I don’t claim to be an expert on this but after ten years of trying, I think we have found a successful recipe for good compost and thought I’d share it with others.
We tried several of the plastic deep composters that councils offer at reduced rates or are for sale in garden centres everywhere. These never really worked for us. We found they got too hot and the compost never seemed to break down very well apart from right at the bottom. It’s also really difficult to get stuck in with forking it over unless you’re ridiculously tall, which neither of us are! I prefer to use them as growing tubs for things like potatoes these days.
To make good compost you need at least two bins. To be honest we have given up with conventional bins and have made our own using whatever came to hand. We don’t have spare money to spend hundreds of pounds on fancy pre made structures and even wood itself is expensive these days.
We have reused various wooden structures such as old decking and wooden garden edging to build our own composters. We have two structures placed a little way away from each other. This is because of practicalities. Our garden is long, but narrow and we have to make the best use of space possible. We’ve also found that long and fairly low structures work really well-we still get the same capacity but they’re much easier to work over and maintain. They’re not big by any means either, approximately 2.5 metres x 1 metre. We’ve also managed to incorporate them into natural hiding places within the garden.
The biggest composter is for fresh waste to rot down. It’s placed on top of concrete because it’s the only place we could fit it, but as its for rotting down, it seems to work fine. You’d be amazed how many worms, slugs and even the odd frog and toad have found their way into it. In this we put almost everything we can including grass cuttings, cardboard, paper, kitchen waste etc. The cardboard and paper is important to ensure that the compost doesn’t get too wet. It’s important to fork it over every other week or so. I have a kitchen waste bin inside the house and take it out to be emptied every week but probably only fork it in properly every so often. To be perfectly honest, I tend to tip it out at different spots each time to even it out and this seems to do the trick. There’s very little work involved really, although my husband is much more thorough than I am with this to be honest, so I’m sure that helps.
The second composter is for partially composted material from the other one. So, when the big one is getting full, we transfer a load into the second one and fork it through thoroughly again.
It is possible to use partially rotting compost straight onto beds which I have done for my raspberries and they loved it. The compost will still rot down and it’s a cheap way of providing enrichment to established beds. Every time I do it, the fruit seem to love it so it must be good.
Both composters are covered loosely with membrane and weighed down with bricks or logs. We’ve found this works a treat and it makes for easier access.
The other bonus is that it gives the kids a lot of fun helping out with the turning over of the compost, helps them understand about how the whole circle of life thing works and has given us a few surprises along the way with toads jumping out at us on occasion!