Adventures in Small Scale Farming in an English Cottage Garden with Seasonal Tips and Recipes
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
My New Swedish Garden Assistant
Allow me to introduce Johanna, my new Hot Composter from Sweden.
Not tall blonde and willowy, but rather short dumpy and green, the Green Johanna is my new compost bin. She represents the latest enclosed, and therefore rat proof, composting system. Rat proof is quite important to me as I live near the Cotswold water park it doesn't take much to encourage Mr and Mrs Ratty and their many offspring to make a holiday home in the compost heap. I do quite a bit of composting, indeed I am a trained, card carrying Compost Ambassador for the local council, and find the subject fascinating, (I know, I never thought I'd hear myself say that either).
As a friend of mine said the other day, rats are the elephant in the room in composting circles. Everyone is being encourged these days to compost their household waste, but no one likes to mention the R word in polite society in case it might put newcomers off. Which of course it would. Who wants to let their children play in the garden which is also home to a nest of rats? Obviously, no one. I've heard no end of ways you are supposed to "discourage" rats from your compost - kicking the bin everytime you walk past is the favourite - I heard it on Gardeners Question Time again recently. Take it from me it's a waste of time. Not putting cooked food waste in the compost is another, - but I've even had rats in compost made entirely from garden waste, it's such a warm cosy place to make a nest.
And lest people think I'm being excessive about it, remember that rats carry disease. People still die, albeit not in large numbers any more, from Weil's Disease, which is a kind of leptospirosis caught from contact with animal, notably rats', urine. And so I have tended to be wary of encouraging people to have garden compost containers other than enclosed wormeries, until now.
The Green Johanna could be the answer. I've had her for a few weeks now and she's doing a good job. She arrives in bits, and is quite simple to put together. The main difference is that the bottom is not open to the ground as most compost containers are, but has small holes in it, to allow for the entry of worms, which are so necessary to the composting process, but are too small for rats to gain entry. The lid screws on quite firmly and the access doors at the bottom fit quite snugly and can even be screwed down for extra rat proofing. And because it's enclosed you can put all your household waste , including meat, fish and bones into it quite safely. You can even buy a winter jacket for Johanna so that she works faster in the cold weather.
Well that's the good news, the bad news is that price -see the north american site and even the European one . But since good old Wiltshire council are offering them at a subsidised price of £24, I thought it worth a try, and so far I'm quite glad I did. If you live in the UK you may find your local council running a similar scheme.
It occured to me though, as I was assembling Johanna, that I could probably achieve a similar kind of enclosed decomposition in one of these second hand plastic drums that I bought last year to use as water butts. If I just drilled some holes in the bottom? Might give that a try too.