Shredding and composting v. burning. Most gardeners enjoy a good burn-up. There is something very satisfying about seeing a pile of rubbish reduced to a pile of ashes which can then be spread on the garden as a useful source of potash. Unfortunately, bonfires in recent years have become very unpopular, with smoke and smuts dirtying property and gases polluting the upper atmosphere.
The alternative to this is composting. Garden compost is a useful soil conditioner and it seems only right that the plants which have derived so much benefit from the soil during their lifetime should give a little back at the end of it.
Unfortunately, composting is not without its own drawbacks. In breaking down, the rotting material releases methane gas, one of those which contribute to the so-called ‘green-bouse effect’, when the heat produced at the surface of the earth cannot escape through the layer of pollution above. In a balanced eco-system, no one substance should be produced so excessively as to threaten the environment, but with a system dominated by any one species, such as ours is, excesses and imbalances are bound to occur, and the production of methane — from composting garden rubbish, rotting farmyard manure, and even the intestines of domestic food animals – is one of them.
The other shortcoming of composting is that much garden refuse is too large or too woody to break down well. The laborious way round this is to cut everything into small pieces with secateurs before adding it to the heap. The easier method is to use a shredder.
This, too, has its opponents. Most shredders, although they can efficiently reduce a large heap of woody rubbish to a small pile of ready-to-spread or compost material, are either powered by electricity or petrol, therefore both consuming vital and dwindling energy resources. They are also incredibly noisy, so adding to the already out-of-hand noise pollution of our so-called civilized society to which modern gardeners sadly contribute a great deal, with their power mowers, spin-trimmers, hedge clippers, chain saws, cultivators and all the other buzzing, whining paraphernalia that it now seems hard to live without.
As bonfires are becoming more and more anti-social, it is increasingly difficult to dispose of badly diseased or heavily infested material hygienically. All pests and diseases are destroyed in a hot fire, but they are unlikely to be in even a well made compost heap which heats up well in the centre. As it is inadvisable to leave such rubbish lying about in the garden, the only answer is to take it to the local tip, to become somebody else’s problem.