An Allotment in Hungerford............

As I write this we're preparing for the Allotments Open Afternoon. Hopefully it will be well attended, the sun will shine and even more people can understand the appeal of the Marsh Lane allotment site!

Harvesting continues at each visit to the plot - potatoes, beetroot, asparagus peas and courgettes at the moment. It's been a good year for growing, with plenty of sunshine and water; mostly courtesy of the borehole which HAHA received a grant for in 2010, but recently from the clouds too.

We are pleased that the site now has a more regular supply of manure. Plotholders love to add manure to their plots for several reasons: to use as mulch, assisting water retention, to add structure to the soil, to replenish lost nutrients like potassium and nitrogen and for encouraging worms and other good guys to work through the soil aerating it as they go.

We also make our own compost. Perhaps it sounds a bit weird, but creating fresh compost from waste matter is extremely satisfying! We have the dalek-style bins. They aren’t necessarily the best type because they’re awkward to work with a fork and the little door at the bottom is pointless, but they heat up nicely to encourage the micro-organisms to do their bit in the process.

The main thing to remember with home composting is that you need a mix of 'green' (nitrogen) and 'brown' (carbon) materials. I’ve read that compost should be made up of 25 parts brown to 1 part green and other sources say 50/50. Neither of these are the case in our compost but we seem to be doing something right as the worms love it and that surely is a good sign. We have much more green matter such as: kitchen and vegetable waste (not potato haulms), coffee grounds, teabags, deadheaded flowers, cuttings/thinnings (nothing diseased), weeds (not perennials), grass cuttings (not too many). Brown waste, for us, is mostly cardboard boxes (ripped into small pieces), screwed up newspaper, occasional eggshells, twiggy cuttings and weeds which we've allowed to dry out completely (even couch grass).

The compost must be mixed up regularly. This encourages decomposition through the layers and stops it becoming a home for mice or other undesirables – although they may still move in to enjoy the warmth over winter. It's fascinating to open the lid on the world within. Our bins have so many woodlice, beetles and millipedes which scramble away when the light gets in. Worms and slugs (the good kind) join in with the decomposition process and a few months later, voila! lovely compost to put back into the ground under our strawberries. Recycling at its best! Contact HAHA on 0754 118 7274