Low carbon products for gardens

Hi, I have just been thinking about carbon emissions related to improving garden areas.
I would like to ask if there aee good sources of information for this area?
So far I know not to use peat based compost and it seems that cement has very high emissions.
Some questions I have are:

  1. Is composite fencing a better alternative to wood?
  2. What options are there for building walls? Would reclaimed bricks be a good idea but what is an alternative to cement?
  3. What is a good option for a patio? Most slabs are concrete or stone shipped in from quarries, I have seen stone quarried in india for example.
  4. I also compost garden waste with veg peelings, but I have seen rats in the composter how do I deal with this issue? We don’t have food waste collections.
  1. I am thinking of getting one such panel where there is a big damp problem. You save on preservatives, all of which are enemies of biodiversity and you help create a market for recycled plastic.
  2. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned hedge?
  3. Try getting old stones from a reclaim yard.
  4. Do you have a macerater? Grind up and mix the compost well. If all else fails, rats are protein rich or can themselves be composted.

Some of the above are not really serious recommendations!

If the composite is recycled then it’s ok, try a dry wall, gabion cage and as for bricks and stones they are pretty durable - see pics for thoughts

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Don’t try using “stock” bricks in contact with the ground or water. They are for internal use only.

I don’t think I will try eating rats!

We have hedges and fences as boundaries. The fence was required to stop the dog from escaping!

The wall idea is for raised beds and a pond. We do have an issue with retaining wall at the front, frost is destroying the bricks, but I think coping stones on top would solve the issue. Are damp course bricks better for ground contact?

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In my experience, it is not so much vegetable peelings which attract vermin to the compost heap or composter, but rather that the insulating compost provides a warmish, dryish space in which they enjoy living. (And if it is an open heap on earth, they seem to enjoy burrowing into the soil below it too.) I often find burrows in and below my open heaps, even when no vegetable peelings are incorporated, and especially when they are covered, so are protected from the rain.

The Environment Act 2021 introduces mandatory collection of all recyclable waste including food waste, by Local Authorities (LAs), over the next few years. So in due course your authority will provide you with a container for its collection. But many LAs are committed to waste collection contracts which can only be changed on their expiry, so it will take some years for food waste collection to reach all LA areas (such as ours).

Our local authority here in Leicestershire provide a useful decision tree to determine which type of composter is best for you. In your situation they recommend any cool composter such as you probably already have should be OK, if the only food waste you have is vegetable peelings, and from which by implication they suggest vermin don’t need to be excluded.

If you feel that it may be the peelings rather than the insulating, dry compost habitat which is attracting them however, a vermin-proof hot composter such as the £135 Green Johanna is best on a level spot in partial shade, takes all food waste (except bones) as well as garden waste, and could be used alongside your current bin if your garden and kitchen produce enough waste for two bins (and you have room for them), or instead of if not. Full instructions here.

Alternatively if you have a sunny spot on reasonably deep soil, you could consider a Green Cone which sells at around £115 plus, and is vermin-proof. Although again I have no personal experience of using one, it would allow you to recycle (by composting) all your food scraps and would only need emptying every few years. It has a wire mesh base, and most of the waste rots down into a nutrient-rich liquid which passes through the mesh into the soil below; so a spot next to some deep-rooting and nutrient-hungry vegetables is said to be especially rewarding, as they will lap up those nutrients and flourish bountifully. Quite a wide, round, 42-cms-deep hole needs to be dug for it, but it stands less than 70 cms above ground once installed.

Alternatively a wormery might suit if you have a level, shady spot for it, but might need to be sheltered in an outhouse in winter. They cost from around £50. And green leafy veg waste such as cabbage leaves might need to be put in the garden waste bin rather than the wormery if in large quantity, as the worms don’t like too much of that in our experience, due to the ammonia which green leafy material can produce. A wormery does take a bit of careful management.

A third option for food waste alone is a Bokashi bin with which I am not familiar, but which is a well-established system too.

You might find that your unwelcome guests are still attracted to your original garden waste composter of course. Neither the Green Cone, Bokashi bin nor any wormeries are designed to take garden waste, so you’d certainly still need your garden compost system with those.

Overall, if you have a local (volunteer) Master Composters group, one of them may be able to advise on your particular circumstances either by means of a visit or by telephone (and free of charge).

The best bricks for ground contact or wet areas are engineering bricks. These are often “blue”, but to me they often look grey. Red ones are available too.

Garden Organic have been in touch with me since I wrote the above, as I wanted to check with them about the possible advice from their volunteer Master Composters. They suggest that rather than a home visit from one of them, you “could ideally arrange to visit one of our Compost Demonstration Sites and arrange to meet a volunteer there who will be able to explain the process and discuss the various options available / which might suit best. The number of demo sites we have is growing and we’re hoping to launch lots more over the next few years. More about one of (the) Cumbria sites here: Our second Compost Demonstration Site is open! | Garden Organic We currently have 11 sites, mainly located within our contracted areas.” (These sites are in the areas listed in the link I gave earlier. So they by no means cover the whole country as yet.)