When my grandmother moved into residential care last year, I was asked if I wanted any furniture from her bungalow, I asked for the compost bins, more importantly, the contents, that lovely crumbly brown, life giving content.
So several car trips later the number of bins on my allotment rose to 9 plastic Dalek types, 3 pallet bins & 2 recycled bathtubs, all full of nicely maturing compost at various stages and it's still not enough. But I digress, I'm supposed to be writing about compost making.
It's really easy, fantastic for the environment (think of the fuel miles saved from council green bin collections & your trips to purchase multipurpose from garden centres) and it's recycling at it's most basic.
Type of Bin
Anything will work but there is one constant, the larger the better. If you're lucky enough to own a decent chunk of this green & pleasant country then a heap tucked away in a corner works wonders
But for the majority of us, a simple pallet bin or plastic Dalek are easily added to our spaces. Solid sides and a lid help increase the internal heat, encouraging those microbes to get to work (worms appear towards the end of the breakdown cycle). Line a pallet bin with plastic (finally, a use for all those plastic compost bags we've all got tucked away in the shed), cardboard or plywood and cover during the winter months to prevent too much water getting in.
But remember to site the bin onto bare earth so those beneficial organisms have a chance to find their way up into the heap.
Home made pallet compost bins by Candide User will093
Equal parts Green & Brown
All those veg peelings, fruit from the bottom of the bowl that isn't as desirable as they used to be, weeds you've pulled up from the pots, beds, pathways and grass cuttings are all classified as greens.
Cardboard, woody stems of plants, paper, leaves and spent soil from containers are all brown.
I wouldn't include cooked food waste or meat products as they take longer to break down & can attract unwanted organism's (mice & their larger cousins) into the heap.
Don't be afraid to include the roots of perennial weeds, the heat & being constantly covered by fresh matter will soon break them down.
The larger the surface area, the quicker the vegetation can be broken down
So if you can take the time to cut, shred or rip everything up before it's added, the faster you'll get your hands onto the black gold of gardening. Any professional gardening equipment makers reading this, a battery operated garden shredder for allotment holders is something worth inventing.
Veg peelings and kitchen scraps in a compost bin. Image taken by Candide user jfallsebrook
The creepy crawlies working their magic on the heap need a certain amount of moisture and air which is why it's recommended to turn the heap, however, you don't want to do this frequently. About 6 weeks after the heap has been filled up, turn it into another bin and then leave it.
Check every so often that it hasn't dried out too much, simply remove the lid if rain is due or empty a watering can evenly over the contents if it isn't.
If the pile is looking a little slushy, there is probably too much "green", mix in some "brown" (shredded newspaper, pet bedding) and check again in 6 weeks.
And that's it, in approximately 8 months you'll have a crumbly, nutrient rich compost ready to mulch around your specimen plants, add to your veg beds or mix into pots.
Are you ready to be the envy of your neighbours with flourishing displays?