Monday, 03 September 2012 00:00

There’s a monster in my compost bin.

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For the past few months I have been struggling to get compost out of the door at the bottom of my plastic, Lambeth Council supplied, compost bin. It is baseless, physically not metaphorically.

Something tough was hindering the compost falling down. I ignored it to begin with and tried just forcing things down from the top with not much success. Whatever the blockage was, it was so strong that the only thing I could imagine it could be was bamboo.

Last year I had dug up and removed a patch of bamboo around the “Family” sculpture. Despite supposedly being a non-invasive bamboo, it had escaped from the pots and cement I had planted it in and was slowly killing my beautiful Acer by the pond.

Apparently Acers have shallow, spreading roots which don’t like being disturbed. An Acer expert I consulted at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show had made the position very clear - either the Acer would die completely or the bamboo had to go. There was no question. It was a back and two fork-twisting, four days to dig all the bamboo up properly – and I was pretty sure I hadn’t put any of it in the compost bin.

Identifying the compost bin blockage was not easy. During Spring the top of the compost became very unpleasant. First it was a mass of worms and slugs and then, as it got dry, it became a mammoth ants nest. Identifying the blockage from above was not going to be pleasant or straightforward. So I got squeamish and didn’t try. Even if I lay on the ground and looked up through the little door at the bottom (really tricky and painful given its location and generally yucky as a prospect), I couldn’t see what was going on. So I left it and, over time, the “thing” in the compost bin continued to take over physically - and in my mind. It took on ridiculous proportions. I knew it was powerful and strong. It became a monster and I even became a little scared of it.

However, thankfully, redoing the front “garden” drove the need for home-made compost. I had bought 30 sacks of top soil, compost, grit and aged manure to create the bed but it wasn’t quite enough and I needed to add my own compost too. Well I didn’t have to really, I could have bought more stuff, but I knew I had compost in the bin and it was the perfect excuse. I had to confront my monster.

I am an intelligent, well-educated woman. More relevantly, I am a sensible and practical human being. I don’t believe in ghosts, vampires - or monsters.   And I know what I’ve put in the compost bin - but I still couldn’t think what was in there.

I decided the only solution was to lift the entire compost bin up and off the ground, not an easy job in the small space behind the shed. So yesterday, since it was dry and sunny and I was feeling good, strong and determined, I faced my monster.

Luckily, in the intervening months, the slugs and ants had gone and the top material had become compost, so I could shovel that out. I also took everything I could from the base and then I managed to lift the entire plastic bin and hoist it onto the roof of the shed (there was no room anywhere else).

I looked at the pile remaining, girded my loins and attacked it with a spade - to discover that my monster was a ganglion of tree roots coming up from underground. It soon became clear they were from the cherry tree near the bin at the edge of the garden. I inherited the cherry tree. It’s been here for years (though it has grown especially well in the last few!).

So, of course, it was not a monster in my compost bin. It was just a 25 foot cherry tree. No probs. and quite a relief. It’s something I can deal with physically – and remain a monster atheist. Phew!

But honestly, I expect tree roots to stay underground, at most to break pavements a little around the base of the tree. I don’t expect them to send up armies of “tongues”, metres from the trunk, looking for delicacies above ground.

It’s still a little bit scary.

Read 26018 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 September 2014 10:02