Claver Hill Community Farm invites anyone interested in learning more about composting to come and explore different ways of turning plant material and food waste into this “black gold”. Kathy Barton, a member of the community farm up the hill off Ridge Lane in Lancaster, gives us a tour of the composting demonstration site which boasts an impressive range of methods: 

Dalek bin with fresh food scraps

Our first stop is the weed tea barrel, making liquid fertiliser from couch grass and dock. The black dalek bin, which is common in home gardens, collects vegetable kitchen waste. A small home version of a Ridan barrel system demonstrates how frequent spinning speeds up the process of composting. This method prevents rat problems, as the rats cannot climb up or get into the barrel.

Bokashi is another method of composting kitchen waste. It is an anaerobic method of fermenting (cooked) food waste so it can then be buried in the ground or added to the compost bin.

The Johnson-Su bioreactor is an aerobic composting method. The bioreactor is filled with wood chips, leaves and a bit of manure, producing a fungal based compost over the course of a year.

The hot box is carefully tended with well shredded paper and chopped green material. It has a thermometer built into the lid and is insulated to keep the temperature between 40-60°C, which speeds up the process.

Our wormery is not in use at the moment as we have no care-taker for it. Any volunteers? You need to care for them, a bit like for any other pet.

Leaf mould when chopped with the mower makes excellent mulch to be mixed into the compost process. Wood ash, bio char made from dry wood chips and coffee grounds collected from local cafes are sometimes added to the compost mix. 

We visit the compost toilet to see how human waste mixed with plenty of sawdust progresses in stages from the wheelie bins to the bigger bin then on to the orchard.

The multi-bay compost bins are all at various stages of transforming plants to soil. We layer green and brown materials, leave them for six months, turn them, then let it rest another six months, and finally spread a couple of inches on the beds each year.

Plans for the new polytunnel include a trench down the middle filled with composting material which will create heat inside. We are experimenting to make our composting efficient enough to be able to share compost with the local community.

Claver Hill is one of several new composting demonstration sites supported by the Closing Loops project. To find out more, contact Closing Loops composting Coordinator Diana McIntyre at diana_cl@lessuk.org.

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