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in Tools and techniques
When us Compost masters (no sniggering at the back there) go out to do events in the Norfolk area, a lot of people say that they have been filling their compost bin for years and there is no compost. Well there probably is... you have to turn the contents about every 2 or 3 weeks, keep adding to it (50% greens and 50% browns - nitrogen and carbon. Browns being scrunched up newspaper etc.)
Then there is the big challenge, how to access that compost. Some gardeners just tip the whole thing over or lift the bin up to reveal the contents. I would find that rather messy on the gravel where the bins are situated.
So here is how I do it;
First put down some tarpaulin or plastic, an old shower curtain would do and I use a small coal shovel and the compost stirrer that I bought from The Centre for Alternative Technology years ago, but Amazon also do them.
Having taken the little apron off at the front, I start raking the compost out with the stirrer and the shovel
I have not sieved this compost as I want to add lots of 'roughage' to a new bit of flower bed that was under the lawn and very compacted rather poor soil.
In the compost you may find small plants trying to grow in a ghostly fashion without light; I put those aside to chop up and add to the next bin
This is unsieved compost; black gold as it will really help condition the old soil from under the lawn. I will add organic chicken manure pellets as there is not a great deal of nutrition in compost.
And here it has been dug in. (The white line at the edge of the lawn is where I used diluted white emulsion and a small brush to define the new lawn edge)
Artjak, "Err" Um yes maybe but why make an easy job hard???
Two large wooden bins plenty of air holes, up against a brick wall for heat and out of the prevailing wind. Fill one, a slatted plank front for ease of access to turn and use the man made accelerator, once full cover the top put the lid down and let it warm up, meanwhile fill t'other.
Turn out into barrow and throw back a couple of times then use. The engineers mantra is do not make an easy job hard, do not use ten actions when one will do the job, you know it is ready when it only half fills what was at the start a crammed bin.
Frank, sadly not all of us have the space for those large wooden bins; wish I had a big garden like yours
Forgot to say; from my medium size bin; Started 15/6/2013, finished filling it 30/9 2013, emptied 18/4/2014 I got 8 buckets of un-sieved compost and will get 2 or3 buckets of sieved to go on new veg bed.
Glanced at my copy of 'The Garden' magazine whilst eating dinner. I came across some advice with regard to the emptying of the compost bin. Namely, take care when emptying. There may be toads, slowworms, mice and hedgehogs living in the compost bin. Maybe even a wasp nest- so do take care when aerating, turning and emptying your compost heap or bin. The thought of the wasp nest made me shiver!
Scott, In all my years of compost starting on middens, hot boxes and the last thirty years my wooden bins, have never seen anything but worms and snails. The snails get mortified the worms returned to the compost.
The wasps decided to live in comfort under the bungalow, entry through an airbrick, I hated doing it but a powder the police gave me sorted them out in a couple of days.
Thanks Artjak, I know I need to 'turn' mine properly, I have been giving it a 'wriggle' (don't laugh!) with a fork, but now I know how to do it properly I will do. After your previous advice I have been making sure I add paper and telling my OH to only add 1 mower collector thingy (do you like my technical terms?) of grass when mowing the lawn. As of next week he won't be adding any for a while as he is feeding it So I may get him to put some from the next cut into spare bags we have so I can top up the CB, is that a good idea?
Frank, I don't have enough room to do as you say, I would very much like to store manure but at the moment am not sure where that would go. Our garden is quite big, but my patch isn't, although I am working on it
Orchid Lady, My grass cuttings go to the green waste after weed and feed, they pile it high and it gets very hot, you get it back in named compost of which I am at times dubious.
Turning compost no matter what size the bin, I toss mine out into the wheelbarrow then toss it back into the bin, the whole idea is to get air into the compost. It tends to compact if left as I have LECTURED on here Warmth Air and dampness not wet is what makes good compost, my bins are large because they heat better.
Horse manure, can be dumped on the ground behind a bush or, black bin bags with holes punched in with a garden fork and dumped out of site, they do not take up that much space and think of the goodness a year later. Stick a row of pots with plants in front of them.
I also have 2 metre cube size wooden containers, the compost gets forked from one to the other, then gets put in those giant blue containers, since Christmas, i have enough compost to put on the long new bed we are making, just the remains of the christmas paper still there, it didnt rot down very will but is dug in and can rot down in there. Also had enough for the bean trench.
Composting here has become a obsession, a good one i may add, i spend a long time on it, but it has great rewards.
My garden had been neglected for quite a few years, so has benefitted from all our hard work compost making.
Well worth it if you have the space.
Lyn so true, with modern composts made mainly from council waste I doubt its value, mixed with your own compost at least you know what it is getting.
As Monty pointed out last night it does not all need to be completely rotted down, some plants thrive on some rougher stuff at the base when planted.
My preference is to fill one box whilst using the other which is why it gets tossed out into the barrow and back, it gets plenty of air, fiddling with the top will let some air in but it compacts lower down, we can all compost from the largest to a bucket, the larger the heap or container the faster it rots down is all.
Orchid L, 'Wriggle your compost' sounds like a good song
Lyn, a lot of Christmas paper I believe has a high plastic content and therefore will not rot; also I don't know about the toxicity of the inks; I know newspapers are ok these days.
iGrow, you are wonderfully organised and I bet your compost is fab
Orchid L., I would follow any instructions on the weeding label about how soon to add cuttings to compost, I thought it was 2 or 3 cuts later, and you would want to rake up any cuttings in the meantime.
I grow some comfrey in a pot on my allotment and every now and then throw some of the leaves into my primary bin to help accelerate decomposition. I use two wooden bins and empty the contents into bin 2 at the end of winter and I think the comfrey def seems to speed things up.
Madeleine51, I have heard that both comfrey and nettles are really good accelerators. I use a shovel of horse manure from time to time.
I'm very lucky to have the space and I've just built 3 "bays" 8ftx 4ft x 4ft high. As has been said, fill one, turn it into bay 2 , fill 1 again, chuck 2 into 3 , 1 into 2 and start again. by the time 1 is full, 3 has been emptied.
Hosta I am always soooo pleased to hear about people composting
My compost bin is a meter square, wood, homemade and fairly new. I add Comfrey leaves but not too many nettles. I leave those for the butterflies.
Chris, do you only have one? You may find it easier with 2; one to fill and one to 'cook'.
Artkaj,I compost everything. In parts of our garden we have 6" of heavy clay soil over solid rock. I need all the compost I can make.