Posts Tagged ‘making compost’


This week it’s been perfect weather for digging and I have been on my allotment making the most of it, digging can be hard work but it is also very satisfying looking at a newly dug and prepared bed ready for planting. The soil has dried out from the recent floods helped by the wind and the frosts, I was pleasantly surprised how many worms there were, I wasn’t sure whether they would survive beneath the flood water.

One of the most important jobs in the garden is to improve and maintain the quality of your soil, the key way to do this is to add or dig in organic material such as rotted garden/kitchen compost from your Compost Bin or well-rotted farmyard manure which has been allowed to stand for at least six months.

Before digging clear the site of weeds and large stones, as well as any roots whilst you dig, there are different methods of digging:

No Dig Method

Weed the soil, in late Autumn spread compost/manure over the surface, the worms will work it into the soil, more compost/manure can be added during the growing season.

Simple Digging

Weed the soil, push in your spade, lift the soil, turn it and drop it back in its original position, breaking up any large lumps with the edge of your spade, a layer of organic matter can then be added to the surface which the worms will incorporate or can be forked/raked in when you prepare your bed for sowing/planting, alternatively a layer of compost can be put on the soil after weeding which will be incorporated as you dig.

Single Digging

Weed the soil, and dig a trench across your bed to a spades depth and about 30cm wide, put the soil you have removed aside this will be used at the end to fill the last trench. Fill the bottom of the trench with compost/manure, working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench, repeat this process until you get the end of your bed, fill the last trench with the soil that you set aside from the first trench.

Double Digging

With double digging the soil is worked to the depth of two spades, breaking up the sub soil, this will improve drainage and is useful on a new plot or when deep beds are being prepared. Weed and dig a trench as with single digging putting the soil removed aside, add compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and dig in to a spades depth, add another layer of compost/manure on top then working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench repeat this process and fill in the last trench with soil removed from the first trench.

The best time to dig heavy soil is in the Autumn this will allow the frost and rain to break it down, light and sandy soils are best left until the spring, fork in a general purpose fertiliser prior to sowing/planting and break up any lumps of soil with a fork/rake.

Not everyone enjoys or is able to dig, growing crops in Raised Beds is the perfect solution, crops can be easily planted, tended, watered and harvested without standing on the soil thus eliminating the need to dig, all that is required is to weed, and lightly fork in compost or fertiliser with a Hand Fork in Spring or apply a mulch of compost/manure in Autumn which the worms will gradually work into the soil.

I find digging with a spade hard work as it is quite heavy, I use a border fork which is slightly smaller than a standard fork, although I can only dig smaller ‘spadefuls’ at a time and it may take a little longer I find it a lot easier and there is less strain on my back.

I shall be continuing my digging at the weekend as it is a good forecast, if you get chance get out in the garden and enjoy the dry weather

Happy digging


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We recently received an email from Georgina asking for advice on setting up her school garden.  This is something we are often asked about so we though you might find it useful too.  Here is her question along with our advice…

I am just starting a gardening club at my primary school.  Do you have any tips/advise?  It will be during the school day so it can be available to as many children as possible.  Just ironing out running eg. which year group etc.

Hi Georgina Many thanks for your enquiry. It sounds like you have an exciting project on your hands.

Our advice would be to start fairly simply. Using raised beds saves lots of effort fighting weeds and digging over heavy soil.   For a good selection of easy-to-assemble options take a look here.

Also don’t forget you can grow lots of vegetables, salads and flowers in containers and on windowsills – more ideas on the options available can be found by following this link.

If the school garden is going to be used through the school day you can think creatively about how gardening can be linked into the national curriculum. Take a look here for ideas on how to do that.

We have written lots of information on setting up a school garden here with useful links to getting started including articles on gardening in raised beds, composting and lots more.

For ideas of gardening jobs to do in autumn take a look here  and for information on seeds to sow for a winter harvest you might find this link useful. 

Best of luck with your plans and do let us know how you get along.

From Charlotte and the Gardening With Children Team

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With autumn in the air, now is the perfect time to get composting. So for this months school competition we thought it would be fun to have a Mini Composting Quiz.

Why not have a go, it will only take a few minutes and it’s a fun way to learn more about composting. …And the first lucky school out of the hat will win one of these brilliant Children’s Twin Wooden Compost. Made from FSC wood and treated with non-toxic preservative it’s a perfect way to get kids excited about composting.  …But the closing date is 30th September 2010 so enter today! 


So here are the questions

Which one of the following helps to make compost in the compost bin? (a)Birds, (b)Worms or (c)Squirrels

List 3 things you can put on the compost heap

List 3 things you should avoid putting on the compost heap

True or False? – Some moisture is important for composting and helps the vegetation to break down but too much water makes the compost smelly and sloppy

Why do you think it’s important to compost kitchen and garden waste?

Send you entries by email to competitions@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or fill in the form here and send by post to Gardening With Children, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, PR3 3XJ.

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Spring begins this month, and as mother nature begins to stir from her winter slumber there is already a little sniff of it in the air.

The birds are singing that little bit louder, the daylight is lasting that little bit longer, and the spring lambs are skipping around the field behind our house, much to the delight of the children.

There are lots of gardening jobs to do this month.  With plenty of preparations to be made for the growing season and lots of early planting in propagators and on windowsills to be getting on with.  …And by getting organised now things will be nicely set up for the future months when everything in the garden gets incredibly busy.

So for ideas and a little inspiration do take a look at our Gardening Jobs for March, and love your environment a little along the way!

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Well the days are still short and can feel pretty chilly at times, but there is still lots to be doing in the garden.  So do what we did this weekend… get on a thick jumper and a pair of wellies and get out there…. You’ll soon find lots of jobs to be getting on with. 

For our ideas on what to be doing at this time of year take a look at our Guide to Gardening Jobs in January and February

From tidying up and cutting back to preparing the soil for the growing season, painting and repairing fences to setting up a compost bin or raised bed, planting onion and garlic under cloches …the list is endless.

And if the weather is really very unpleasant why not get started on sowing some of the early crops in a heated propagator.  This will give the plants the perfect head start in time for spring.

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Bonfire Night is a traditional celebration in memory of Guy Fawkes, who on this day in 1605, was discovered attempting to blow up the houses of parliament. 

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason & plot
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

The traditional burning of a great bonfire at this time, probably goes back much further than that to the Celtic Samhain or summers end, when there were harvesting celebrations, animals were brought in from the summer pastures and food was stored in preparation for the heralding of winter.

Don’t forget Garden Wildlife on Bonfire Night

With all the excitement of bonfire night don’t forget about the wildlife in your garden.  Make sure the bonfire isn’t set up too far in advance, as hedgehogs and other small mammals will be looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time, and may find a pile of leaves and wood enticing.  Why not provide hedgehogs with an alternative home like one of these Hogitats

Place fireworks away from trees and hedges where birds may be roosting…. And when bonfire night is over, remember that now is an excellent time start feeding garden birds.  We love this range of Bird Feeding Goodies so why not take a look.


Birds and bats will also be looking for warm places to roost as the weather gets colder.  The Wooden Bat Box is perfectly designed for this and the Bird Nesting Pouch is always popular in our garden as an overnight roosting place at this time of year.


If you decide to tidy up the garden before your bonfire night party, leaves and other garden waste can be collected up in super quick time with the Green Hands Leaf CollectorsAnd if you don’t know what to do with all those leaves once you have them in a pile why not put them in a Leaf Composting Sack or Leaf Mould Compost Bin.  With the helping hand of some Compost Magic they will break down nicely into a lovely rich leaf compost.


Activities for Bonfire Night

Make A Story Stick
People have been telling stories around the campfire since ancient times, and story sticks have perhaps been around for that long.

To make a story stick, find a sturdy stick and decorate it with coloured thread, ribbons or streamers.   Pass the story stick around the campfire.  Whoever holds the stick has a turn to speak and so adds a few sentences to the campfire story…In this way an interesting and original tale unfolds.

Make a Guy

A very traditional and endlessly appealing activity for children, make a guy by stuffing old clothes with straw and tying the ensemble together with string.  Make a head from an old pillowcase and paint on a makeshift face.

Make a Bonfire Picture

Tear up thin strips of orange, red and yellow tissue paper and stick onto black card to make a bonfire.  Use brown paper or pipe cleaners for the wood, and put star shaped stickers or sequins in the sky.  

Make Edible Sparklers

Dip chocolate fingers into warm water and then into hundreds and thousands to make your very own edible sparklers

Ask an Adult to Roast some Food

An activity for adults only, take a selection of food, wrap in foil and roast on the burning embers of the bonfire.  Ideas of suitable food include:

  • Pre steamed corn on the cob with butter
  • Mushrooms brushed with olive oil
  • Garlic bread
  • Chunks of pepper and aubergine
  • Pre-cooked potatoes in garlic butter

Make some Children’s Punch

Take some warm apple juice and sprinkle in cinnamon for a warming drink

Make some Bonfire Toffee

You will need:

1 lb demerara sugar
1/3 pint water
1 ¼  oz butter
2 level tablespoons of golden syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar


Put all the ingredients in a saucepan
Dissolve over a steady heat
Slowly bring to the boil and cook slowly
Drop ½ teaspoon of the mixture into a cup of cold water
If it sets hard it is done, if not cook for a little longer
Pour into an oiled or buttered tin
Break up when set

Make some Toffee Apples

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 2 large tablespoons of golden syrup
Add 1 large tablespoon of sugar and the juice of half a lemon
Allow the ingredients to boil to a deep toffee brown
Insert lollipop sticks into the apples
Dip each apple into the toffee mix
Dip into cold water
Place onto greaseproof paper to set

Make some Traditional Lancashire Parkin

You will need:

6 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon each of salt, ground ginger and ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
10 oz oatmeal
6 oz black treacle
5 oz butter
4 oz dark brown sugar
¾ pint milk
1 egg

Sift together flour, salt, spices and soda
Add oatmeal and mix
Heat the treacle, butter, sugar and milk together until the butter has melted
Cool slight, add the egg and beat well
Poor mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well until smooth
Turn into a greased baking tin
Bake at 175 C for around an hour

London’s Burning, London’s Burning
Fetch the engine, fetch the engine
Fire, Fire!  Fire, Fire!
Pour on water, pour on water

Remember to always stay safe on Bonfire Night.  Check advice from the fire service here

Happy Bonfire Night

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My girls have a fascination with wiggly worms.  When I’m gardening they regularly get a bucket and collect a few for closer inspection.  For worm lovers and also for those who need a bit of convincing a wormery is a perfect environmental project. 


It will recycle all of your fruit and vegetable kitchen waste into great soil conditioner for the garden, and a handy liquid fertiliser, which my children like to call worm juice.  Rich in nutrients, I have to say that our worm juice gave what can only be described as spectacular results in our school garden this year!


The Waste Buster wormeries designed and hand-made by the Recycleworks Ltd are designed to last.  Made from FSC wood they need only a little maintenance and can be kept indoors or outdoors if protected from extremes in temperature.

The children will eagerly collect up peelings and scraps and take them to the wormery each day….a great hands on lesson in recycling.  And the educational wormery with its great viewing window allows easy viewing of the activity going on inside, which children find completely fascinating.

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Eventually everything nature produces returns naturally to the earth and is recycled.   By following a few simple steps, composting in school is a great way to produce good compost for the garden and will also reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.  It also helps to reduce waste and provides children with a great lesson in recycling.  For an excellent selection of wooden compost bins and accessories take a look at the Recycleworks range here.

The Recycleworks Quadruple Compost Bin

The Recycleworks Quadruple Compost Bin

But composting in school can have its challenges, like too much fruit and excess paper and hand towels.  In our Composting in Schools fact sheet we give you lots of handy guidance – from selecting a good location, to handling different types of waste material.  Why not take a look for more information at www.gardeningwithchildren.co.uk

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We are pleased to announce the proud winner of the Family Zone competition that ended recently.  She is Susie Talbot of Riverside Barn, Lancashire.

Susie opted for a Waste Buster Wormery as her prize.  Recycleworks Ltd do a great selection and she chose one with a window so her children could watch all of the worm activity going on inside.

Her wormery has been installed for a few weeks now and we were keen to find out what she thought of it.  This is what she said:

“With two small children and a busy Bed and Breakfast, we find we generate a fair few food scraps, tea bags, etc and so I was very keen to find a way of reducing the amount we throw away.

The wormery is great and the whole family is so excited about it.  It is very satisfying to separate out our food scraps for the worms, and the wormery is perfect for the children – just the right height for them to go and put the food in themselves.  The window is also brilliant and the worms seem to have really captured the children’s interest.

Susie and her son Tom with their new wormery.

Susie and her son Tom with their new wormery.

I’m so glad I went for a wormery it’s so satsifying to be putting our kitchen scraps to such good use!”

If you missed out on our last round of competitions, the good news is we are now running a new Family Zone Competition and School Zone Competition. Both end on 31st July and we are offering some fabulous gardening and wildlife prizes from the Recycleworks Ltd .  Do take a look and why not have a go – you could be a winner!!

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Here in Ribchester we have quite a community of gardeners with a wide range of expertise, and some of them have very kindly offered to share their experiences with us.  This week we have an interesting insight into making your own compost, written by local gardener and allotment holder Julie Cunliffe.  If you feel inspired why not take a look at our excellent range of compost bins.


“In my experience children are usually fascinated by the mini beasts to be found in the garden, particularly the earth worms.  Throughtout the generations their beneficial effects in the soil have been acknowledged and for a year or two now, we have been learning about the value of composting in converting organic waste from the kitchen and garden into a rich, dark growing media and liquid feed.”

“Worms benefit from a wide and varied diet, which can include cooked food scraps, vegetable peelings, shredded and scrunched paper and cardboard, tea leaves and coffee grounds, vacuum cleaner dust and hair, bread, pasta and rice, wool and cotton and dried and crushed egg shells (these help the worms digestion!).  As our local school pursues its ECO awards they too have been learning all about composting worms.”

“The compost produced is very rich in nutrients and organic matter and can be used as an excellent medium for growing plants.  It is rich in soluble plant foods and its fine and crumbly texture will greatly improve soil structure.  It can be used in all situations where compost is normally used, for example when planting seeds and shrubs; or as a top dressing for fast growing plants.”


“The micro-organisms present in worm compost are also useful in maintaining soil structure.  Used as a mulch around the plants base, it will both feed the plant and retain moisture for the roots.  When planting out seedlings, sprinkle a little along the bottom of the trench to give them the best start in life.”

“House plants in pots eventually use up the supply of fertilisers in their compost.  A top dressing with worm compost is an ideal way to replenishg the nutrients.

And when making compost, not only are you helping yourself, you will of course also be helping the environment by reducing the volume of organic waste being added to the nations landfill sites.  Organic waste in such tips is simply left to rot away, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere as it does so.

Setting up a composting system does involve an initial outlay but ours has proved to be low maintenance and very productive.”

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