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Compost bin help for a complete beginner



  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 14,904
    I have acquired a number of plastic bins, generally free, as the council gave them away some years ago, and then people use them for one season or two and then want rid of it.  I find the ones with holes in , the water evaporates out and the stuff on the side gets too dry.  I always have mine on a soil base, usually in a very shady part of the garden, currently beneath the top oak. It is the bacteria that generate the heat to cook the compost, not  from the sun.  If you know anyone with a heap with a lot of brandlings in, ask them for some as a starter.I have willingly supplied  some friends and neighbours with a cupful. Makes a change to a cup of sugar.  Having worms in your heap will produce a better compost.  I pile everything in, cut small is better, and then it heats up. I then turn it or add more grass if it looks dry, and it heats up again. Then the worms move in.  Worms seem to move in and out of whichever bin they like, presumably because of the right  conditions.  If you have a lot of shrub clippings or hedge clippings, an electric shredder is invaluable. Everything rots eventually, but the smaller the pieces are , the faster the compost is made.  Again, shredders seem to be something a person buys when they chop a large shrub down, and then want rid after a season or two. Look on ebay or similar sites for one local. When my trusty alko 1100 finally died, I got an alko 1300 practically unused for £30 locally.  Impact shredders cut it finer than the quiet big screw type, that chunk it rather than shred it. 
    If your compost is too dry, water it with  diluted urine, the nitrogen in the urea acts as a good activator for bacteria.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    edited June 2020
    pyra88 said:

    How often should you turn it? And should you wait until it's full to turn it, or is it OK to top it up slowly? 

    It's another one of those, 'how long is a piece of string' things when it comes to composting. Composting runs from simply putting what one has in a heap and leaving it to actual science!

    There are 'hot heaps' which get turned as much as every other day. The key thing is the temperature, it gets to 60 C time to turn (going over this can start to reduce the carbon content). It's the real science end where exact weights of greens and browns and moisture content are important and composting can be complete in as little as three weeks.

    That's one extreme, there is plenty of good compost made that is turned just once or twice in a season.

    Then the other extreme is like you say, just let it build up topping it up slowly and never turn. This is what I do in my plastic dalek because it is full of worms that are doing all the work of turning for me.

    It starts to get clearer when you get going with it and can 'read' what the compost is doing. Right temperature, right moisture etc.

    It's not necessary but I have a thermometer for measuring temperature at the center of a heap. I've understood composting better since I bought it.

    It might help when you start to have a clear idea in your mind which of the techniques below fit your situation and the material you have available.

    1. Hot heap. Careful preparation of materials, moisture content for fast composting (great if you have lots of materials to choose from so the mix can be really accurate). Monitoring and turning regularly produces best and fastest results.

    2. Cold heap. Whatever becomes available layered. (what most people do in open heaps) Slower than a hot heap but eventually still produces compost, a lot of the work is done by fungi and bugs. Turning occasionally speeds things up and will produce a more even compost.

    3. Vermicompost. 90% worm action (you need the right worms, not all worms are born equal when composting). Some bacterial action keeps it artificially warm, mostly good for veg scraps that appeal to the worms. No need to turn, the worms will mix everything up for you.

  • PyraPyra Central Scotland Posts: 139
    Thanks everyone, this has been extremely helpful. I've ordered myself a dalek, this place are very reasonable. 
    Thanks @GemmaJF , that's really useful. I'm probably looking at a cold heap. 
    One last question. I have cats that use woodchip litter. Can I chuck the used stuff in the compost heap (taking out the poo, obviously, just the remaining woodchip with a bit of cat wee)? 
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    You can compost cat litter. You have the right choice with wood chip (clay/sand etc not being suitable), sawdust is good too. The usual advice is to leave it to break down for at least 18 months if it is intended for food crops, just to ensure there are no pathogens that could pass to humans.

    I'm pretty sure you could compost the poo too! I might though personally go for a separate specific composter for pet waste if adding poo to it. Probably wouldn't be high on my list of things to use on the veg plot, though probably nothing wrong with it if the precaution of leaving it for 18 months is followed. There are plenty of plastic composters specifically for pet waste on the web. 

    In all though if you want to add just the pee soaked litter in with the rest of the compost, I don't see a problem other than possibly it won't smell great when new material is added.
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 3,051
    edited June 2020
    Human wee is recommended for the compost heap so I don't think cat wee would be a problem. Ours will only use the clay-type litter though  :( . Fussy puss. And I think I'd give the poo a miss.
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 14,904

    compost aerator to stab in and wiggle around. I find a border fork does the job.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • PyraPyra Central Scotland Posts: 139
    Thanks @JennyJ and @GemmaJF, I'll add the litter in, it's for flower beds and trees, not vegetables or fruit. 
    @fidgetbones , I was wondering if a fork would do! 
    Thanks everyone, this is all very useful. 

  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,573
    I bought from of the compost turners for my dalek bin but found I wasn't tall or strong enough to use it well enough. 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,573
    Sorry, got interrupted by a phone call. I meant to carry on and say I now just pull the dalek bin right off, turn the compost on the ground and then pile it back in again.
  • PurpleRosePurpleRose North YorkshirePosts: 456
    Treeface said:

    People on here have said also not to add leylandii or cupressus clippings because they're acidic. I have a lot of these so I had no choice but to add some into my compost. I think I have been careful not to add too much.

    Between our house and next door, we have a leylandii Bush. My neightbour added some clippings to her bin. It just did not decompose. 
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