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

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

Spare Parts