Some weeks back, I talked about setting up an apartment friendly compost bin. The basic premise is simple. You need a plastic container with some holes punched in for drainage, kitchen scraps, shredded paper and some urine.
I know that we drew something of a discreet veil over the urine part, but it is quite important to the overall plan.
Many books will tell you that you cannot call yourself a gardener unless you make your own compost. I’d like to add that you couldn’t call yourself a gardener until you become so obsessed with making compost that you bore the living arse off anyone within a five-mile radius.
God bless Twitter and Facebook: I am that compost bore.
It is not enough to mix equal parts nitrogen and carbon and add an accelerator. It isn’t even enough to chop up the vegetable scraps so that they decompose quickly or shred the paper into fine strips.
You would also be mistaken if you thought that religiously turning the mix were sufficient.
No – you do not truly become a compost bore until:
• You carefully layer the equal parts of nitrogen and carbon with the precision of a nuclear scientist
• You get everyone you know to wee into a bottle
• You start talking about crumb, texture and smell
• You go on forums and social networking sites to discuss clouds of black flies
I have one medium sized mayonnaise tub full of the most beautiful compost ever created by humanity since the dawn of time. It smells like the deep heart of a forest after a spring rain and has the texture of a fine soil tilled by angels.
I also have a medium sized mayonnaise tub that releases an apocalyptic cloud of said black flies every time I open it. They are the size of the grains of sand in Satan’s very own desert and there are two billion of them. My cat loves them.
I do not.
Some people say that they are fruit flies and others claim that they are gnats. I affectionately refer to them as “those fucking fly things that get up my bloody nose”. I panicked when I first saw them. Months of careful composting began to unravel before my eyes and I believed that I had failed terribly.
It turns out that my geeky layering did not have quite as much precision as I had first thought and I spent the next half hour shredding every piece of paper I could lay my hands on. Flies like nitrogen. Flies especially like wet nitrogen, so all those yummy layers of banana peels and carrot tops are like manna from heaven for their tiny little black hearts.
Compost is all about balance and careful timing. As an obsessive composter, you are constantly adjusting the mix until those angels step in and turn your soil into ambrosia. Too much nitrogen and the compost turns wet and smells like demon farts – and clouds of evil black flies appear. It’s time to add a little more carbon in the form of shredded paper. Too much carbon and your compost just sits their like a petulant teenager covered in weird looking mould. It’s time to pile on the carrot tops and the cabbage leaves.
Urine is the difference between bequeathing your compost to your grandchildren and using it next Wednesday.
So there you have it – get a bucket, start peeing in a bottle and join Twitter.