If you have a garden or an allotment, a compost bin no matter how big or small is one of the essential things you should have – in my humble opinion.
It’s a great way to get rid of vegetable food waste, grass cuttings, leaves, and a whole number of materials that are biodegradable. It’s also one of the easiest things you can do that will eventually provide fruit later on – literally.
Setting up a compost bin
One of the reasons why I’ve decided to do this recap is because I’m currently in the process moving a rather large heap of compost that’s accumulated over the last few years, into several bins, with a view to sift and distribute over the new beds I’ve created.
At it’s core a compost bin is a place where you can pile up biodegradable material. Green one minute, brown and earth like the next.
Wooden compost bins
You can buy wooden compost bins from your local garden center or you make one from pallet wood. Generally they tend to be about a meter square, and just under a meter tall in size.
I was lucky enough to procure ready made wooden crates to use as a compost bin for the plot, which are very similar to the ones you can buy.
The main thing to be aware of when using wooden compost bins is that are prone to rotting at one point or another, so to help combat this, you would look to coat or protect the wood inside of the bin.
With the crates at the allotment I’ve lined the inside of the bins with plastic sheeting, to help reduce the amount of rotting that can occur. This is what I’ve done with the raised beds on the plot as well.
Plastic / Dalek compost bin
This style of compost bin is probably the most popular compost bin you’re likely to come across at the local garden centre.
These are great to use because they generally offer compost in a relatively short space of time in composting terms.
The plastic material means that the compostable material is susceptible to heating up and composting down at a quickly rate.
The size of the of the bin is also advantageous when it comes to distributing the material.
Ideally you want to get a good balance of carbon and nitrogen into your compost bin.
These fall into two main categories.
- Grass cuttings
- Vegetable and fruit peelings
- Fresh leaves
- Chicken manure
- Hedge clippings
- Tea and coffee grounds
- Dead leaves
- Straw and hay
- Tree and shrub cuttings
- Shredded cardboard
- Wood chip/bark
- Shredded paper
- Wood ash
Turning your compost
Turning your compost bin will increase the rate of decomposition. Composting is basically carbon (brown material) and nitrogen (green material) breaking each other down.
The best way to think of this chemical reaction is to look at the processes involved in producing fire. Fire needs air to survive, and compost is no different, hence the importance in aerating your pile – and introducing regular bouts of air and oxygen.
Introducing air and oxygen into your compost bin will increase its temperature, speed up decomposition and will eventually reduce the size of the pile – allowing you to add more and more as the season goes on.
Aerating the compost pile could be the difference between decomposition in 10 weeks or 10 months. Failure to turn your compost bin could result in bacteria feeling rather sluggish and this will move your compost pile into an anaerobic condition. Anaerobic means without air.
Using your compost
The material from your compost bin can be so valuable to the growing year ahead.
I like to sift my compost as this helps to seek out any unwanted bindweed and horsetail roots, plus any other undesirables. It also helps to maintain good drainage and allows the roots of your plants to access moisture more easily.
Mulching is generally used to improve the soil around plants, but it also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on tasks such as watering and weeding. Mulches help soil retain moisture in summer, prevent weeds from growing and protect the roots of plants in winter.RHS – https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=323
During the summer, I find that mulching can really help keep the weeds down and maintain moisture for your plants. Not only that, but as the quote above suggests, it can help replenish nutrient levels in your borders.
There we have it. Go forth and compost!
I’d love to know your composting tips in the comments below.