Andrew Staib, has always wondered what happens to the garden waste that we take to the tip or put in our recycling bins.
Every year Glorious Gardens buys in tonnes of green compost for our clients, to make raised vegetable beds and mulch the rest of the borders to improve the soil quality. I have always wondered where it comes from. So I met up with James Herst, Sales and Production Manager, at Olus Recycling in West Sussex near Hurstpeirpoint. He greets me at the main office and we don those yellow hi-vis vests so beloved of politicians.
The first impression upon arriving at Olus is spectacular. A 25m long and 20m high mountain of beautiful brown compost, with white steam billowing from fissures. It looks like a ziggurat of fertility, with a wonderful warm, earthy smell making one dizzy. Grabbers and special forklift trucks zip industriously around the site moving compost to different work zones. What’s more, on top of the great mountain, like a shiny yellow dragon, sits a 14 tonne digger.
With its enormous arm it scoops the freshly shredded green compost and takes it into the belly of the mountain. The new compost then begins an eight week journey through the length of the great mound, being turned over constantly to create aerobic conditions for the bacteria and the intense heat to break down the green matter. It must be great to work here in Winter as temperatures inside the compost can get to 80 degrees. This is hot enough to kill even the toughest weed seed so the soil comes out sterile.
Once the compost is deemed broken down enough, it is sprayed onto a conveyor belt. The belt is tilted to a perfect level so that any heavy objects slide down into a skip, while the rest goes up to the grader. The contents of the skip are a fascinating picture of our gardening habits. Peering inside I could see stones, golf balls, lots of tennis balls and plastic caps.
After this, the compost travels up the conveyor belt where a magnetic drum then sucks all of the metal out from the soil (there is a skip near the entrance full of secateurs, springs, old garden forks and wire). Next a fan blows the soil from beneath, separating any light plastics.
The last stage is screening the compost into 10mm and 20mm. The 20mm generally goes off in lorries to fertilise local farmer’s fields and the 10mm is sold to landscapers and the public.
So from an ordinary pile of garden waste, which lies in one corner after being dropped off by landscapers and mainly West Sussex County Council, rich brown gold is created.
“I like working here”’ says James, “I like being involved in recycling and they are nice people to work with. I’m even allowed to load up a van occasionally and use the 10mm on my allotment!”
“We do a huge amount of green waste each year, up to 30,000 tonnes of green waste and 15,000 tonnes of wood waste per annum and we receive up to 70,000 tonnes of household compost material.
It is a real science. We do batch analysis to make sure that there is no contamination, test for mineral levels and send samples away for analysis.”
Started in 1994 by two landscapers, Nick Hawthorne and David Ansell, Olus was conceived because there just wasn’t enough good quality compost out there.
The general public can have the compost delivered either as 40 litre bags, one tonne bags or loose straight off the truck. Depending on the quantities one needs, one could save up to 50% compared to buying the soil from garden centres. So you can buy back your garden waste, to enrich your garden and deepen your soil structure!
Where to visit this month
Fancy choosing your own Xmas tree? Wilderness Woods offers you the chance to select your tree from their plantation, put a ribbon around it, then come back in December and chop it down.
Also West Dean’s famous Walled Kitchen Garden is a sight to behold with the abundance of the summer still on show, since this Autumn has been very warm so far.
- Harvest the last of your tomatoes before the frosts can get them. Even if they are green they will ripen in a bowl.
- Lift your Dahlias and store them in a dry, dark place (some people leave them in the soil over Winter but this is a risk)
- Prune any tall Roses to reduce the rock to their roots a strong Winter wind can wreck on them.
- Bubble wrap any precious tropical trees like Bananas or Tree Ferns.
- Plan for planting Perennial and trees.
Trees can be bought as bare root specimens which means they will be cheaper plus the plants will have five months to establish without any real need of watering before Spring arrives.
By Andrew Staib, Principal Designer of Glorious Gardens www.gloriousgardenssussex.co.uk/