Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate

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westyboy

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« on: December 26, 2012, 02:52:48 PM »
I am so glad I found The MGS and this Forum. Because I want to understand how best to garden in the Med. I read everything I can, and have attended numerous courses at Kew and Wisley. But still everything I do in my Med garden seems to be experimental.

My garden is approximately ½ an acre, and my Finca is situated right in the middle.
Initally  I planted a number of trees  to create some shade, Fig, olive, Jacaranda, and  Palms.
Then over the years I have planted : Agapanthus,  Clivia,  Lantana, Agave,  Aloe, Canna,  Lavender, Callistemon viminalis,  Grapevine, Lemon, Yucca.
I have setup a good watering system, and have decided for the next couple of years whilst everything is getting fully established, I will bite the bullet and water as necessary.
My first questions :
Are Compost bins possible in a Med garden, (all mine continually dry out).
If you had one choice, which plant would you recommend adding to my garden.

All help gratefully received

Roy
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:44:31 PM by Alisdair »
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Having spent years gardening in the South of England. I thought I was alone struggling with my Mediterranean garden.
Then one day I stumbled upon The MGS and it looks like all my questions can be answered.

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Alisdair

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2012, 09:36:18 PM »
Roy, It's certainly possible to make compost in a mediterranean climate, and many members find it invaluable both for improving their soil and for mulching. However, except in wet weather, it's essential to keep the compost heap moist by watering - which prevents absentee gardeners like me being able to make compost. A good balance between green leafy stuff and well chopped twiggy stuff is important.
I'm sure many of the expert composters here on the forum have some great tips for you.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:44:17 PM by Alisdair »
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

David Bracey

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2012, 10:03:38 PM »
The standard compost bin which you fill up with green debris and turn at regular intervals does not work.  As Alisdair suggests you need to keep the material wet.  I made my compost next to a slooping roof where water ran-off directly onto the compost.  You can add any nitrate fertilizer which will act as a booster.  I used to throw everything onto the pile, old vegetables, clippings, grass mowings if you have a no, no lawn, twiggy bits which need to be cut down tosay 15cm, all weeds etc.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:44:50 PM by Alisdair »
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

Umbrian

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 08:22:39 AM »
You really make it difficult with "one choice" Westboy but something I would not like to be without is Russelia equisetiformis. This plant is a new "passion" of mine after seeing it in Siciliy several years ago. I have to protect it in the winter but I am sure for you it would probably be OK. There are postings on the Forum about it. Unusual but simply spectacular to my mind when positioned well.
Regarding composting, I agree it is not easy in Mediterranean climates especially when one is not present throughout the year. Although I am a permanent resident I do cover mine at the start of the really hot, dry weather, making sure it is wet before I do. I use old sun lounger covers (cheap disposable ones that I replace every year) These have a foam inner that gives good insulation to the pile. Over these I place a light weight tarpauline. When the autumn rains come I remove the tarpuline but leave the other cover as it allows rain through but helps to keep the pile warm and decomposing as the temperature drops. In the spring I usually have a decent amount of good compost although never enough! Of course a second pile is being made after the summer covering that receives household waste, garden trimmings and, during the winter, ashes from out wood burning stoves. I try to keep it "layered" as much as possible and turn it now and again but often good intentions are not always kept too! However it is well worth having a go as a little is better than nothing :)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:50:09 PM by Alisdair »
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

Daisy

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 09:01:18 AM »
Roy, I started a compost bin when I first arrived here in Crete. Although I was able to keep it damp, I could not turn it.
This is due to an incident that happened many years ago when I gardened in Surrey.
I was happily tossing and turning my compost one day with a fork.
Then HORRORS!!!! I lifted my fork out to find that I had completely impaled a frog!!!
Since that day, I just cannot do it. Every time I try, I get a vision of that poor frog.
I gave up the compost bin, partly because it was so slow and partly because I wanted the space for planting. My garden is tiny.
Since then, I throw my green waste onto some neighbouring derelict land belonging to the local council. Here I find, although it is slow, it does compost well.
Daisy :)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:48:43 PM by Alisdair »
Amateur gardener, who has gardened in Surrey and Cornwall, England, but now has a tiny garden facing north west, near the coast in north east Crete. It is 300 meters above sea level. On a steep learning curve!!! Member of both MGS and RHS

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westyboy

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 02:11:53 PM »
I knew I had to persevere with a compost bin, but needed inspiration. Thanks for all your thoughts.

Umbrian your situation seems to be similar to mine. (We have just had a wood burner installed.) I will try to follow your advice, and hopefully have better success next year.
I will also locate it under a sloping roof, to take advantage of what little water we get. thanks David

Sorry Daisy, I do have Roses. But I don't have any in flower at the moment. I originally brought some English Roses with me. (cuttings from my garden in Hampshire.) they only flowered once throughout the year, and were not really worth the effort. I have now planted some Spanish Varieties (not sure of the names) and get a much better display.

The wierdest thing of all, I asked my wife last week did she have any thoughts of new plants for the garden. She mentioned that friends of ours, (who have gone back to England for Christmas) had a plant in their garden that she loved. So as a devoted husband, I
climbed over their wall to take a look. I did not recognize it straight away, but after a bit of research, that plant was .................
..............................Russelia equisetiformis. So that plant is a must for my garden. (That is Spooky Umbrian)

Happy New year to all

Roy
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:58:14 PM by Alisdair »
MGS member
Having spent years gardening in the South of England. I thought I was alone struggling with my Mediterranean garden.
Then one day I stumbled upon The MGS and it looks like all my questions can be answered.

Umbrian

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 07:49:10 AM »
No not spooky Roy....perhaps just great minds think alike ;D obviously your wife and I are on the same wavelength :)
I am sure you will end up with a beautiful garden with your enthusiasm and your wife's good taste!
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:58:29 PM by Alisdair »
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2012, 10:06:24 PM »
Roy - composting - I have not tried it, but I know it is a technique...
Composting in closed bin bags
Well, bin bags are not robust enough, but large compost bags would be.
I have no idea on recommended 'recipes' (relative amounts of green material/brown material (or paper)/moisture/accelerator/worms/etc.), but the idea is to avoid loss of water by keeping it in! In the Mediterranean heat, it would cook quite quickly - and I'm sure the 'recipe' makes all the difference there - you don't want to create an awful pile of smelly slime. The bag may need opening from time to time, to let air in and other gases out, I guess.
Just a thought.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:58:43 PM by Alisdair »
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

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westyboy

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2013, 07:41:42 AM »
Thanks Mike

Each year when I cut my Fig tree back. I place all the leaves in a black sack, and that has given me a very limited amount of compost. What you are suggesting is an extention of that, and might be worth a try in the future....Thanks

I spent a long time in the UK last year. As a result I have been very busy in the garden this week. I now have enough waste matter for two compost bins. I have decided, (based on the positive feedback from this forum) to persevere.
I have ordered a new shredder, and will do everything as normal. Plus water the compost daily. And once the summer heat starts I will cover the bin completely, and monitor it regularly.

No one else locally seems to compost, so I thought I was fighting a losing battle.
But I feel very positive about this method.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:58:57 PM by Alisdair »
MGS member
Having spent years gardening in the South of England. I thought I was alone struggling with my Mediterranean garden.
Then one day I stumbled upon The MGS and it looks like all my questions can be answered.

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John J

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2013, 08:26:10 AM »
Probably one of the most efficient methods of composting in our climate is with a rotating compost bin. The main problem lies in obtaining one. A few years ago a Turkish-Cypriot environmental NGO called SAVE (Supporting Activities that Value the Environment) funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) carried out a project in northern Cyprus involving rotating compost bins. They had them constructed from old, wooden cable drums and gave them to 20 families with instruction on how to use them. At the end of the trial period 19 of them had produced viable compost, the one failure being due, apparently, to not conforming with instructions. I have never got around to following this up but anyone who has access to an old cable drum and a competent carpenter might like to give it a try!
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:59:10 PM by Alisdair »
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

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MikeHardman

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2013, 08:56:10 AM »
John - Good point.

As alternatives to purpose-made compost drums:
- 50 gallon metal drums (used for various chemicals)
- large plastic dustbin (a robust one as purchasable from a local farming coop)

With both of those:
- You'd need a lid; easier to come-by on the dustbin.
- I'm in two minds about drilling holes in the sides, for letting air in - because they'll also let the moisture out.
- The idea would be to roll it along the ground to turn it, rather than rotating it on an axis. (If you want to be fancy, you could build a frame comprising a couple of parallel axles (with rollers or discrete small wheels), and rest the drum on that.)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:59:24 PM by Alisdair »
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

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John J

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2013, 09:38:39 AM »
I've dug out this old photo and scanned it. The quality is very poor but it might give some idea of how the drums were converted.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:59:36 PM by Alisdair »
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

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JTh

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2013, 11:17:03 AM »
Completely airtight bags does not sound right to me; composting is an aerobic process which needs a certain amount of oxygen for the microbial oxidation of carbon. Without air you create anaerobic digestion, which is fine for producing renewable energy of household  waste and sewage, but I don’t think the product is as useful in the garden as proper compost.

I have a compost pile in Greece, it does not produce good compost as quickly as in my garden in Norway, since I can't water it, but it does work, slowly.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 12:59:47 PM by Alisdair »
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2013, 04:17:46 PM »
Jorun - yes - the air's the issue.
Apart from some regime of periodically opening the bag and turning the  contents, what's needed is a particular plastic that is at the same time permeable to air but impermeable to water (which ought to be possible).

Daisy - you tease! Wonderful photos and gardening.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 01:00:01 PM by Alisdair »
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

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JTh

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Re: Composting in a mediterranean climate
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2013, 05:00:41 PM »
The description of the material for the bags you wish sounds like the fabric used in the hideously expensive waterproof/breathable sportswear cloathing. Possible? Yes, but can't  be cheap, and how do you let the water go into the compost when it is raining without letting it leave again?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 01:00:16 PM by Alisdair »
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.