Slowly I’m catching up with all the fun things we’ve been up to this year. Back in August the old plastic compost bin we inherited with the house finally started to collapse, leaving us with a leaning-tower-of-compost. Compost is such crucial food for our depleted soil we decided that a serious solution was in order. I’d heard about people building compost bins out of pallets, so we gave it a go, with the help of this “How to build a compost bin from pallets” tutorial from Gardeners World, and the left-over Aquaponic gravel pallets.

I’ve hacked space for them out of the 2m-thick evergreen hedge at the bottom of the garden, behind the polytunnel. and made two at once. It was a pretty easy one-person job:

They’ve been great – we have one-and-a-half full, so nw we’re just waiting to see how the first lot turns out. I already have plans to add a third!

wastebuster-maxiPutting out the rubbish is always one of those contentious jobs in our house. It’s never really been clear whose job it is (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) so the bin gets more and more packed full of decomposing leftovers until emptying is incredibly unpleasant and smelly.

But no more! In our new house we’re going to compost everything that we can, with the ultimate aim of never needing a plastic rubbish bag again. Anything squishy should be being composted. End of story. Once our Aquaponics system is up and running I want to have a Black Soldier Fly composting system which will take everything – including meat, fish, eggs, dairy – and which will also provide larvae to feed to our fish. I’m never one to depend on just one solution or species though, so we’re also going to try out a wormery first. This should get us started, but can’t take all the trickier waste.

Inspired by Compost Awareness Week, I found a whole heap of great links on, so here’s what I now know about wormeries:

  • They use different worms to those you’ll usually find in the ground
  • You can feed the worms to fish 🙂
  • Don’t trust the legs on them – a full wormery can be pretty heavy
  • You’re better off with one that is wider rather than deeper – gets more air to the compost
  • Worms eat loads (up to their body weight each day) 
  • They breed fast, but won’t over populate
  • They don’t need daily attention – they’ll survive a good holiday as long as you feed them properly

You can make your own wormery, and buy the worms separately, but when getting started the best thing to do seems to be to buy a complete kit. There are lots of these available, and a quick look seems to suggest that the Wormcity EcoWormery is the best buy – for  £40. I’ll add it to my shopping list!

Wormery Suppliers

go_logo50Now this seems like another joke post . . . but it isn’t there really is a Compost Awareness Week. It’s being run by the fantastic bunch over at Garden Organic, who really seem to be at the forefront of all the issues surrounding getting people in Britain growing sustainably. as one of their initiatives they’ve setup a website dedicated to encouraging home composting ( and are busy assembling a national network of Master Composters to help out those of us who never have much luck! This year I think we’ll try out a wormery, and when I get my Aquaponics system up and running I want to try a Black Soldier Fly composting system, which will compost pretty much anything (including meat scraps) and will then produce larvae that can be fed to the fish in the Aquaponics system.

Anyway, don’t miss it 🙂 – Compost Awareness Week is Sunday 3 – Saturday 9 May 2009.  Keep an eye on for details of local events.

fungiblock1I’ve been doing a bit of research and have been coming to the conclusion that growing mushrooms is pretty hard work and that it seems that the Mushroom kits are generally not worth trying. Most people seem to have had no luck at all with the standard button-mushroom kits bought from supermarkets, and the only really positive story was about a Shiitake mushroom kit from Ardna Mushrooms, who really seem to know their stuff. The simplest way to get one of their kits is from West Highland Crafts, and there is a great motivational video from Gardeners’ World showing how to grow Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms with kits and dowels – makes it look very easy. Even so I’m thinking mushrooms might be a second-year project rather than an initial, easy dalliance.

The only consistent way people seem to get crops of button mushrooms seems to be from spent mushroom compost – so I’m wondering whether it’s possible to get spent mushroom compost (containing the mushroom mycellium), and “top-it-up” with new, home-made, mushroom compost to reinvigorate it. Seems to be the cheap-and cheerful way to mess about before getting serious and buying “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms” by Paul Stamets, over at Fungi Perfecti.

There was a great description on how to make your own Mushroom Compost over at, even simpler than my previous post on Mushroom Compost:

The perfect ‘substrate’ on which to grow mushrooms is well rotted horse manure. Either purchase ready, pre-packaged manure or if you can obtain fresh manure simply add 20% wet straw and leave outside in a heap, the centre of the heap should become hot within hours. Turn it over weeky and keep moist but not wet. When the heap has rotted sufficiently it will no longer be hot in the middle. When it has been composted and become dark brown with little or no smell it is ready to use. You will need approx 5kg of well rotted manure for one packet of mushroom spawn. Mix the spawn into the well rotted manure and place in a sturdy plastic bag or crate, firming it down well. Then mix equal quantities of sieved garden soil (from just below the surface) with ordinary multipurpose compost and use it to cover the manure and spawn mix witha a 2.5cm layer known as ‘casing’.

Keep the bag or crate in an airy garage, shed, greenhouse, cold frame or cellar at a temperature of approx 15 – 20C. Ensure the earth layer or ‘casing’ remains moist but not wet. The first mushrooms should begin to appear in 20 -30 days, often in flushes 8 to 10 days apart, until the substrate is exhausted. To harvest your mushrooms grasp the base of the stem and rock them free from the compost, avoid pulling as this damages the mycelium for further crops. Button mushrooms are at their best when the caps just begin to open.


Mushrooms are one of my little peccadilloes – so it was great to come across a good article over at Food from the Garden on creating mushroom compost and using it to grow your own mushrooms – a much more resilient solution than depending on bought Mushroom-growing kits. So that I have a copy in case the original page goes missing I have also reproduced parts of it below the fold, but go here to read the article while it is still there.


Steadily firming up the shopping list for our new house – here’s the latest list, with links. 


Dining Room

  • Expandable table


  • Instant-heat to stand in front of (Gas?)


  • Wood-fired stove
  • Central Pendant light in diffusing shade – 12v CFL?
  • Two Standard/Reading Lamps – 12v CFL?


  • Kitchen Scraps Compost: Black Soldier Fly Composter / Worm Farm 
  • Firewood store, and at least 12m³ of wood
  • Greenhouse with Aquaponics system

Heating & Hot Water

Power & Light


envirolet-compost-toiletI still haven’t managed to find a manufacturer of micro-flush composting toilets in the UK, but at least I have now found a supplier: The Envirolet Low Water Remote System (pictured) is shipped from a UK warehouse. It’s paired with the Sealand 510 Pedestal which seems to be standard for micro-flush systems, and the price includes the pedestal, which makes the package price a little more reasonable. The design looks like it has a lot less moving parts that the SunMar, which might make it a more resilient choice. They even have a video taking you through all their systems – here.

 Just in case you hadn’t heard enough about compost toilets already, here are some more links: