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Compost bin help for a complete beginner

PyraPyra Central Scotland Posts: 139
I'm looking to start a compost bin. After doing much reading online, I've decided there is too much information online. So I'd like peoples actual experience, please. Will any type of bin work? I don't really have room for a big open compost bin but I do have room for a small plastic one or two, like the one shown here.
Are the small plastic ones ok? Some I've looked at had bases, I thought they had to touch the ground to work. 

Any advice or recommendations greatly appreciated! 


  • PurpleRosePurpleRose North YorkshirePosts: 456

    I have a plastic compost bin. I have been composing now for just shirt of 2 years. I got my first lot of compost this spring and I was pleased with the amount of compost that i got.

    I add alsorts to my bin but i always remember to keep the ratio of approximately 50/50 green and brown. Green is things like grass clippings, veg peelings, tea leaves and brown is cardboard, wood clippings etc...

    When I first started I made the mistake of adding too much green and I ended up with a smelly mess in my bin. I added lots of brown things and tried to keep the ratio right and since it has happily decomposed away. I dont add weeds to mine. It sounds strange but every now and again I have a sniff of my bin. It should smell like undergrowth, like when you are walking through the woods. It's quite a pleasant smell.

    There is a whole wealth of knowledge on here about composting and hopefully the people who know about it will come across this post and add some advice.

    I source my ingredients from all over. My friends daughter has a rabbit so when I am in need so drops used  rabbit bedding round, at work, I have tubs all round the building near kettles and people drop used tea bags in them and fruit peels and I often find that people save me the cardboard trays that are given out with takeaway coffees.

    It is very addictive is composting and you will find others who compost and it is often a source of conversation.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,554

    Two rubber garbage cans with holes drilled in.  I only use my for kitchen scraps, gardening scraps like leaves, grass cuttings, weeds, etc all go onto the veg garden beds as mulch or into a pile behind the rhubarb to break down in situ.  

    The idea behind the garbage can is that you fill it with browns/greens, then once a month put in a shovel or two of garden soil.. attach a bungee cord across the lid to the handles.. then tip it over and roll it around your garden to mix. Garden soil helps with decomposition by adding microbes.  No turning of a large pile, just rolling.  Solid sides and bottom keep out rats and other pests.. and allows for better control of moisture levels.  All great, in theory.. unfortunately Utah is too dry for composting.. I would have to water a pile as much as my veg plot.. so I just save it in there and pit compost twice a year in spring and fall with the materials.. not bothering with the soil or rolling. I've had them for seven years, and so far just have a few chew marks around one hole low down.. but nothing got in.  I put in cooked food scraps and pretty much anything that can't go into the dog bowl, aside from cooked bones.  We don't each much meat, so most everything does get put in there.. blueberry oatmeal the boys don't finish, mussel shells, egg shells, veg peelings, moldy bread, burnt chips, etc.  
    Utah, USA.
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    The plastic bins work great. 

    I've tried a lot of things, I still have some large open bins which I mostly use for grass, hedge clippings and weeds. Open bins work well with these materials for me because they are best turned often.

    The plastic dalek I have works really well for veg scraps, spent compost, dead headed flowers etc.

    I add uncooked kitchen scraps (greens) and cardboard (browns). It's always full of worms and actually works better than an expensive wormery I purchased a few years back. I get a lovely black sticky compost from it and let the worms do all the work of turning.

    In all that's what I've found works best for me down the years. When I put veg scraps in the open compost bits it attracted rodents, so the method I have now is a very happy solution. Never had rats in the plastic dalek.

    Compost heaps do not have to touch the ground. Actual experience, they work exactly the same on concrete, or if raised on a wooden pallet. It's just a case that if they touch the ground they have a source of microbes. You can just throw in a handful of soil and get the exact same effect. Even worms still get in on concrete, or you could start it off with some purchased worms recommended for composting (they are not the same as the worms in ordinary soil).
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,532
    I started out with one of the dalek-shaped bins and last year I bought a second.  If you stand it on the ground the worms and other mini-beasts that do most of the work can get in easily, but so can rats.  For this reason, some people like to lay a piece of wire mesh on the ground under the bin.  I have mine standing on wooden boards, I've never had a rat problem.

    I also have a gadget for turning the compost, which mixes and aerates it.  It cost about £13 and gives all my major muscle groups a workout!  pushing it down through the bin's  contents, twisting and pulling up again.  I don't do it regularly, just whenever the spirit moves me and I have dirty clothes on. 

    One thing I swear by for encouraging the stuff to rot is an occasional dose of "liquid activator", aka urine.  When fresh, it is full of nitrates which boost the compost bacteria.  But once it's exposed to air, the nitrates start to turn into ammonia, which smells bad and the bacteria can't use it. So add the pee within an hour of production.

    Do you have grass?  As others have said, adding lots of grass clippings can give you a smelly, slimy mess.  To get round this, I shred all the waste paper our household generates: newspaper, envelopes, junk mail etc, and keep it in a big bag in the shed so whenever I mow the grass, I have shredded paper ready to mix with the clippings in the compost bin.  Works a treat.  Then I use the mixing gadget a week or so later.
  • BijdezeeBijdezee BPosts: 1,347
    I found the plastic 'dalek' type difficult handle when you need to turn it. My husband made me a wooden two compartment one and it works better, easier to turn and it composts down faster. If you don't have the space then maybe a wormery?

    I think the most Important thing is getting the balance of greens and browns right ime about 50/50. There are differing opinions on the exact ratio but it seems to work for me at half and half. Sometimes I struggle to find enough browns so I add some straw or hay. Chopping everything up as fine as is practical speeds up the process too. 
  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 949
    @pyra88 can't help on the bins as I only have experience of a big set up. My sister though has about 6 daleks and her big problem is she just stuffs everything in in big lumps and never turns it. Apart from the right mix, chopping everything small is the biggest advantage you can give yourself, I mow everything that goes in mine. A small 2 bin wood set up would allow you to turn it regularly from 1 to the other which would give you a usable compost by autumn. if speed isn't important remember that all material wants to breakdown to compost in the end it's just decaying, we all just want to speed up the process 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    I believe you're also in Scotland @pyra88, although I don't know whereabouts. 
    I found it difficult to get the wooden ones hot enough here to do the job well without waiting years.
    I got a couple of plastic ones last year and I think they're already quicker. I don't have as much soft planting as many others might have, so I have to be more attentive with what I add. I also chop stuff up if possible to help the process. I add loo roll inners and card/paper if I have, layered with soft , green stuff. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 5,985
    A small plastic compost bin will work fine if that’s all you have space for. You may have already started to realise from the replies that how you manage the bin is far more important than the bin itself.

    As others have said it’s important to get a good mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ and to keep the bin moist and reasonably aerated. Moist - not wet - but definitely not dry because then nothing breaks down for years.

    Ensure there’s a bit of garden soil in there (I just rely on what’s attached to roots) and try to chop stuff up if possible. I pile up dead headings and prunings and run the lawn mower over it.

    You’ll soon find what mix / method works for your bin and garden. Don’t be disheartened if the first lotof composting doesn’t quite go as planned - it’s all a learning curve. It’ll probably takefrom between 6 - 12 months to produce your first usable compost and it’ll all work much better if you can  squeeze in a second bin. One to fill and one to cook.
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • PurpleRosePurpleRose North YorkshirePosts: 456
    I forgot to add to my post.

    My bin is a plastic one but not a darlik. It is like a giant cube.  I had it bought and the person who got it for me said that it would be easier to turn the contents but I think it also holds more than the darliks.

    If you are wanting a darlik, have a look on your council website as our council sell them really cheap. I think it is something like £9.99 and delivery charge of £5 but you can order as many as you want for one delivery charge. I am wanting another bin. My friend is moving house and once moved is going to order 1 so she is ordering and extra one for me and we are going halves on the delivery.
  • PyraPyra Central Scotland Posts: 139
    Thanks everyone, that's really helpful! @Fairygirl I'm in West Lothian. Where the bin is going gets the sun for a good few hours, so should hopefully get hot enough if it's a black bin. @josusa47 we have grass but I haven't bothered to cut it at all this year so far.
    Thanks for all the advice on what to put in it, if I can put in cardboard then I should get the ratio fine. Generally seems the daleks are OK. I'll get some wire mesh to put down if I don't get one with a base. @GemmaJF if it works on concrete that's great, that makes that easier. 
    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? 
    @PurpleRose sniffing it doesn't sound strange at all! 
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