Composting – Turning with Gardening Club

Getting grubby in the compost

We’ve been tidying up the compost area after winter as this school is so good at composting everything that we have had to order more bins. Today at school one of our new compost bins was ready to use, so as it was a Gardening Club day and we’ve had a couple days of sunshine it was time to turn one of the older ones and rearrange.
The bins sit in front of a fence and tree line that has over the past year been absolutely covered in a vine, planted for quick growth and screening when the school was built. This does get cut down but quite often it’s only once a year and loads of the little bits get left behind. It’s tricky, because the school have requested it be completely removed and all of those little bits that all regrow really quickly, but it can take up to four months for that to filter it’s way through to the correct department and for action to actually happen. Don’t get me started.

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This school is awesome at composting, if you visit the school in the morning you will see a succession of visitors to top up the bins; small children with compost buckets and their fruit snack scraps as well as lovely catering staff with the raw food waste.

Gardening club tonight is a new group who have only been together a few weeks, I have taught some of them through previous Gardening Class but we had never attempted to turn the compost so I wasn’t sure how they would react. Children who don’t have any regular access to outdoor space are not on the whole used to bugs and beasties. The group tonight were also, due to various reasons, all female.

When I suggested investigating the compost there were squeals but I was thrilled to note they were delight rather than of horror, and they all rushed directly to the bins.
I turned the top couple of inches onto a tarp and we picked through with a stick, to see what we had. This bin has been sitting covered since Club finished in October.
As it’s a school there is always an element of extra bits; glue sticks, pen lids and some crisp packets but they are the exception definitely not the rule.
When I suggested we swap our hands for the stick to see what else they could find, they all ran for the gloves and within minutes were turning things over and exclaiming at all the lovely worms. As a general rule we don’t use gloves but I do think it’s a good precaution for compost investigation.
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Our garden sieves had both mysteriously disappeared so we improvised with a basket, sieving into a wheelbarrow, one shovel at a time. The girls took it in turns to shovel and various tunes were used as a dance rhythm to shake the sieve to. Large lumps were investigated and broken up if possible, plastic put in the bin pile and teabag outers went back in to a pile to break down for another few months.

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By the end of Club today we had a full wheelbarrow of absolutely gorgeous home made compost and a group of very dirty children, all of whom went home talking about worms. The glue stick and pen lids  went back into class after a wash and a couple shovel fulls of worms went into the new compost to give it a head start.
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by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

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