Mixing and Storing Garden Compost
Mixing and Storing Compost
The loam, with its pH standardized, has been sieved and sterilized. The peat from a compressed bale should be broken up by rubbing through a 9mm (in) sieve. Because it is usually very dry, the peat should be wetted, using a watering can or hosepipe, otherwise it may cause a temporary check to growth.
After the careful selection and preparation of the compost ingredients it would be senseless to spoil the compost by poor mixing. The correct method for hand-mixing is to spread the sterilized loam a few centimetres (inches) deep evenly over the mixing floor (which should be clean) with the moistened peat on top of the loam and the dry sand last. Part of the sand is kept back and the fertilizers and chalk added to this and thoroughly mixed. This premixes the fertilizer and chalk in some of the sand and makes their distribution through the compost easier and more even. The mixed sand and fertilizer is then spread as evenly as possible over the top of the rest of the sand. The pile of ingredients is cut down and turned over three or four times with a spade. When turning theover, it is important to scatter it as widely as possible, not just throw a shovelful from place to place. It cannot be stressed too much that the compost should be mixed as evenly as possible. Alternatively, a mechanical mixer, such as a concrete mixer, may be used.
Enough compost may be mixed for several weeks’ use but it is not desirable to store compost for more than one month. In no case should it be stored for longer than six weeks or harmful ammonia fumes will build up from the breakdown of the hoof and horn meal and cause damage to the plants. Commercially formulated brands of John Innes compost have in some cases substituted the hoof and horn meal for slow release bases, which means that in theory the compost can be stored for some time.
Temperature of storage is still an important factor, however, and every effort should be made to store compost under cool conditions.