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17/10/2012 at 16:45

I know not to put cooked food and dog poop in there (pity, because I've got a big dog), but I was wondering about putting things like citrus peel and banana skins, can I put those in?

I know to put things in in layers (so a layer of kitchen waste, followed by something like shredded paper or torn up newspaper, so the mixture doesn't get too wet), what is the point of layering if I then go and turn it all in a couple of weeks?  Is this just so everything is uniformly mixed (so the compost bin doesn't have a load of paper at the bottom, followed by a load of slimy kitchen waste?

New to this composting lark, hoping it will save me some money come spring, the how-to videos don't really go into enough detail.  I also try to chop up the waste as much as possible, so there is more surface area for the bacteria to work on.  Can I also add a layer of manure to the mixture?  I'm hoping to get some at half-term from the local stables.

17/10/2012 at 16:58

I put citrus peel in mine, but some advice against this as it might make the medium too acid for the worms. I put banana skins in, but some advise against this as they might attract rodents. Yes you can add manure - I don't think anyone would advise against that!

Mixing the compost, in my understanding, improves aeration, and hastens the composting process.
I must admit, I'm quite lazy about the layering, just sling it into the bin as it becomes available, but I do mix it frequently. I have 3 dalek bins, and use a tool like this http://www.primrose.co.uk/-p-2083.html?adtype=pla&kwd=&gclid=CJDC94S1iLMCFWXJtAodUDYAAw to mix it up.

One of our regular posters, Palaisglide, is very knowledgable about all compost related issues, hopefully he'll pick up the thread.

17/10/2012 at 16:59

I am not an expert yet, but just started a new bin; a shovel of horse manure at the bottom followed by whatever I'm clearing from the garden, excluding evergreens and very woody stuff. I layer it by shredding envelopes as we are not allowed to recycle them. I don't bother chopping things minutely; it is going to take 5 or 6 months to rot so they tend to break down. Every 4 inches (100 millimetres) I add a sprinkle of compost accelerator, from any garden shop. If it is looking very dry I sprinkle a bit of water. Some Starbucks will give you spent coffee grounds to add; this I believe makes compost more acidic - my soil is v. alkali so that is good for this garden. Also you could add stinging nettles BEFORE they set seed as they are supposed to be good. Also the pulp from juicing fruit and veg. I believe it will not have as many nutrients as shop bought compost, but you can add plant food.

17/10/2012 at 17:12

You can be as obsessive or relaxed as you wish and still end up with usable compost so don't worry too much about layering. My mum has composted since the 70's and laughs at all the detailed instructions given out on what you must and must not do now that it is fashionable.

You do need to have a mix of green (eg garden and kitchen waste) and brown (dry eg paper, cardboard, dry leaves etc) but don't get too worried about proportions or the size of layers - if you are putting stuff in on a daily basis as the result of cooking/gardening and reading the paper - the layers will probably be fairly even anyway. Just remember that it it goes slimy and smelly you need more brown. As you have said if you are planning to regularly turn is the layers will all get mixed up anyway.

Turning it will make it compost quicker but is not essential if you are happy (and have room to wait). The biggest factor in getting compost wuickly is the size of your heap/bin - 1m x1m  - is the minimum to have a 'hot' heap. If smaller and not turned you may have to wait 12 months before you have usable compost but it will keep reducing in size so there will be room for you to keep adding your kitchen waste. When I was working fulltime we just kept adding stuff to the bin and the only turn it got was the odd stir at the top and then when we emptied it once a year to get the fully composted stuff from the bottom.

You can compost any veg or fruit waste - bananas and citrus peel are great (it's worms in wormeries that don't like too much citrus). And yes add manure by all means but make sure its not too fresh (as that can get quite a time to become usable on your garden). A spadeful of garden soil can help add bacteria/worms etc especially if your compost bin is not sitting on the ground (eg on soil not a patio/drive).

The benefit of compost is not really the nutrients but the fact it adds organic matter to your soil which is essential if it is too have a good structure which retains nutrients and allows plants to obtain the nutrients and water it needs

17/10/2012 at 17:19

Mummy Muddy Paws - have I said before how much I like your name ? -  it sounds as if you've done good research. Creating more surface area is a good idea on things that will otherwise rot down rather slowly. I find citrus is fine unless you use industrial quantities of the stuff, banana skins I tend to chop small otherwise they take ages to go, teabags don't go in because they have a plastic element in the paper which means they don't compost well and eggshells stay forever, it seems, unless you grind them up. I don't turn my compost, just stir it occasionally and wait.

17/10/2012 at 17:24

Good point re the teabags although didn't realise it was plastic that made them linger! I always mash mine up a bit before they go in the bin and that seems to work.

17/10/2012 at 17:34

ChrissieB, I've only recently found out about the teabags, I always wondered why there were little papery ghosts left in the compost.

17/10/2012 at 17:46

When I think about it, I stil often end up picking the ghost bags out when I use the compost - just like the odd bits of wrapper, plant labels etc which always seem to get in there however much I think I've being careful when putting stuff in .

17/10/2012 at 17:47

I put in banana etc. Any kitchen waste. Don't use tea bags but have loose tea, dregs always go in. Used to put egg shells in but don't any more. Stir when \i think about it.

I restrict amount of grass clippings that go in. about 3 inch layer every noe and again

Have 2 tardis and expecting a 3rd. One to de-compose, one for use, one to fill up. Very surprised at how good compost is that comes out. Only my 2nd composting year

17/10/2012 at 17:51

I allow slightly crushed eggshells, as they make a ready made slug deterrent.

17/10/2012 at 17:58

I got given one of these a couple of years ago:

http://s3.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/15032.jpg?width=350

 It sieves the compost, any twiggy bits, eggshells etc get slung back into the bin currently being filled, they break down eventually!

17/10/2012 at 18:00

Ooh, figrat, how useful, I think I'll start my Christmas list with that.

17/10/2012 at 18:12

Didn't know compost was sieved. Is it essential?

17/10/2012 at 18:13

Maybe it's personal preference, but I always do.

17/10/2012 at 18:28

Hi Figrat - that's a super gadget!  where can I get one?  I sieve the compost which comes from my black "Dalek" type bins and that would make things so much simpler.  Like you, I put what won't go through the sieve back into one of the bins - I usually find that the only things which don't decompose first time round are avocado skins - why is that?

17/10/2012 at 18:30

Not essential maybe, but if you use it for seed sowing or for other little things, big bits make life difficult for the baby roots - plus, it just doesn't look pretty - which is not a consideration for some folk, and is for others.  I sling the big bits back in the bin as well - when we started it took so long for the bins to be productive I thought someone in China must have my compost - but now it produces well.  Cannot turn and mix unfortuanately, but it does get there in the end anyway. 

17/10/2012 at 18:31

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=compost+sieve+rotary&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-gb:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=&redir_esc=&ei=Get-ULjLE8ix0QWVoIGoAQ

Take your pick!

I think avocado skins do break down eventually - think I've been recycling the stones for a few years now though. But I'm hopeful...

17/10/2012 at 18:33

@ bookertoo - why do you have problems turning and mixing, if you don't mind me asking?

17/10/2012 at 18:37

C list I think. Thanks for link

17/10/2012 at 19:27

Just a thought - weeds, especially tenacious perennials like bindweed, dandelion roots and ground elder, can't be composted safely on a domestic heap because it just doesn't get hot enough. But you could try a Roman trick, i.e. submerging them in a lidded bucket full of water until the contents become indistinguishable (fully rotted). Then the contents can be added.

The lid is because it can get pretty smelly.

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