Composting on an allotment is a little more tricky than composting at home in that you can be a lot more selective as to what you compost and what the purpose of the compost is.
Three years into allotment gardening I have already realised that having separate composting piles for manure, weeds and plants and woodchippings is a very sensible idea for three reasons:
- Manure containing straw can be rotted down whilst you are growing crops such as pumpkins, courgettes, marrows and squashes on the top. Creating a small raised bed and just filling it with manure then putting these crops on the top will give you a well fed crop this year and some very well broken down compost for next year (mine from last year went on the asparagus bed). Equally, if you have a bed that you are not using this year, piling a lot of manure on the top and then covering it with carpet will give you a very well broken down compost to dig into the ground next year before planting.
- Weeds should always have the roots removed or killed before composting (there is nothing worse than finding that you have weeds growing amongst the compost. A good sprinkling of lime every few feet (or shop bought composting agents which are basically lime with stuff added to make it look more composty) will help break down the compost a lot quicker. However, for the quickest method of breaking down the compost prey for an ant hill. Ants work absolute wonders in compost heaps (far more efficient than worms) and at the end of the season you just have to make sure there are no eggs left.
- Wood chippings and bark should be rolled up in the carpet you lay them on top of and let to rot for a year or two (ideally when they’ve had a year of two of mulching into the ground in the first place. If you put the rough compost that this creates into potato-bags then the potatoes you grow will further break down the compost. Eventually it will be so fine that you can even grow carrots or parsnips in it.
- If you happen to be growing heathers or other ericaceous plants then keep their compost separate, and if you have ground coffee then add the ground beans to this compost heap, it will make excellent compost for blueberries, and excellent fertilizer for mixing with the existing soil you have them planted in.