Compost Bin: Humble Beginnings

 Having decided, foolishly, to save the planet, I’m not sure where to start.  However it seems that humble beginnings are generally considered acceptable in the saviour line of work, so I thought I’d start with rubbish – the compostable sort at least.

I’ve just read one of those ’Grow Your Own’ articles in which the GYO expert, armed with hammer, nails and perfectly sawn lengths of timber, expertly knocks together a compost bin you’d be proud to give pride of place to in your front garden, never mind an overlooked corner.  My life doesn’t seem to be like this at all, it’s more a sad catalogue of badly made gates hanging off their hinges.  The Man from Salford has very kindly donated to my compost building efforts some wooden pallets he found at the container base where he works.  They have been painted an unbecoming, industrial-looking, blue colour.  Nevertheless, they are serviceable and I’m sure it should be a commandment of S.L.P principles to make use of what others no longer want rather than buy new.  (Hey commandments already, I’m getting good at this saviour stuff!)  I’ve decided to position the heap behind some trees at the back of the slope, above the septic tank.  The floor already consists of some healthy leaf mould so there should be plenty of micro-life going on here, my one worry is there will not be enough sun to sufficiently warm the heap.   Hopefully by summer, the leaves on the trees will obscure the blue colour and with luck when it is revealed the following winter it will have taken on a more pleasing mouldy patina and will be filled with lovely, earthy, crumbly stuff.

Well now  the heap’s up and standing, what to compost?    When I consulted my mum (Granny Goo), a keen allotmenteer, on this matter she replied, ‘Oh, they simply love egg boxes.’  She said this in a manner which suggested she personally consults her heap on a regular basis, perhaps we should all be talking encouragingly to our heaps as well as our plants?  I can’t say this reply struck me as terribly comprehensive, so here is what I’ve gleaned from my research:

Green stuff good

All of the following ‘green’ or ‘moist’ waste is acceptable fodder for your bin; vegetable and fruit peelings, tea-bags, coffee grounds, annual plants and weeds.  Adding the leaves (but not roots or seedheads) of nettles and comfrey are highly nutritious contributions.  Grass cuttings and fine hedge trimmings can also go in.                    

  

           

                                      

Brown stuff good!All of the following ‘brown’ or ‘dry’ waste can be added; cardboard from cereal boxes, toilet and kitchen roll innners, shredded or scrunched paper (avoid anything glossy though), autumn leaves – if you have a lot of these you might prefer to make a separate leaf-mould cage, sawdust, paper and woodash, the contents of your vacuum cleaner if you know it’s only been used for dust and hair and plants that have dried out.

  

  

You absolutely must not add any of the following; pernicious perennial weeds, soot, coal ash, cat litter, faeces from carnivorous animals, tissues, dressings and nappies, cooked food waste, animal bones and skins, ashtrays and cigarette butts.  It’s not that these things wouldn’t eventually break down into something less offensive, but before they do they would pose considerably health risks.  And you would be left with some unpleasant chemical residues. 

The most important thing to do is maintain a fifty-fifty balance between ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste, so layer it in if you can and mix it up.  Let air get to your heap but also maintain heat and moisture by covering with an old blanket.  (You can even buy compost duvets if you want to be top of the heap!) 

If you are not a GYO expert, nor do you have the good fortune to have access to delightful blue pallets you can always buy compost bins.  There a few different kinds, each with pros and cons, and some may be more suited to some situations than others. 

A wooden twin bin composting system
looks good and allows you to get a system going. Once one bin is filled, it can be turned into the other, aerating the contents, and then you can leave it to do its stuff while you start filling the bin you’ve just emptied with new waste.
 
Compost tumblers
get quick results although you do need plenty of stuff to feed them. This won’t be an option for us until we’ve got something more suitable than brambles to compost, but I’ll certainly give them thought once we’ve got plenty of good stuff to go in. 

Self Contained Composters
or ‘Dalek’ bins are the best option if space is tight, these don’t need aerating or turning, they work by heat build up alone – put them somewhere sunny! Sometimes you can buy black plastic ones at a discounted price from local councils.

I’ve now completed my heap, tossed it an eggbox and departed with the encouraging words, ‘I hope you rot!’    Now all I have to do is wait for miracles.      

P.S (or should it be P.P for post post?)  I noticed whilst constructing my heap that the septic tank is getting a bit pongy, so I’m off to do some research on that, I’ll post my findings shortly. 

See also Wooden Compost Bin and Kitchen Composter.

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