Making Compost

We have three compost ‘bins’ in the garden and three on the allotment. The structure for five of them is basically a frame (posts or old pallets) with wire netting sides. The sixth is slotted planks bought for the purpose. All six bins are in a fairly precarious state now as over time the wood has loosened and rotted and the netting has distorted. However the outcome in terms of well-rotted vegetation is always good by our standards.

The three garden bins operate on a three year cycle 1. Filling with peelings, old plants etc, 2. Covered with plastic sacks and leave to rot, 3. Ready to use

The photo below shows them with compost ‘ready to use’ in the foreground, ‘currently filling up’ in the middle and ‘covered in plastic to rot down’ in the distance.

You can see that the compost that is ready to use is dark brown and friable but it is not in perfect condition. Larger pieces ideally should be removed and returned for further composting. It is also obvious from this picture that the bins are in a slightly ropey state!

The three allotment bins, sited behind the shed, work differently. One is for current waste while the other two are turned and watered almost weekly by Patrick. This means that by the end of the autumn two bins are well rotted and ready to be spread on the allotment as mulch/fertilizer over the winter. Even the active ‘filling’ bin has the turning and watering treatment to speed up the composting process. Its contents will be ready later.

The photo below shows the two well rotted bins in the foreground/centre and, almost invisible, the active bin that we are currently filling. Because the front of each bin is relatively insecure loose material leaks out which makes them look pretty shallow compared with the garden bins – not the case, as we discover when digging them out.

Below is a picture of Will turning the active compost.

Apart from the seriously collapsed netting it is almost impossible to see clearly! The brambles, tree and water butt block the view.

As an aside, that water butt (old barrel inherited from our predecessor) is one of four that are interconnected by pieces of old hose pipe. The rain from the shed roof feeds one of the water butts via a gutter and down pipe. Then the water finds its own level in the other three water butts so we have a huge storage system that is a massive help during dry spells. We can fill cans under the tap on one of the water butts or dip into the old barrels from the top.

Back to compost – we happily accept that partially rotted twigs etc may end up being spread on the ground. However a recent visit to my sister Gilly and her husband gave a demonstration of what we ought to do once the rotting process is well under way. She had open ‘bins’ like ours but they have gone as she has moved the contents into two plastic bins, the ones that look like daleks, with a lid on the top and a door at the bottom to scoop out the compost.

While we were there she spent a large chunk of an unseasonably hot September afternoon improving her compost by sieving it. The photos below show this.

  • Compost into bucket
  • From bucket to sieve
  • Sieving into wheelbarrow – look at the lovely fine compost in the barrow.

All this seems quite calm and relaxing with the low sun and lovely tidy set up. But it was very hard work!

What was left in the sieve was tipped into a garden sack ready to be returned to the compost bin once it was empty.

So a few ideas on composting that seem to work well whether the starting point is ancient home-made bins or well contained daleks.

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