Diana McIntyre (D), who coordinates a number of community composting demonstration sites for the Closing Loops project, spoke to Finn Payne about his role as accidental compost supervisor at the market garden start-up The Plot

D: What attracted you to taking on the composting at The Plot?

F: I have heard of composting but never actually done any composting myself, so I was just keen to see it from start to finish. I wasn’t put in charge of it on purpose, actually. We did the training session and I just came and put it into practice, then all of a sudden it was “my” compost heap. They sort of said it as a joke, but it did become that. Then the responsibility was on to me to check the compost heap and to make sure it was right.

D: Can you tell me what worked well?

F: A lot of the things you suggested worked really well actually. A few weeks ago when we were going to move the compost to the next bay we didn’t actually have to move it – it was already composted. We seem to have done everything right: We layered the pile with green and brown material, chopped everything up as much as possible, and we made sure it got up to 40 degrees. I kept an eye on moisture as well, and aerated and watered it a couple of times. We clearly did everything right because when we took the top layer off the rest was just soil. Really exciting! 

D: Is there anything that didn’t work?

F: I think a couple of the browns, some of the hard bits of the kale didn’t break down much – the bigger parts did not decompose, so put them back in the compost bin.

D: Has doing the composting changed anything about the way that you approach growing, cooking and harvesting vegetables?

F: No – but only because we are already doing all that. Making as opposed to buying compost – not yet. I have a piece of land but don’t have anything growing on it yet so don’t have anything to compost. So I have to buy compost in at the start, but yeah – it would be great to get to a point where at least some of the compost that you are using is coming from your plot. It would lower costs and close the nutrient loops.

D: If you could travel back in time – is there anything you would tell yourself as you started on this composting journey? 

F: Compost sooner rather than later. The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago – same with compost.

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