Tips to deal with fruit fly nuisance

Fruit Flies are one of the most common nuisances in the UK, affecting more than 60% of households.  

So if you encounter this annoying problem, you are certainly not alone.

 Although fruit flies are part of the composting process in the sense that they help to break down organic material, you want to minimise numbers as they proliferate quickly.

 Fruit flies are not your common or garden (or house) fly; they do not usually enter the home through the door or window, they come in with the fruit that you buy or get from the garden.

Adult fruit flies lay eggs on the fruit’s skin and these hatch later when the temperature is right. Fruit flies have a strong sense of smell and are attracted by the smell of overripe or rotting organic matter.

The eggs are microscopic, so they’re invisible, until suddenly – they’re not. Obviously, if the eggs are already in fruit skins when added to a composter there’s a chance they might hatch inside it.

There are several steps you can take to minimise the risk.

In the home

  • Because fruit flies lay eggs on exposed food, take care to keep food stored in a fridge or lidded containers, not out in the open in fruit bowls.
  • Use up ripe fruit and vegetables as soon as possible.
  • Compost organic matter quickly as fruit flies are attracted by the smell of decomposing food.
  • Keep stored waste in a lidded kitchen caddy. Always keep the lid on your caddy, even between new additions of waste as you are preparing food.

In the compost bin

  • In a well-maintained hot composter flies shouldn’t be a problem as high temperatures  destroy the eggs.
  •  If there is a problem, add more carbon-rich materials (woody garden waste/shredded paper/cardboard/wood chips), and mix in well so that any food waste is covered.
  • Top the contents with a layer of fresh soil.
  • Ensure the compost is kept moist but not wet as flies proliferate in wet conditions.
  • Wrap food waste in newspaper so it is covered. Lining your kitchen caddy with newspaper is a convenient way to wrap your waste up as you take it to the composter.  
  • Bury food waste deeper in the compost so it is not exposed.
  •  Ensure the bin has good aeration – stir really well to get air into the mix.
  • Try putting the composter in sunlight – flies like a warm but not hot environment.
  • Make sure that you always lock the lid securely.
  • Take care not to spill any food around the composter.
  • Monitor acidity – if you have added a lot of fermented content from a bokashi bin to your composter, add a handful of lime or crushed baked eggshells to neutralise excessive acidic conditions as flies prefer a low (acidic) pH.
  • Flies don’t like the smell of certain plants – peppermint in particular – so you could add sprigs of peppermint to your waste and wipe round the compost bin with lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.

In the Green Cone

 In the case of the Green Cone Food Waste Digester, no garden waste can be added as the Cone only accepts food waste, so covering with garden and paper waste is not an option.

Because the Cone’s basket is underground, smells are filtered out by the surrounding soil, meaning there is no obvious attraction for ordinary flies. But if fruit fly eggs are already in fruit skins when added to the Cone, they might hatch inside it. Avoid this by following the advice above on preventing infestations in the home.

Also:

  •  Freeze your fruit and veg scraps in a plastic bag or container overnight to kill any eggs or larvae before adding them to the Cone.
  • Flies don’t like the smell of certain plants – peppermint in particular – so you could add sprigs of peppermint to your waste and wipe round the compost bin with lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.
  • Add accelerator powder to add more beneficial bacteria to speed up decomposition.
  • Remember food waste should never come higher than the top of the Cone’s underground basket; waste should never be above ground level.
  • Some people pour hot water into the contents but this will also kill off beneficial bugs so use only as a last resort for severe infestations

 Get trap happy

You could also try a home-made trap that will act as a magnet.

Add an inch of apple cider vinegar to a glass jar with two drops of washing up liquid.

Put a plastic wrap cover over the top of the jar and poke small holes through with a toothpick. Flies are attracted by the smell and can get in but can’t get out.

Remember to change the liquid regularly to keep the fly trap working.

Keep food covered to discourage fruit flies.

Top tips to boost hot composting temperatures

Using the Green Johanna in its classic specification is a great way to turn your food and garden waste into soil-enriching, high quality compost. 

  Independent studies (Which?/Gardeners’ World magazine) praise the Johanna for its ability to take a wider range of inputs than most regular composters and for the temperatures it is able to reach.    This is largely due to its ventilation system, with a patented base that allows air inflow past the mass of compost already in the composter and a twist lid that allows the upper vents to be opened or closed depending on conditions.    Heat is retained in the composter due to its enclosed design (most garden composters feature an open or loose-fitting base) and wall thickness (at 10kg, the Johanna weighs in at 2-3 times the weight of many other composters).

According to the Which? trial, the Green Johanna outperformed all but one composter on the market in terms of compost temperature, with temperatures into the 40 degree Celsius range.   This form of composting is largely traditional, relying on worms and insects to finish the job that the heat-generating microbal activity has got underway.

Using this method, the use of an Insulating Jacket has usually been advised when temperatures drop below 5 degrees Celsius in the winter months.   This is because microbal activity ceases at these temperatures, meaning compost temperatures decrease and the compost pile may stall until it is heated up again.

Trials

Throughout last year, however, the team at GGS wondered what would happen if we took a different approach and left the Insulating Jacket on all year.  We had received positive feedback from a number of customers who had done just that, and so we undertook a number of individual trials.   The results were dramatic.    Our main finding was that leaving the jacket on raised compost temperatures into the 30 to 60 degree Celsius range on a permanent basis, even in the coldest winter periods.   The insulated Johanna has proven to be the perfect vessel for domestic thermophilic composting, which is microbal in nature, accepts a wider range of waste and turns it into high-quality compost in weeks rather than months.

In a matter of weeks Great Green Systems will launch a complete Hot Composting Bundle that will make this form of composting easy for everyone. 

  In the meantime, here are our quick tips for getting started:

  1. Insulating Jacket.   Add it to the Green Johanna and leave it on.   If you are retro-fitting to an existing Johanna you should see a significant increase in compost temperature within days.
  2. Carbon.  By which we mean autumn leaves, shredded paper, card and mulch.   The latter can be bought from your local DIY store until Great Green Systems launches its own range in early Spring 2023.   Add these carbon-rich materials generously, no less than in equal amounts to the amount of nitrogen-rich materials (green garden waste, food waste) you have added.  Mix well after adding new inputs.
  3. Aeration.   This form of composting requires more effort than classic composting.   Use your Green Johanna aerator stick regularly as normal, but also aerate deeper into the pile on a weekly basis with a garden fork.
  4. Bokashi.   Adding half a bag or a full 1kg bag of Bokashi bran monthly raises composting temperatures in the short term and accelerates the composting process.   For those who want to try using a Bokashi bin; adding food waste to the Johanna that has been allowed to ferment for three weeks in a Bokashi bin will dramatically increase compost temperature and accelerate the process.   Be sure to add plenty of carbon and a bag of Bokashi Bran at the same time as the pre-compost mixture that has fermented in the Bokashi bin.
  5. Chop your waste into small pieces to increase surface area and optimise the process.   This will also make turning the compost much easier.   Use a chipper-shredder for your garden waste if you have one; these can also be hired on a daily basis.
  6. Take the compost temperature.   Compost thermometers are widely available and will form part of the GGS range from Spring 2023.   Place the thermometer inside the composter and check temperatures regularly.   The microbal processes die off when compost temperatures reach 72 degrees Celsius – this is the opposite problem to the traditional low temperature issue in winter, with the same outcome of a stalled compost heap.    If temperatures near this threshold – and we have seen this several times during the trials – remove the jacket to allow the contents to cool down before adding the jacket again.

This approach is for the more committed or interested composter, but for those looking to compost all of their organic waste quickly and efficiently it is a project well worth embarking on.

You can get your rapid hot composting project started by purchasing any items you need using the following links (Insulating Jackets, and bundles that include an Insulating Jacket, are on special offer with 25 % off until 13th February 2023):

Green Johanna Complete Bundle (Johanna, Insulating Jacket and Bokashi) – 25% off until 13th February 2023: Green Johanna Complete Bundle – Great Green Systems

Green Johanna Original specification: Green Johanna 330 litre Hot Composter – Great Green Systems

Green Johanna Insulating Jacket – 25% off until 13th February 2023: Green Johanna Insulating Jacket – Great Green Systems

Green Johanna Accessory Kit (Insulating Jacket, Bokashi, Food Waste Caddy and compostable liners) – 25% off until 13th February 2023: Green Johanna Accessory Set – Great Green Systems

Bokashi Bin and accessories: 14 Litre Bokashi Bin & Kitchen Recycling Caddies (greatgreensystems.com)

Bokashi Bran: Bokashi Bran 1kg – Great Green Systems

New Year’s resolutions for less waste in 2023

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions you could do a lot worse than thinking about what you’ll do better waste-wise next Christmas. 

When I say ‘you’, of course, I mean me, but feel free to join me if the cap fits.

I’m resolving that last year’s festive fails will be this year’s gains if I’m to reduce my family’s contribution to the huge waste mountain created annually at this time of year.

This will be achieved through my being more organised. Those of a certain age might remember the advert that coined the phrase Vorsprung Durch Technik (Progress Through Technology). I like to think of my New Year’s resolutions as Vorsprung Durch List-making. I’m calling it my Christmas Listmas.

 You may make resolutions now but, believe me, you will forget them if you don’t write them down. Christmas turns us all into goldfish brains. A kind of Christmas insanity descends like a thick fog and chokes us all in its suffocating vapours until we can no longer think straight.

  • Write a Memo to Self – I’m writing down all the areas for improvement while they’re fresh in my mind. I’ll be leaving this list on top of the Christmas decorations for the new me to find in December. It was only when I started feeling sick after over-eating a melted camembert with sticky fig sauce that I remembered I had resolved last year never to eat it again. But you see I didn’t write it down and I’ve slept since then. Likewise, if you’re the sort of person who bought next year’s presents in the Boxing Day sales (hello, mum-in-law!), add a note of the presents and their hiding places to the list. You won’t remember where you put Auntie Ethel’s present and you won’t remember who you bought the novelty gorilla slippers for, apart from the fact it wasn’t Auntie Ethel.
  • Make a request – None of us want to become the kind of person that people cross the street to avoid for fear of getting an eco-lecture, but surely we can ask those closest to us to buy eco-friendly Christmas cards for us and to wrap our present in recyclable paper, even if it’s as simple as avoiding glitter, foil, ribbon etc?
  • Do some research in advance – Check out toy rental companies, such as Whirli, and companies that rent Christmas trees. If you leave it too late you’ll probably forget your good intentions.
  • Avoid Oops, I Did it Again syndrome – Don’t overcook. I read a great article that said no one needs more than two side dishes, three if you must. This was news to me, raised on my mother’s traditional dozen side dishes. But it’s true; there’s only so much anyone can eat. So next year I’ll be going for three. I may let the family vote for what they consider sacrosanct. Are Yorkshire puddings with Christmas dinner a Yorkshire/Northern thing? I only ask because I noted that Mary Berry didn’t include any in her Ultimate Christmas programme and she is the authority as far as I’m concerned. Making Christmas dinner, my husband got so sick of me saying ‘Mary Berry says…’ that he threatened to rip off his Santa pinny and resign as my sous-chef. 
  • Research other recipes – I think my sons would agree there was a little too much post-Christmas bubble and squeak, so I’ll be coming up with different ways with leftovers. I found a great sprout recipe – Cheesy Sprout Bake – on Beckett’s Farm Shop Insta  Award Winning Farm Shop & Rest (@beckettsfarm) • Instagram photos and videos involving bacon, spices and cheese sauce. I’ll also be trying this Abel and Cole recipe for Boxing Day burritos that I found, alas, too late – Boxing Day Burritos Recipe | Abel & Cole (abelandcole.co.uk) –  as well as one for ragged sprout leaves – shred and toss leaves in batter with spices before frying in oil to make crunchy bhajis.
  • Give away some decorations – You know you have too many and some people have none. Last summer my cousin suffered what we in our family call the Great Christmas Decorations Tragedy, involving her husband clearing ‘rubbish’ out of the garage while she was at work…I don’t think I need to go into the grisly details, but in giving her a box of our decorations it cleared space for us and gave her some festive cheer.
  • Make the break – If you’d like to suggest that perhaps you could stop buying a present for your 35-year-old nephew who’s an investment banker, now is the time. Don’t wait until the run-up to Christmas because you’ll lose your nerve. Remember that Christmas insanity fog? It sets in after Halloween.
  • Get into composting now (if you haven’t already) – then you’ll be ‘speaking compost’ like a native by December. Never again will you suffer Bin Day Anxiety as you wonder how much longer you’ll be tripping over (or smelling) your bags of waste. Instead, you’ll be comfortably composting your food waste, wrapping paper and cardboard boxes. Plus, if your council is one of the 50 per cent in England which have yet to switch to separate food waste collections, you’ll be an old hand at separating your leftovers into a kitchen caddy, so the change will be painless.
  • Through the festive fog, always remember what matters – Our induction hob stopped working two days before Christmas. Despite fearing I was going to have a meltdown, in actual fact I came to my senses. While waiting for the electrician, I realised that this really wasn’t a disaster; if we had to eat tuna sarnies for Christmas dinner, would it really matter in the scheme of things? This year’s mishap is next year’s anecdote. Too soon? Ok, whenever.

PS. The electrician saved the day but the lesson I learned still stands.

 I may write an inspirational book called ‘The Woman, the Turkey, the Hob and the Meltdown’ in time for next Christmas.

Julie Halford

Our 12 tips of Christmas

Still on the topic of sustainability at Christmas, here are a few more tips to add festive joy without waste to landfill.

  • Borrow Christmas

If you have ever wished it was possible to ‘borrow Christmas’ by renting as much as possible, check out this article in the Observer Christmas for hire: shoppers turn to renting for trees, toys and outfits | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian with ideas on renting toys, bikes, clothes, tables and sofas to cope with an influx of guests, as well as table decorations.

  • Buy sustainably

 One of my favourite things at this time of year is Christmas cards. Controversial, I know, to those who would ban them if they could. But I believe it’s possible to buy carefully, sustainably and recyclably, (avoiding glitter, foil, ribbon etc) and buying cards that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified so you know the paper used has been sustainably and ethically produced. Greetings card companies know that consumers increasingly want products that are as sustainable as possible and are raising their game as a result.

Recycle cards

  • Remember to remove any items that can’t be recycled – glitter, foil, ribbons, batteries in musical cards. Many supermarkets and household recycling sites have card drop-off points.
  • Make gift tagsYou don’t have to be creative to make gift tags from old cards – both Christmas cards and ordinary birthday cards – so you never have to buy them. Or cut out images for children to make their own cards next year.

Recycle wrapping paper

  • If your wrapping paper stays in a ball when you scrunch it up it can be recycled (providing it’s not covered in glitter). If it unfurls itself, it can’t. Remove plastic tape. If you retrieve paper as people discard it you can smooth it out and reuse it. 
  • Save your stamps

Don’t forget you can save stamps for charities.  Most charities accept all stamps, including new or used, first or second-class and foreign.

Stamps are sold by weight so the more the better for raising much-needed funds.

 Cut the stamp off the envelope making sure to leave roughly 1cm of envelope bordering the stamp.

  • Compost at Christmas

Where suitable, our cards get recycled or torn up to provide valuable carbon content in our Green Johanna and Compost Tumbler compost bins, helping to keep the composting process going throughout the winter months.

At Christmas, composting really comes into its own. We know that when it comes to food, reducing waste is best but if you have unavoidable waste, it’s great to put it through the composting cycle to return as soil food in the spring. For great advice on reducing food waste see the Kitche food waste app at kitche.co and Love Food Hate Waste.

Composting your food waste and biodegradable cards and wrapping paper also means not having the annual problem of storing growing piles of black bin bags while anxiously awaiting the first refuse collection in January.

Anything you could wish to know about composting can be found on Rod Weston’s carryoncomposting.com website. The following tips from the website are especially useful for Christmas:

  • Composting Christmas trees – shred them first to increase the surface area exposed to the composting microbes to speed decomposition. If a shredder is not available, branches can be cut into thumb-size pieces but these will be slow to compost and it is easier to donate the tree to the local authority to be shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks. Local authorities often arrange drop-off points in January.
  • Pine needles can be composted or turned to leaf mould but they will be slow to decompose and any significant quantities are best treated separately from deciduous leaves.

Here are a few more tips from my go-to green bible – Jen Gale’s The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide.

  • Rent a real tree for Christmas. More and more places are offering this service – you return the tree for them to look after the rest of the year.
  • Use reusable crackers – (keepthiscracker.com). They slot together for you to fill yourself and can be used year after year.
  • Check Freecycle or charity shops to pick up items donated by people who are having a clear-out. Julie Halford

Celebrating the Queen’s ‘Make Do and Mend’ Jubilee generation

The Platinum Jubilee celebrations bring to my mind not just the Queen herself but all those of her generation, born in the shadow of the First World War, who have been role models for the rest of us.

The dedication to service that we admire in the Queen is a trait commonly found in people of her generation, no matter what their background.

The Great War must have had a lasting impact on those who were too young to have lived through it themselves but were raised by those who did. It must have been difficult to moan about your own problems when those around you were either traumatised by the trenches or haunted by the ghosts of those who never came back.

In many respects the Queen appears to be more a child of the 1920s than she is a product of palaces, tied more to the time rather than the place of her childhood.

Edward’s trousers

I remember an official photo of the Royal Family that appeared in newspapers around 1980. Journalists had a field day mocking the fact that the hem on young Prince Edward’s trousers had clearly been let down, leaving the old trouser line visible.

The response from Buckingham Palace press office was that the Queen did not believe in wasting anything and liked to get good wear out of her children’s clothes. Just because her son had had a growth spurt was no reason to throw out a good pair of trousers. This wasn’t a fashionable attitude at the time; it seemed laughably fuddy-duddy. This was the dawn of the Eighties; the ethos was not so much Make Do and Mend as Chuck Out and Spend.

But as with so many things, the cycle has turned again and the Queen’s distaste for waste is now fashionable because we know it’s essential.

My great-aunt Margaret was born in the same year as the Queen – 1926.  Although their lives couldn’t have been more different, they shared many common values.   

Orphaned as a toddler, Auntie Margaret was raised by my great-grandmother, who was a widow in her 50s at the time. Her last year in school involved no education at all but was spent knitting socks for soldiers and filling out ration books. She would have loved to become a seamstress but no jobs were available at the time, so at 14 she went into the woollen mill where my grandma also worked to become a weaver.

 Noise of looms

‘I grew up the day I walked into that mill,’ she used to say. The incessant noise of the looms in the weaving shed was deafening and most weavers ended up profoundly deaf by middle age.

Margaret never married or had children, never owned her own home, worked past retirement age scrubbing floors in a doctors’ surgery at night while also caring for elderly relatives. She loved to cook, bake, clean, knit, darn, sew, embroider and tend her potted plants. She never wasted a morsel of food or scrap of material. When she died, I inherited her sewing box full of what she would call ‘bits and bobs’. I can’t for the life of me think of a use for many of these random scraps but I hope I will grow into the sort of person who can.  

Gardener extraordinaire

Another great example of this generation is my husband’s grandfather Sid.  A veteran of the Second World War, in peacetime he was a factory foreman as well as gardener extraordinaire in his free time. When the family were lucky enough to get a corner-plot council house in Redditch with a larger than average garden, Sid made full use of it, growing his own veg and flowers.

  My husband remembers his grandfather in his trademark cravat and hat –  an immaculately-dressed model of working-class diligence and decency. Never one for leisure, Sid also made toys for his three children. While he was busy in his shed or greenhouse, his wife Edna would be baking her locally-famous apple pies and knitting for England, providing jumpers and cardigans for all the family, right down to her great-grandchildren, only stopping in her eighties because of arthritis.

Like my Auntie Margaret, if there was anything Sid and Edna could make or do for themselves and those around them, they did. Their lives were a world away from the Queen’s but in values they were much the same.  In the Queen, whom they very much admired, they saw not merely a monarch but a kindred spirit.

I think of Margaret and Sid and Edna as being in their own quiet ways as responsible for the good things this country stands for as the Queen.

Name that composter

When we discovered at Great Green Systems that some of our customers had given names to their Green Johanna or Green Cone composter, our family was inspired to do the same.  There wasn’t much debate about what that name should be. For his love of gardening, his self-sufficiency, his recycling habits before people even knew the term, it had to be ….Sid.

There is something very reassuring about Sid the composter’s presence in the garden, watching over us as he gets down to work turning our food and garden waste into compost so we can feed our plants and soil. Sadly, Grandad Sid died before hot composters became a thing, but we know he would absolutely approve of this naturally efficient way of turning waste into something wonderful.

Neither myself nor my husband are green-fingered, but I feel that ‘Sid’ is watching approvingly as we finally follow in his footsteps by growing our own veg and flowers.  Sometimes he must be rolling his eyes and thinking the apple has fallen very far from the tree, but hey… every journey starts with a single step, as they say.  

We have a plant in our garden that is a cutting of a cutting from one in Sid’s garden in the 1950s and every time I look at it I feel that we are trying to walk in his footsteps. They are big footsteps to fill.

So on Platinum Jubilee Day on the 3rd of June, in our house we will raise a toast not just to the Queen  but to all those of her generation we have been lucky enough to know and love.

Julie Halford

Green ‘Sid’ – complete with cravat and hat – in Jubilee mood

Keep carbon in the garden – compost!

When I was a child anything we’d finished with went in the dustbin: food waste got chucked in there along with newspapers, jam jars, tin cans, broken toys, cigarette butts, whatever. Some of the rubbish may still be there, in a landfill site somewhere in West Yorkshire, rotting away having been dumped in 1972.  

Back then we didn’t give a second’s thought to what happened to rubbish. All we knew was that the binmen came on a Monday morning to take it Away. We didn’t know where Away was; as long as it was Away from us we didn’t really care.

 Now we know – and we care.  ‘Away’ was to landfill, where it rotted, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. We didn’t know it then, but we were contributing to global warming and the climate crisis we know today. Once you know, you can’t un-know…suddenly it’s not so easy to just chuck your apple core in any old bin.

What about compost?

But while everyone now knows about the negative impact of landfill waste on the environment, not as much is widely known about the positive solutions offered by compost.

To many people the word compost conjures up images of old men in wellies pottering about on allotments like characters from Last of the Summer Wine. Or eccentric city types escaping the rat race, like Tom and Barbara in The Good Life. It sounds cosy, quaint, grandadish, nowhere near as important as it really is. Perhaps it needs a marketing rebrand and new name – soil medicine, perhaps, or earth regeneration booster. Anything to bring it in off the allotment and into the mainstream.

Why is compost – sorry, soil medicine – so great?

Around a third of the average UK household’s waste is biodegradable and could be composted. It’s a no-brainer when you consider the many benefits.

Compost:

  • boosts soil quality
  • prevents soil erosion
  • improves soil drainage
  • absorbs water (slowly releasing it to grass and plants)
  • improves plant productivity and quality
  • captures carbon from the air and pulls it back into the ground.

That last point is particularly impressive – compost actually captures carbon from the air and pulls it back into the ground, right where we want it, mitigating climate change.

So if you have one of the UK’s 15 million gardens you have access to a small patch of the earth that makes up this planet.  Nurture it and you nurture the planet.

There is now such a wide variety of composters to suit every home and lifestyle (see Blog – At a Glance – Which Composter?) it’s never been easier to get the composting habit.

But whatever form of composter you choose – hot composter, food waste digester, compost tumbler or traditional garden compost bin – you are doing your bit.  If you have no space for a garden composter you could try small-scale composting with a Bokashi bin or wormery (fascinating educational projects for children, the next generation of composters). Even if you don’t compost you could consider donating your food waste to people who do,  via the ShareWaste app.

As the saying goes:  It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only a little.

If the little that you can do is change which bin you throw your leftovers in, that’s actually a lot.  

As Jen Gale says in her book The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide: ‘There are ways to fit sustainable living into the life you lead. To change your impact without radically changing your life.’

Basically, composting is about changing the bin you throw your waste in. Depending on the bin you choose (or even making your own heap) it can be as small or as a big a change as you want it to be, as simple or as complex depending on your level of interest. Who knows, one day you might even be out there in wellies on an allotment!

A win-win solution to climate change

Your composting efforts, no matter how small, are part of a global crusade. An alliance was formed in 2021 to spread the composting message on the world stage. On December 5th – World Soil Day – the International Compost Alliance was launched, uniting composting associations from the UK, Ireland, Europe, North America and Australasia.

The Alliance’s aim is to ensure that compost and its role in soil health and food security is central to global efforts in tackling climate change. It plans to raise awareness of the essential role that compost plays in boosting soil health, improving crop productivity and water quality as well as supporting biodiversity and preserving natural resources.

In a joint statement the Alliance said: ‘Despite organics recycling being an affordable and proven solution to the climate mitigation and methane emission reduction goals, it remains an underutilised and undervalued technology. … Compost is a win-win solution to climate change – not only does recycling organic wastes reduce emissions, compost also brings many benefits when used on soils too.’

According to the charity Garden Organic, the health of the earth’s soils is fundamental to life as we know it, yet half the planet’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years. The charity urges people to take simple steps to redress this in their own gardens by regularly topping up beds with compost and ensuring soils are not left bare without vegetation cover.

This is one fight we’re all in together.

So, change the bin you throw your scraps in – and start saving the earth today.

Julie Halford

 

Life with a Green Johanna

Knowledge of the damage that food waste does to the environment has led to a sea change in most people’s behaviour over the past few years.

In addressing kitchen waste, the first change is obviously to minimise the amount of food waste we create because of the environmental cost involved in the production and transporting of food before we even buy it.

But when it comes to dealing with unavoidable food waste, composting is a no-brainer.

The Green Johanna is designed to help you establish fuss-free composting, even if you’re a beginner. It has been a recommended Star Buy in Gardeners’ World magazine in 2021/22/23, commended on the grounds that it accepts all types of food and garden waste, doesn’t need pre-mixing, has a large capacity and is made from recycled plastic.

A Swedish success

The Johanna was designed and originally manufactured in Sweden, which was far ahead of other countries in spotting the need to change attitudes to waste management. It is now made for Great Green Systems in Droitwich, Worcestershire.

There are a few things you need to understand if you want to be a happy composter but once you know, you know. The laws of nature aren’t going to change. You learn this stuff once.

Full instructions are included in the user manual, but here are a few points to remember:

The Johanna needs to be sited on a flat patch of soil or grass. When choosing a location, think about how easy it will be to get to, especially in bad weather. If there is a rodent problem locally, try to choose a spot away from fence lines, logpiles and bushes.

Essential ingredients for composting include air, heat and moisture.

AIR – The micro-organisms that live in the compost need oxygen. Without it, the compost will smell bad and the process will be delayed or stop altogether. So, ensure that you add waste materials loosely and give the top layer a stir with the aerator stick each time. Also, once a month, give a stir deeper down into the compost so that oxygen is always available.

HEAT – As the micro-organisms break down the waste, they generate heat. As the temperature in the compost fluctuates, the types of micro-organisms present also change. This diversity is important to achieve successful composting.

MOISTURE – Composting can’t begin in the absence of water, so it’s important to make sure that the waste materials in the composter contain some moisture. The compost should be as damp as a squeezed bath sponge. If you take a big handful of compost and squeeze it, only a couple of drops of liquid should come out. A balance in the amount of dry and wet materials added will create the right consistency. If in doubt try the ‘squeeze test’ and add different materials as required.

Design features

The Johanna’s design promotes the good ventilation and airflow necessary for happy hot composting.

Vents leading in from the base plate allow air to flow upwards into the container. The round shape ensures there are no cold corners so heat is spread evenly through the compost. The tapered design means that compost sinks towards the centre of the unit and not to its sides, allowing air to circulate and oxygenate the compost.

Lid ventilation system

The Johanna’s lid regulates the ventilation system by covering or uncovering the ventilation holes to adjust air circulation and temperature. It can be set to minimum in cold weather to maintain a warmer compost.

What does the Johanna digest?

The Johanna accepts cooked food waste, including meat and fish, fruit and vegetable scraps and peelings (including citrus peel), dairy, bread, cereals, pasta, rice, crushed or ground eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves, tea bags.

The only food-related materials that are not efficiently digested by the Johanna are those that require a very long time to break down, namely large amounts of cooking oil/fat, the hard shells of nuts and seafood (such as oysters and crabs) and avocado stones.

Any bones that are added to the Johanna will be only partially broken down. Stripped-down bones will be present in the Johanna’s finished compost. These are easily removed. However, if you have dogs and feel this would be a problem, we recommend that you do not add bones to the Green Johanna.

Food waste can be added directly or in compostable or biodegradable bags, never plastic. If you tie the bags, once you have added them to the Johanna break them open using the aerator stick to allow oxygen to reach the waste.

From the garden you can add: garden trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches, weeds, bark, wilted flowers. Twigs and branches should be chopped or shredded to provide more surface area for micro-organisms to work on and so speed up the composting process.

How to add and aerate your waste

Each time you add new waste, mix the top layer of compost using the aerator stick, which comes provided. This helps the micro-organisms to do their job properly and speeds up the composting process. About once a month, aerate the whole pile more thoroughly by moving the stick up and down in the compost to prevent it compacting.

Cover each addition of food waste with a layer of garden waste and/or paper and cardboard waste. Garden waste helps to maintain air gaps in the waste material. If you have the space, you could save summer and autumn garden waste for when you need it during the winter months.

Composting depends on a good mix of waste materials that are high in carbon and nitrogen.

 Carbon-rich substances include woody garden waste, wood chips, sawdust, and paper products, such as cardboard and newspaper. Your food waste provides nitrogen, as do fresh grass clippings and fresh green leaves.

Can I compost without garden waste?

If you lack garden waste, you can use the other sources of carbon mentioned. Cardboard should be torn up (with labels and stickers removed), paper and newspaper should be shredded or scrunched up. Toilet roll/kitchen roll tubes and egg carton bases can be left whole in order to create air pockets. Wood chips are useful as they hold structure and create pathways for air.

You can boost the breakdown process by adding bokashi bran (available separately), fermented waste from a bokashi bin, or a bucketful of mature compost. An Insulating Jacket is also available separately to provide insulation to maintain ideal internal temperatures. It should be removed in warm weather or the temperature inside the unit will become too hot for the composting creatures to survive.

And finally…

To access your finished compost simply unscrew the hatches at the bottom of the Johanna and remove the compost using the aerator stick or a garden hoe. Alternatively, because the Johanna is a modular unit you can unscrew the upper sections to access larger amounts of compost.

Spare Parts