Stress & Composting

Surrey Matters magazine asked me as a local business consultant to contribute an article and answer a few questions based on their desire to get more people composting and how I feel about using gardening as a stress buster…

Get mucky

Get mucky

People are increasingly asking me if they think it’s worth getting a hobby. I don’t have to think about this as, to me, the answer is unequivocally yes! People need a way of dealing with stresses and pressures of work and a distraction in the form of something completely different is a great way to forget the office, iron out the kinks from sitting in a chair most of the day and get creative. A way to build emotional, physical, mental and social resilience to stress, mental illness and physical disability.

Create the disconnect

My choice is gardening. In business consultancy you are often stuck inside for much of the time. I want to be outside; whereas the office is a sterile environment, the garden is mucky and playful with surprises abound. About the only similarity is the ability to learn, just as I crave new experiences and undertakings in the office and with my clients, so do I in the garden and believe me when I say there is no limit to where you can take this education! There isn’t a year that goes by where I haven’t learned something new in the garden. There’s even the potential to create some team development exercises I expect.

Life Skills & Learning

Community plays a massive role in my gardening infatuation – there are thousands of like minded people out there to meet and swap plants and tips with. Gardening teaches you maintenance, care, communication (talking to plants, obviously) how to meet set requirements [of plants] and how to correct mistakes. Of the latter there will be numerous and so it is no surprise to me that gardeners are officially happier than those that don’t as they have learned to deal with disappointment and move on.

Waste reduction

Reducing waste is a part of all organisational objectives and so it is in the garden. Through composting you use new uses from your old junk, maybe creating planters, novel irrigation systems or a new focal point for the garden. One of the simplest forms of waste reduction is through composting of course and whereas new homes are increasingly stingy on space outside (which I believe is detrimental to peoples general enjoyment), there is usually a place for composting something. I have a large plastic hexagonal bin and all the kitchen scraps from fruit and veg go in there (nothing cooked or any meat) alongside the dead flowers and general clearance from the borders and veg patch. It might sound ridiculous but there is a certain base enjoyment to creating good compost. It has a quality that gives satisfaction on every level; it is earthy, it smells good and feels good to work with. When good compost is created you just know the garden is going to be improved and that is, after all, the goal.

If you have the garden available then get into it and get mucky, it’s great fun to grow fruit, veg and flowers and frankly lets you forget that nasty office!

1. What types of kitchen and garden waste do you compost?
Any organic material such as dead plants (nothing diseased), fruit and veg peelings or ones that you won’t use. Grass cuttings and general clearance from the garden borders. I also use old tea leaves and coffee grounds around hellebores and roses and anything fro the home office gets shredded and added to the compost heap.

2. What do you use the compost for?
Once it’s ready I dig it into borders, use as mulch and in the veg patch. One year I did a comparison – an area with added home compost and one without. The area with compost won hands down.

3. What do you enjoy about composting?
Well this is where you can come across as a bit weird – the science behind it is one thing but to see it in action is something else. It is ridiculously satisfying seeing your heap transform from greens and browns to a dark earthy, crumbly mass. It looks good, it smells good as is a wonderful thing.

4. Have you saved any money from composting?
I must have but I’ve never really calculated it. I don’t have to buy in as much soil conditioner any more.

5. What is your top composting tip?
I have two. Firstly, turn the heap. It keeps you fitter than not turning it and the heap decomposes much faster as a result of air being introduced. Just empty the whole lot. Kick it around a bit in boots and then restack. The second will screw up a few noses but acts as a catalyst to make the decomposition even faster – pee on the compost (or get the husband to do it of course). You can buy compost accelerator but why would you?

6. What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking about composting?

Just try it.

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