As we were in danger of not being able to fit anything else in, the time had finally come to sort out the compost bin.
If you haven’t got a compost bin it’s definitely something to consider. Composting has two main advantages.
- You can recycle lots of your household waste.
- You get free compost!
Which compost bin to choose?
There are lots of different types of compost bins ranging from a ‘dalek’ type to wormeries. You can even build your own using reclaimed wood. Check your local council’s website to see if there are any special offers available to you. Leeds residents can find out about the Leeds City Council offer here.
What can go into a compost bin?
You need to make sure you have a balance of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials so your compost bin has the right conditions. If your compost bin is too dry or too wet the materials won’t rot. Greens include fruit and vegetable peelings, tea bags and coffee grounds, grass cuttings and plant debris. Don’t add cooked food, dairy products or cat and dog faeces to your compost bin. Browns include cardboard egg boxes, cardboard tubes, egg shells and shredded paper. Chop or tear larger items before placing in the bin as this will speed up the time it takes to rot down.
Looking after your compost bin
Try to turn your compost occasionally. This will let air in, mix up the greens and browns and allow you to check whether the compost is too dry or too wet. If it looks too dry, add more greens, if it looks too wet add more browns.
Emptying your compost bin
The easiest way to empty a dalek type bin is to lift the bin off the contents and place the bin in a different part of the garden. Then any compost that isn’t ready can be put straight back into the bin. Unfortunately there isn’t enough room in my garden for the compost bin to go in a different position. Instead I placed the still decomposing materials into bags and buckets whilst I sieved the compost. At the end of the process all the materials which hadn’t turned into compost were placed back in the compost bin, ready for fresh materials to be added.
At the beginning it’s easy to tell what hasn’t rotted down, but as you work your way down the bin usable compost is mixed in with still rotting materials. This is where you need to use a garden sieve to separate the two. Don’t use too small a grade on the sieve otherwise it will take a very long time! You can always sieve again if the finished compost isn’t fine enough for what you need.
When you empty your bin you’ll also get to see the rich variety of life that lives in your compost bin. It was really interesting to see which creatures lived in each layer of the compost. Firstly, hundreds of woodlice were devouring the recently added materials.
The next layer down contained materials that had started to rot down and this was where the worms were busy.
Finally, in the almost finished layer centipedes were scurrying around.
Using your compost
You can use your compost as a mulch around plants, to top up containers, or mix with garden soil and leafmould to make your own potting compost. Find out how to make leafmould here.
Compost does take time to make but it’s a really good way of recycling what would otherwise be thrown away. I’ve included some websites below if you want to find out more about composting. Happy composting!