New House? New bins?

New homes are a delight – new space, a chance to decorate in colours of your choice and a new outside space beckoning. But lurking at the back of the plot (or somewhere nearer to the house) there will probably be a compost bin or heap patiently waiting to be discovered.

If composting has never been your thing this can be a daunting sight and will inevitably be way down your list of priorities on the ‘to do’ list. On the bright side having a bin or heap in situ is a bonus – you don’t have to source the bin, you have a place to put all the garden waste that is often created when making your mark on a new plot and the bin/s you discover may very well be full of ready-to-use compost to enrich your garden straight away.

But time will be at a premium as you sort valued possessions and kitchen cupboards so here's my quick 'what to do and when' list to help.

First be brave and take a peek inside the bin/ 

-If the contents look dark and moist they are probably ripe for removal and spreading on the garden beds so just dig it out and go ahead when you've got time.

-If the compost looks a bit dry leave it in the bin, add new green garden waste and organic kitchen waste (peelings, salad trimmings etc), turn it with a garden fork or something similar, continue to add green waste. Aim to turn it again in a couple of months.

-If the contents look slimy and wet then you need to incorporate more ‘brown’ ingredients like torn up pieces of cardboard and paper or egg boxes.  Turn it with a garden fork to mix it in. Continue to add layers of different stuff – spent plants, kitchen peelings, torn up paper, be sure to add grass clippings sparingly and aim to turn or mix the compost again in a couple of months.

Second make a note of where the bin is situated 

-is it in the shade? Move it into sun.  It can stay where it is of course but the composting process will be a bit slower.

-is it on hard standing? Move it onto soil if possible. It will still work on hard standing but the rotting process will be slower. Soil will allow more beneficial insects to access to the heap easily.

-is the bin/heap near the house or far from it? You may want to move it closer to the house to avoid a trek down the garden with your organic kitchen waste.

And finally How does it look?

Compost bins are not traditionally appealing and you may want to screen the compost area, but in the spirit of recycling/sustainability/green gardening more garden plans incorporate compost ‘facilities’ as part and parcel of veg growing areas in visually appealing designs. These websites offer some ideas but there are plenty more - BBC Gardening      the Telegraph

But remember it all takes time as your plans are put into place for the outside space that has come with your new home. I remember venturing into the back of the garden of my new home a couple of years ago to discover a sad-looking, abandoned compost bin tucked away in the furthest corner of the plot and it has only been this year that I have re-sited, re-built and properly re-established my composting system.

It all takes time! Still not sure? Help and advice is freely available and there is plenty of it. Try the A – Z of composting on this very website; ask friends, neighbours or nearby allotment holders for tips; search well known organisations on-line (the RHS for example) and then just relax! It can be the most rewarding of gardening activities and all for free. Annie


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