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Plans for the re-design of the garden are going well (if you ignore the whole a) huge demands on my chainsaw b) saving up for all of this c) several tonnage of top soil that needs moving d) fact that we've not actually done more than sweep the leaves up so far).
But one thing that got me thinking was what kind of compost bin is best for a garden.
I used to have a Dalek in my old garden but I wasn't there long enough to harvest from it so I've no idea if it would have proven to be a huge success (I mean it was for the family of rats who lived in it despite my throwing carrots peelings onto their little heads in the morning...) There's a Dalek in the current garden and two somewhat rotten wooden frames full of grass clippings and all look quite fresh in terms of prospective compost.
In your eyes, what makes a really good compost bin? Is plastic fantastic or should I be getting the wood saw out and making wooden frames similar to the one Clueless put up recently for us to marvel at the fantastic handy work.
Ideas tips pictures and advice would be gladly appreciated!
I would get at least a double wooden one with removable slatted fronts to make it easy to remove/turn compost. Place them on bare earth with a piece of this http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Flattened-Expanded-Metal-Screen/dp/B004VRM27C
beneath them - it won't stop really determined rats but it will go a long way to deter them!
If it is speedy compost that you are after, make or buy a 'tumbling' bin. This gets frequently rotated and speeds up process. The drawback, as far as I understand, is that you fill it all at once. The hot bin is great, but costs about £130. It's fairly new, but have seen it work at Royal Norfolk Show and was pretty impressed. You can even put meat and fish in there once you have got it up to temperature and working properly. I'm hoping the price will come down.
Thanks Artjak I'll have a look into those. Speed isn't really an issue, but it would be nice to avoid the major pitfalls of compost bins when I get them. The Dalek for instance didn't seem easy to mix and aerate but was smell free and easy to install / plonk on the ground.
Dove - I get the feeling that the neighbours cat would be the better bet at deterring rats. Its certainly doing a good job of ensuring only a plucky robin gets near my feeders!
In my opinion there are several things you need to take into consideration. Firstly, how big is your garden? How much will you compost? If you have a large garden a couple of daleks will not be enough. (I have 6!) If you have the room and someone to help you can recycle pallets into bins effectively and have several side by side - one to fill, one composting, one ready to use.
To me one of the most overlooked questions when talking about composting is the siting of the bins. We want them out of the way, yes, but we also want them in the sun. The heat generated by the heap and the extra heat from the sun (plus turning the heap) will speed up the whole process.
I am very happy with my daleks - easy to access at the bottom, you can set them on wire mesh to stop vermin accessing them (never had the problem) and I turn them by twisting an old fork into the mix. They are not permanent and therefore easy to move if you fancy a change or realise siting was a mistake. They are also reasonably cheap to buy or to acquire for free on freegle or having sharp eyes when a for sale/sold sign goes up
I use an open pallet type bin for my leaf mould which works well and put a pallet on top intially to stop the leaves blowing away.
Dainti. Thank you ever so much for this.
The garden is large (not huge, just large) with half of it given over to lawn which I think would fill a Dalek very quickly (in the past I was putting half of the grass in the green bin for recycling and half in the compost as so to not overwhelm the compost bin as all too clearly I can remember fathers green slimy mounds where he would dump the grass clippings from his huge front lawn and nothing ever seemed to happen to the pile). We also have all our vegetable waste from the kitchen and lots of hedging / trees to keep pruned not to mention the shredded paper from the office (we try to compost everything we can).
Positioning is a bit more tricky. I'm thinking of clearing cat poo corner which is lined by a hedge one side and a fence the other to site the bins there (as its tucked up out of the way by the vegetable plot, I'll be able to paddle up the footpath in the winter rather than going over the grass, and it wont provide an easy access point for anyone thinking they can retrieve lost footballs from the school next door) but I'm not sure how much sun it'll get there. I'll see if I can think of anywhere else suitable!
It looks like two or three pallet builds may be the way forward.
I have two daleks and they seem to work pretty fast. I had usable compost last year from the previous residents which I used for potting on. I have forked them a bit but not too worried about that as I put stuff in in thin layers using shredded/crumpled paper in between to create air pockets and stop it getting too wet. Woody stuff I shred and either use as mulch or compost. Leaves, I made a simple plastic mesh cylinder held up with garden canes threaded through and some are in jute sacks. If you're getting rats then your bin is too dry and cosy for them. Grass must be put in in thin layers. I also use thin layers of grass as a mulch around trees and shrubs, keeps weeds down and adds nitrogen to the soil but if your grass has produced seed send this to the council waste otherwise you will have very weedy compost. The rangers at the local country park use pallets but then they have loads of space/waste.
Just to put my tuppenceworth in - I use daleks (and I find it most amusing that everyone on here seems to accept that 'daleks' is their correct name ). I have two and I just put compostable stuff equally in each dalek. It takes about a year to rot down but I get good compost out of the dalek's bottom (as it were!!) twice a year.
The compost is so good now that I find I am able to mix it with vermiculite and use it in my pots and containers both outside and inside the house, including my garlic pots, and seven large potato sacks. Once the sacks are finished, the whole lot goes on the bedding. I have cut down on my purchase of multi purpose compost almost to nil.
They are positioned together at the side of my house which faces south west but there are mature trees all around so the sun is on them on and off in Summer from 2pm until 5pm, and in Winter, hardly at all due to the sun being so low.
Mixing has become a lot easier since purchasing a compost aerator. It's the type which is like a metal pole with foldable 'wings' on the end. The wings fold into the pointed pole as you push it into the compost, then spread out again as you pull the pole back up, bringing the compost mix up with it. I am only slight but I have no problem with it and it's been a godsend.
Grass is a great natural accelerator and if you don't have a lawn then I'd ask a neighbour if you can have their clippings. It's amazing how hot the bins get after putting a good layer of grass clippings in. Other than that, I make sure I use the secateurs to chop anything like stems into small pieces (It's actually quite an enjoyable task!), so that they rot down easier.
I'm sure that you are aware, Clarington, that it takes a year or so to get good compost, so whatever you decide to do, you will have to be a bit patient at first. Once it gets going and the worms find it, you will have more compost that you can use.
why not make your own with the pallet collars of ebay £2.50 a layer that way you can add and take away the layers
Thanks James. I'm not sure if that wood would be pressure treated or if it would rot really quickly (not good when you're thinking long term composting!) Are they what you've used for yours?
Does anyone have an experience of "Green Fingers" ? I'm tempted to get two of these
(based on them being prettier than daleks and cheap enough to make it not worth my buying the raw materials).
At least now I know what the plastic dalek types aren't all that bad - I was worried that perhaps they didn't let enough air circulate and the contents just sweated instead of rotted. They may turn out to be the better option (or at least easier) as with the strong lids and robust style I know we can keep the visiting inquisitive dogs out and it can be easily hidden away from view with some trellis.
I've seen some very pretty bee hive compost bins which we could at least turn into a focal point rather than an eye sore and move them to a sunnier position but the costs just make my wallet run away in fear!!
I guess I'd best learn carpentry over Christmas!
No I used Pressure treated and then painted then with Timbercare that good for five years I cost me £60.00 to make and is 1600x800x900 high I hope it's going to last for the next 15 years at least all you need is a saw, nails and a tape for the compost bin
how about this one
Your compost bins are better sited out of the sun.
The compost heats up enough with the bacterial action going on and if in full sun temperatures can rise and fall quite dramatically which can slow down or kill off your lovely bacteria/worms etc. Best in semi or complete shade. Adding grass will speed things up if the heap gets too cold.
Personally I prefer working with the slatted bins (at least two of) Ease of access being the main reason and ease of filling too. I find the daleks ok for a few leaves, twigs, cut back stems etc. but when you have a large garden you are talking wheelbarrow loads of compostable stuff rather than the odd trug full and an open fronted or removeable fronted compost bin is far more practical.
Ah now I understand. So where I'm thinking of them going might be best after all as there should be reasonable shelter rather than full sun all day.
The open front design is sounding very appealing - especially since I have a badly damaged back that doesn't appreciate lifting / moving / breathing which would make emptying a bin a bit of a faff.
Do people prefer their bins to have lids? Or is open topped the way to go?
I just chuck a piece of natural carpet on the top. Stops stuff blowing away, helps keep it hot and easy to leave off if you want some rain on the heap. Rots down eventually too so get another piece every 2/3 years.
Gardening for a living means I like things that are as quick and easy as possible lol.
I have two of the Green Fingers bins - absolutely no problems with GF - I've had several things from them, reasonable quality for the price, good delivery etc.
BUT I wish I'd ordered the removable front type - ever since I hurt my back I have to get OH to fork the compost out into a barrow - if I could remove the fronts I could do it myself
I agree, shade or semi shade - they heat up through bacterial action/decompostion not sunshine
Clarrington, the bin you gave the link for; I can't see how you would get the compost out without dis-assembling it. The link from Clueless seemed a better design for emptying.
As regards position, it's best for the compost to be protected somewaht from icy winter winds. My Daleks are protected pretty much on 3 sides, but get part sun.
Thanks all I've just found out our council offers by one get one half price on the Daleks so we're still undecided as to what to have. We might go for Daleks now for cheapness and replace them in a few years time.
Who knew even the simple things in gardening could be so hard to choose!!