Time to Get Composting
Our Composting Campaign is starting to heat up. With Horsham Council charging £39 a year for brown top bin collections (as of Jan 2019), now’s the time to think about setting up your own mini fertilizer factory. Why transport green waste half way across the county when you can make great compost yourself?
Everything you wanted to know about composting (but were afraid to ask)
The focal point of the campaign was a ‘Get Composting’ evening, in May 2013. A big bunch of compost gurus and wanabees came along to Steyning Cricket Club to learn all about it, have a tour of some of some “hot heaps” of various designs at the Rublees Allotments, and quiz our compost consultants. If you missed it, here’s the essentials.
Tips to get you started
Compost produced from green household and garden waste is highly nutritious and can be used to spread over your vegetable patch or as a mulch on your flower beds. Perhaps you think it’s a messy business? That all you will get is a nasty smelly heap which might attract rodents? WELL THINK AGAIN! To produce lovely compost for using all round the garden and in your pots, all you need is a suitable container and some basic information.
There are 4 basic types of containers for making your own compost:
- A traditional large ‘muck heap’ with three sides, easy to add to and dig out, but because of the space it takes up really only suitable for large gardens.
- A wooden 4-sided container, one side removable to allow easy access. Usually about a 60-100cms square, easy to make, small enough to site in an odd corner of most gardens.
- A recycled plastic ‘Dalek’. Cheap to buy: councils often have special deals. Two sizes to fit most gardens. Not so easy to ‘turn/aerate’ but much neater than the wooden type and very efficient.
- The ‘tumbler’ type of composter. These certainly make it easier to ‘turn’ the rotting material but can get very heavy when full, and are not the most attractive of garden artifacts. However they have their fans!
So! Once you have decided on your composter and got it into position, what are you going to put into it? Much more than you would think! But the most important thing to remember is to mix your greens with your browns, that is, to aim to have equal quantities of leafy stuff and twiggy/papery stuff. Into your brand new composter you can put:
- Greens: all your kitchen vegetable waste + tea bags and coffee grounds, your green garden waste (except roots of perennial weeds), pet and human hair (yes!), the contents of your Hoover bag (yes!)
- Browns: dry sticks and stems and twiggy bits from the garden (cut into short lengths, they decompose quicker), torn-up cardboard, scrunched up paper (not however, the glossy/coloured stuff you get with junk mail), shredded invoices/bank statements etc, torn-up newspaper.
All you have to remember is not to have too thick a layer of any one item, to balance the greens and the browns, and to ‘turn’ the material regularly to allow the air in which keeps it decomposing nicely. It is excellent (but not essential) if you can find room for two heaps then you can fill one and leave it to ‘cook’ while you fill the other one.
How long does it take? It depends on how often you ‘turn’ the heap to aerate it and what sort of a mix you have. It can be as quick as 2 months in a ‘tumbler’ – but in a normal heap it’s best to leave it a year at least. Some people shred their garden waste before adding it to the heap, this helps it decompose much quicker and looks neater when you finally spread it round your roses!
Turning compost really helps to speed it up, as it get air in and mixes up the brew. If you have several different heaps next to each other, moving it from one to another at the end of the season will do this job nicely. You can buy various types of aerators that you can use for mixing compost in situ. Here’s one that only costs a tenner. You screw or jab it into your heap, then lift the handle to get some air in and mix it around.
Useful links – for beginners
West Sussex’s Get Composting website – with special deals on composters, wormeries, and various composting accessories.
Royal Horticultural Society Composting Advice – if they don’t know, who does?
The Ultimate Compost Guide – from the excellent Robinsonloveplants website – a comprehensive guide including a video on how to make compost tea!
The Ultimate Guide to Making Compost – similar title, but this one is from the US-based Gardening Mentor website.
Composting pages on the Recycle Now website – some good info on why compost in the first place, how to do it, and how to use that great compost you make.
My life in compost – a three part article on the trials and tribulations of composting by local tree surgeon Simon Zec, that first appeared in Your Steyning in 2010.
Horsham District Council’s website – where you can find out about the new collection charges, and sign up if you want to continue to get your brown top bins collected.
More links – now you’re an expert !
How to compost weed seeds – a video from the BBC showing how you break down weed seeds in a bag.
Composting woody waste – an article on the RHS website on how to deal with the tough stuff.
Composting food waste in Bokashi bins – this is a traditional Japanese method that uses a mix of a mix of bacteria, fungi and yeast to turn your kitchen scraps & leftovers including meat, fish, fruit & vegetable waste into liquid feed & nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden. Click here for info.
Ideas for re-using Brown-Top Bins
With the Council starting to charge for Brown-Top bin collections (it costs £37/year in 2016/17) you may have decided to save money and not to sign up for this. So what do you do with your old bin? Taking it to the tip and adding it to landfill would be sacrilege. They are big, strong, and mobile – so surely there must be some creative alternative uses for them. Yes there are:
- Turning them into composters – drill plenty of holes in the bottom to get air in and let moisture drain, and you have a brilliant composter on wheels.
- Turn them into a mobile water butt – by adding a tap.
If you need help converting it, Mike’s Handyman Service can help. Call 07799804505 to get a quote.