local food blog

Outdoor peeing could activate composting revolution

You won’t catch me trying this one at my place, for starters the compost bin is way to high, and my neighbours will begin to wonder if I lost my marbles. I found this article at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk, while searching for methods to break my own compost down faster, needless to say I am still searching for a good method!!

Gardeners at one National Trust property are urging the country to join them in peeing outdoors to help UK gardens grow greener.

A three metre long ‘pee bale’ has been installed within the walled gardens of the National Trust’s Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire.

Head Gardener, Philip Whaites, is encouraging his male colleagues to relieve themselves onto the straw bale when the call of nature occurs.

This helps activate the composting process on the estate’s compost heap – producing a free supply of compost material – and also cuts down on the estate’s water use.

‘For eight weeks now, male members of our garden and estate teams have been using the outdoor straw bale when nature calls, which all goes towards our eco-friendly composting system here at Wimpole,’ Philip explained.

‘The pee bale is excellent matter to add to our compost heap to stimulate the composting process; and with over 400 acres of gardens and parkland to utilise compost, we need all the help we can get.

Of course we’re very careful to make sure the pee bale is only in use out of visitor hours, as we don’t want to scare the public. And it doesn’t smell.

There are obvious logistical benefits to limiting it to male members of the team, but also male pee is preferable to women’s, as the male stuff is apparently less acidic.’

By the end of the year, it’s calculated that the ten men from the seventy strong garden and estates team will make over 1,000 individual trips to the pee bale, contributing towards the compost for the estate.

What’s more, the estate will have saved up to 30 per cent of its daily water use by not having to flush the loo so many times.

Rosemary Hooper, Wimpole estate’s in-house Master Composter, provides composting advice to visitors to help them compost whatever the size of their garden or outdoor space.

Rosemary said: ‘Most people can compost in some way in their own gardens.

Peeing on a compost heap activates the composting process and helps to produce a ready supply of lovely organic matter to add back to the garden.With the ready supply of fallen leaves at this time of year, it’s a great time to get composting. Adding a little pee just helps get it all going; it’s totally safe and a bit of fun too.’

Tamzin Phillips, the National Trust’s Compost Doctor, said: ‘An average flush of the toilet can use anything from four and a half to nine litres of water each time, but what people may not realise is that this water is treated to the same standard as drinking water and shouldn’t be wasted.

What’s so great about the pee bale is that it’s using a natural solution to help the garden whilst saving flushing the loo for only when it’s really necessary.’

The pee bale is part of the garden composting ‘zone’ on the Wimpole estate, where the gardening team has been showcasing its mass composting facilities and increasing visitor awareness of the importance of composting waste.

Other more unusual composting facilities on the estate include a ‘dagging’ tank into which the rear end trimmings from the fleeces from estate’s sheep are stirred up on a regular basis to produce a liquid feed.

After a few weeks of stirring, the feed is used to nourish Wimpole’s famous squash plants, tomatoes and even roses. A comfrey bed established nearby means the leaves can be added to the heap and stirred into the dagging tank, which, along with the fermented straw from the pee bale is added to Wimpole’s rich and healthy compost.

Philip added:’Whilst the use of outdoor bale may not be standard practice amongst all my National Trust gardening colleagues, here at Wimpole we’re taking inspiration from historic methods of making compost which aside of being part of our heritage, also have minimum impact on the environment.”

You don’t have to live near Wimpole Hall to see behind the scenes on how simple, environmentally friendly composting works; National Trust experts share their hints and tips on best composting practice, including a short and easy to follow film.

In the second of a series of six videos featuring National Trust gardeners sharing their secrets, head gardener Richard Todd from Anglesey Abbey shows how to make your own low-cost compost bin from scrap pallets, how to get the right mix of greens and browns in your compost and gives advice on how to make best use of your home made compost in the garden.

Future videos offering priceless advice include composting, saving water, growing your own food, organic gardening and how to look after wildlife in the garden; all featuring National Trust experts in each area, passing on years of knowledge in a simple, easy to follow way. These videos will be on the website over the next few months.



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