Building wooden compost bins

I currently produce a good amount of compost annually in my five plastic Dalek bins, but am thinking of replacing three of these with wooden 3 foot cubes. I would like to ask if the wooden bins should have ventilation slots cut in each plank, or if the planks should just butt up with no gaps? The ones I inherited long ago had gaps and worked fine, but I see the ones you can buy in modular form ready to go have no gaps, hence my question as to which is best? Does the heap heat up quicker without air gaps?
Many thanks.
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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 25,322
    I'm never sure about it either @Capelglyn, and I no longer have bins at all as I couldn't get compost hot enough in the only place I could put them.
    Mine had spaces but I used a breathable type of cover I had to help with warmth, while still allowing plenty of airflow. 
    I think if you had success with an open type before, stick with that. Or do a little trial - keep one open and one closed and see if there's any appreciable difference.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • PicidaePicidae RutlandPosts: 709
    I’ve looked into this and the expert opinion is divided.

    For my own part, I made my compost bins out of old pallets but, veering towards those who said no ventilation, I clad the outside faces with cheap feather edge boarding. I also had aesthetics firmly in mind because I wanted the bins to look smarter. At the front ‘business’ end of the bins I have slats of cut gravel boards which slot into a simple wooden channel. These, like the other three sides, were not ventilated.

     However our new (and wonderful) gardener who started with us about three years ago was of the view that ventilation was beneficial so I hammered nails with big flat heads into the boards and the boards now sit on top of the nails with a 15mm ventilation gap. If I am being honest I do not think the ventilation gap has made any difference.

    The bins are covered with a tarpaulin like groundsheet. It keeps out the rain but, being thin, does not retain heat. I bought very cheaply on eBay camouflage sheets which blend in well - aesthetics again!
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 21,305
    Do you mean solid sides and back with removable "planks" on the front?
    IMHO , so long as you have a gap below the lowest "plank" of about 5cm / 2" , that's enough ventilation. Gaps in the side stop it heating up  as much as solid sides and also allows too much moisture to escape.
    Devon.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 4,667
    I used to use the dalek plastic bins, but then treated myself to some wooden bins from here https://www.gardeningworks.co.uk/
    I found them much better.
    There are no ventilation holes and I guess the thickness of the wood also keep the heat in better.
    So I'd suggest no ventilation holes.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 21,305
    Image result for new zealand compost box design
    found this online. I'd just have a bit of gap below the lowest plank on the front, and I'd have a "lid" to keep out the worst of the rain / stop them drying out. 
    I usually have a layer of polythene and a bit of carpet on top at the very least.
    Devon.
  • CapelglynCapelglyn Posts: 24
    Thank you for your replies. Well the old bin I was referring to had a half inch gap between all the boards, front, back and sides. This was many years ago and it seems from what you say that the back and sides should be solid, with a gap or gaps in the front panel. I am not clear what you mean Hostafan1 about having a gap below the lowest plant of 2"? Do you mean to have an air gap at the bottom of the front panel?
    I remember building a heap years ago and using bricks to form a cross shaped channel at the bottom to draw in air, is this a good idea? or would the 2" gap suffice?
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 21,305
    Capelglyn said:
    Thank you for your replies. Well the old bin I was referring to had a half inch gap between all the boards, front, back and sides. This was many years ago and it seems from what you say that the back and sides should be solid, with a gap or gaps in the front panel. I am not clear what you mean Hostafan1 about having a gap below the lowest plant of 2"? Do you mean to have an air gap at the bottom of the front panel?

    Yes, sorry I didn't make myself clearer. I used to put a house brick on both sides under the lowest removable slat which allowed air to be drawn in at the bottom.
    Worked for me, but "compost" wants to break down , and , in time , it all will. 
    Devon.
  • KT53KT53 Posts: 3,449
    My neighbour built his compost bins from brick and they seemed to work perfectly OK.  Top covered in old carpet and removable timber front.
  • CapelglynCapelglyn Posts: 24
    Excellent. Many thanks everyone.
  • PicidaePicidae RutlandPosts: 709
    A 2” air gap at the base of the front of the bin sounds good in theory but my experience is that the bottom of the bin is quickly filled by a block of decomposing or fully composted matter and any ventilation possibilities are, literally, sealed off.

    You could, I suppose, create some underground air channels at the base of the bin but block them with chicken wire or they’ll be used as rat runs. I wouldn’t bother.
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