A colleague composts - here's his story

'My composting-journey began in about 2005 when I moved into my current house that has both front and back gardens. There was a compost heap at the bottom of the garden (where else would you find one?) so, to get a bit more organised, I picked up some cheap paving slabs from the garden centre for a solid base and placed upon them four compost bins that were, at the time, on special offer from Brighton & Hove Council. In retrospect, they were placed in a rather shady corner – somewhere a bit sunnier would have been preferable but, hey – compost bins don’t win garden design awards so I had to compromise!

The material going into the bins came mostly from the garden but also organic waste from the kitchen along with tea bags, coffee grounds etc.  As our team of volunteers (Waste Prevention Advisers) know, when talking to local householders, friends and family about composting, the ones who are often the most successful recyclers are the ones who have some sort of ‘system’ in place e.g. suitable containers, places to store materials etc. My key bit of kit is a compost caddy which sits on a kitchen window ledge. This means that as soon as veg peelings etc. are ready they can put straight into the caddy. It’s as quick as throwing it in the bin but much more eco-friendly of course and the caddy being on the window ledge, it gets a nice bit of sun starting off the decomposition process before the contents even get to the composter.

Every few days I take the caddy down to the compost bins and try to remember which one had the last lot! I try to add to them on a rotation basis but more often than not – it’s the nearest container that gets the new material!

In terms of garden waste I try to filter out larger twigs or sticks and don’t put in any of the garden nasties, bindweed for example and make sure that I distribute grass cuttings evenly between the bins.

I occasionally throw some torn up cardboard or paper into the mix.  I’ve also got a couple of tortoises (so old that they are virtually family heirlooms). They have a good veggie diet so anything they don’t eat also goes on as does their droppings. Well, with them being veggies, this really isn’t as bad as it sounds…

When the compost bins are only half full or less, it’s quite easy to give the mix a good turn over with a garden fork. By the time they are 75% or more full it gets a lot harder as you can imagine.

Each spring, I try to open up the two fullest bins and usually find that the bottom 25% is ready to be used as decent compost around the garden.  I usually also find that in my bins the remaining, middle 50% needs another season (I usually remove any big twigs from this bit If I can see them) and the top 25% is much too dry. So 75% from the full bins gets mixed up for another ‘go’. Being able to aerate the compost really does seem to accelerate the process. As soon as you start noticing insects in the compost, you know you’re getting the consistency right!

So, ten years down the line how successful have I been? Well, my ‘mix’ can certainly be refined to avoid the ‘too dry’ issue that often crops up. There’s plenty of tips and advice out there to try and it’s good to experiment to find out what works / what doesn’t. It has certainly reduced what goes into my landfill bin and I take less Green Waste to my local HWRS. Also, it’s kept a part of a garden in some sort of order which I’d otherwise have to mow or cut back!

Happy composting in your gardens!'  Four compost bins, turning with a garden fork and adding organic kitchen waste to the mix - a great (and successful!) system Anthony and thank you for sharing your experiences with us,  Annie.

Top tips for 100% compost every time

If you would like 100% compost after a year try bins with tighter fitting lids and fewer air holes to keep moisture in as well as keeping your compost bins directly on the soil. Layering compost 'ingredients' will keep the heap aerated and compost insects will be happy to do their essential work.


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