A few days later I heard how it had been used by a local Britain in Bloom group and that it had killed the plants they had just planted into it. Something was clearly not right with the composting process and last year I read that the company had their licence removed for breaches of health and safety legislation at the composting site.
There’s one plot at the allotments with bags piled up of truly gorgeous black stuff. The plot holder is a dentist and has a lot of farmers as patients. A couple of us think he extracts agreement from them to supply him whilst he’s also extracting their teeth. I’m not a fan of going to the dentist and I’d probably agree to anything if I had a drill coming towards me. Without such contacts or powers of persuasion I ended up spending the best part of 2 mornings last week on the internet, the phone and on twitter trying to track down some compost.
I found places which sold farmyard manure but I’m still wary that this could be contaminated with the herbicide that caused so many problems a few years ago. The other alternative was mushroom compost which I’ve heard is great stuff particularly for brassica crops. But even that has animal manures in it and is no to be used around acid loving plants because of the lime it contains. Green waste compost was really what I was looking for. We thought we’d cracked it but then discovered that the product had added fertilisers in it, artificial ones and as I grow organically this was no good either. Then there were places that had the right product but would only deliver loose and as we don’t have a driveway I don’t think the neighbours would have been too happy with a small mountain of compost dumped in the access road.
Finally, I was put in touch with a really helpful man from a company who deal with the green waste from several neighbouring counties. I think he could tell I was on the verge of giving up. Apparently there was a recycling centre that wasn’t too far from us and they sold it by the bag for £2. I did the sums and it was significantly cheaper than anything else I had been quoted. Wellyman picked up a test bag and later that night as I spread it around of the beds I was hoping it wouldn’t be riddled with rubbish. I nearly did a little dance because it was gorgeous. Dark, crumbly, not a sign of plastic and it smelt, like it should, of woodland floor.
So, on Saturday, we made several trips, filling the boot. Ideally Wellyman wouldn’t have picked up a brand new car the day before and we wouldn’t have spent the journeys worrying that the suspension was going to break. And, in hindsight, it would have made more sense to do it on a day when it wasn’t raining. By the time we had emptied the bags around the garden and the plot, the combination of compost and rain meant we looked like we had just emerged from a swamp.
I’m a happy gardener now though. It’s strangely satisfying looking out on to the dark mulch that now covers the borders. I love a bit of neatness and order and it certainly appeals to that side of me. We need to make another trip to finish off at the plot but at last the quest is over.