All About Compost: Recycling houshold and garden waste
by Pauline Pears
pub. Search Press Ltd. in association with HDRA, 1999
Paperback, 48 pages, £6.95
ISBN 085532 868-1
To be honest, when starting to read the first few pages of 'All About Compost' the layout and style reminded one of school books you might well give to youngsters in their early teens - featuring lots of pictures accompanied by blocks of text stating the obvious. There are large pictures, for example, of compostable organic and non-compostable inorganic refuse, labelled with tags like 'fruit skins', 'grass mowings', 'plastic bags' and 'metal cans'.
Worries that this was a book for kids receded, though, upon turning the page. Beginning with a four page section on 'Compost bin design'' the informational content beyond the rather low-brow opening is generally useful and instructional. It's the sort of information you might condense out of months of articles in gardening magazines, and something which a gardening novice might appreciate getting to grips in one go.
Photographs and diagrams form a large portion of the content and, true to that adage about a 'thousand words', the photographs make assimilation of information rapid. What better way to describe the features of compost bins made out of recycled palettes, breeze blocks, tyres and even carpet, than by showing them? Pictures of plant species and 'garden activities' are good and clear too; printed on quality paper.
As you would expect there are details on the physical processes of composting - adding materials bit-by-bit, when is compost 'ready', attracting pests, and so on. The letter 'A' by the photographs of some materials indicates that they are 'activators' of the process.
Two pages devoted to composting in hot and cold climates feature photographs of an African maize grower standing in front of two patches of maize - one grown with the aid of chemical fertiliser and the other with compost. Interestingly, the compost grown maize is taller by some 2 to 3 feet, and has much thicker foliage. As if you needed a better excuse for turning those old potato peelings and grass cuttings into compost!
Further onwards there are notes on making and using leaf mould, recycling grass mowings, and how to deal with hedge clippings and prunings in the composting process. There are also two items on growing Comfrey (which, as experienced gardeners know, is a good summer plant feed), and on raising 'green manure'. Green manures are plants like clover, buckwheat, mustard and trefoil which provide good ground cover for bare patches of soil, and 'retain' nutrients which can be dug back into the soil prior to growing the main crop.
'All About Compost' is not really a publication that is going to benefit experienced gardeners. However, for newcomers to the cabbage patch its price tage of £6.95 and simple pictorial explanation of the composting process, and benefits of compost in the garden, could be a worthwhile price paid.
Search Press have a number of other related publications which may be of interest to you:
Gardening Without Water - Charlotte Green
Living Willow - Jon Warnes
Beds: Labour-saving, Space-saving, More Productive Gardening - Pauline Pears
Soil Care & Management - Jo Readman
Healthy Fruit & Vegetables - Pauline Pears & Bob Shearman
Weeds: How to Control and Love Them - Jo Readman
How to Grow Culinary Herbs & Spices the Natural Way - Charlotte de la Bedoyere
Watercolour Landscapes - Paul Riley
Country Collage - Jenny Kell
Decorative Straw Craft - Barbara Fitch
The Craft of Natural Dyeing - Jenny Dean