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Composting : turn your green waste into nature’s gold

Tending the garden keeps on producing quantities of plant debris that take up space. What’s the best thing to do with garden refuse like grass cuttings, tree and hedge trimmings, leaves and withered flowers?

Green recycling.

Using a garden shredder will help tidy up your garden. Unwieldy branches and bushy twigs are quickly chopped up into easy-to-handle plant residue which you can simply dispose of or re-use as a compost base.

The intelligent solution.

The cuttings can be used to make environmentally friendly compost. The composted shreddings can be recycled as a valuable natural fertilizer. Turn your garden waste into home-made fertilizer. Mulch and compost contain a number of valuable raw materials that supply your garden soil with important nutrients in a totally natural way.

Ten rules for good compost

  • Gather the correct proportions of nitrogenous (‘green’) and carbonaceous (‘brown’) plant trimmings – mixing lawn clippings with woody cuttings for example.
  • Remember compost needs air. Never lay the material in a trench and do not use containers which are closed on all sides.
  • Do not place the compost heap on a solid base made of stone, concrete, etc. The compost needs an ‘earth connection’, so that earthworms and small organisms can penetrate it.
  • Earthworms are beneficial to your compost heap and are attracted by phlox and elder for example. Onion skins, chive residues, ground coffee and tea leaves are also favourite foods for earthworms.
  • Create order in your compost heap.  For the bottom layer, pile up coarse shredded material – approximately 20cm high. On top of this add mixed, finer materials such as leaves or shredded material.
  • Thinly spread lawn clippings – to prevent the danger of decay!
  • Always cover kitchen waste with soil, as it attracts vermin.
  • Avoid totally dry conditions as micro-organisms in compost heaps need moisture.
  • Do not water the compost excessively.
  • Cover up the finished compost heap.

The composting process takes several months, depending on the time of year and the ambient temperature. When the compost has matured it should smell pleasantly of forest soil and fungus.

Tip : If you put shredded waste on a compost heap, subsequent turning over is no longer required.

Tip : Passing waste material repeatedly through your garden shredder provides optimal mixing and aeration. Shredding waste before placing it on the compost heap speeds up decomposition as it increases the surface area open to attack by microbes and decomposition agents.

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For a solid, rectangular or square style hedge, it’s best to trim several times a year from Spring through to Autumn.

To keep the top level of your hedge, place a line of string just above the hedge as a guide for a straighter cut. A STIHL hedge trimmer will make the job easier for you and get a better, quicker result than with a pair of shears.

If your hedge is overgrown, then start in early spring by pruning the side growth back almost all the way back to the main stem on one side only. Repeat on the other side the following spring (you might even be able to do it in late summer if the pruned side has regrown sufficiently).

STIHL has a complete line-up of hedge trimmers, from a 4″ shrub shear to a long extended version. Pick Your Power, gas or battery!

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For a better, vibrant lawn this spring and summer, treat it to a regular feeding and watering. Apply a high nitrogen slow release fertilizer. Some fertilizers need only be reapplied between 6 to 12 weeks. For a thicker, healthier lawn, mow it as regularly as once a week – it also means it will generally need less water and less fertilizer – less time maintaining, more time enjoying.

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The right kind of wood for your summer time camp fire’s

Wood for Open Fires
All wood will burn equally well in a good wood-burning stove. But not every kind of wood is suitable for open fires.

Conifer wood tends to trap the wood gas created inside the log. As the piece of wood gets hot, high gas pressure can therefore build up until it finally forces its way out. When the fire crackles due to the gas explosion, red-hot bits of wood come off and in some cases can be thrown several metres from the fire. Sparks can be a hazard for carpets, furniture and the clothes of people sitting near the hearth. So the only safe way to enjoy the crackling of a traditional log fire is to screen off the fire from the living room with a glass or mesh fire guard. Spruce and fir make less soot in an open fire than pine.

Hot Flames
Wood from deciduous trees more readily releases the wood gas from inside the burning logs, and so sparking and bits breaking off are less frequent. Oak, ash and robinia will all make an open fire which gives off plenty of radiant heat with only occasional sparking. The quietest burners are beech, fruit tree wood, maple and birch. The hotter the fire, the more quickly a large quantity of gas builds up inside a log placed on it. If that large quantity of wood gas cannot escape from the log quickly enough, then sparking will occur, even with deciduous wood. Because the structure of the wood in trees is as individual as the way we humans look, nature is always coming up with surprises. So never leave an open fire unattended.

Choosing Wood for an Open Fire
Its silvery bark makes birch a popular choice for burning. But other kinds of wood are just as suitable for open fires. Something which one lover of open fires has immortalised in literature. The well-known French novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873 to 1954) wrote in “La Retraite Sentimentale”:

“I read or play with the fire, I riddle the embers, I pick out a log from the basket just as one chooses one’s favourite books!”

If you want to do this too, you will need to get in supplies of several different kinds of wood.
Here are some suggestions to guide you:

  • Birch for its beautiful bark
  • Beech (or maple or fruit tree wood) for heat
  • Ash or oak for lively, crackling flames
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