How to Make A Compost Bin
How to Make A Compost Bin
Not everyone wants to know how to make a compost bin, but many keen gardeners wouldn’t be without their compost heap. Nowadays there are all sorts of devices and claims made for various structures and additives which have some validity, but at least 75% of the claims made can be discounted. In fact, all that is needed is a supply of organic material, which is anything that has once lived be it animal or vegetable, a piece of solid earth and the ability to make a stack.
It is amusing to see how things come full circle and now the ‘muck hole’ has again come into its own, although the system is advertised under much more refined names. It simply means digging a hole and putting in the refuse.
It is, in fact, a solid-sided container. In the case of the ‘muck hole’ and the ‘muck heap’ the hole was simply a method of containing the daily refuse, the fluff from the carpets (swept by hand of course), the feathers from the chicken or duck for Sunday lunch, egg shells, rhubarb leaves, potato peelings; in fact everything went into the hole.
The ‘muck-hole’ was the day-to-day collecting point and when it was full, it was forked out and the contents stacked in a square-sided heap adjacent to the hole. The hole was then ready to receive its daily quota of organic matter again. It was reported that those who had to empty the hole out, quickly learned that it was advisable to chop up long material such as old chrysanthemum sticks, pea haulms and hedge clippings. This was for the simple and practical reason that it was much easier to fork it out rather than tug half-rotted lengths of material several feet long with the risk that they would snap back and plaster anyone around with partially decayed goo.
It was also found that the chopped-up material, whether cut with a sharp spade or with a chopping hook and a block of wood, decayed more evenly and heated up better than the long pieces. There was no need for artificial containers as people were used to making high stacks of hay and straw. The picture is different now and some form of containment is almost essential.
Soil is still the best base on which to make a compost heap and if you don’t want to go to the lengths of digging a hole, just use one portion of the area designated for compost to tip any of the material available, old leaves, lawn mowings, grass, weeds or any other organic matter, into a pile. Then maybe once a week or once a fortnight, depending on the amount of material, shake the pile out with a fork, mix it up thoroughly and make it into a stack, or just a simple container made from four wooden stakes (positioned to make a square) and a 13 foot length of plastic mesh wrapped around the stakes. Of course, you can make a compost heap just by throwing everything into a pile in a corner behind some trees if you have the space in your garden. Or if you’re handy with a saw, build up the sides with wooden slats.
I prefer this method to tipping everything into the container straight away because in a small garden there is never enough material added at one time to create any sort of fermentation or heating up and the mix is not good enough. For example, you can get a thick layer of grass cuttings during the mowing season or a thick layer of leaves in the autumn and although it is one more extra job, it is well worth the mixing and turning periodically if you want really good compost.
The ideal compost is made from aerobic fermentation where the material comes out dry and sweet and not foul smelling. It should be brown and when rubbed through the hands be almost like tobacco. The other sort of stuff is graced by the name of anaerobic (without air) and is very often a wet, rotten, sloppy mess, no good for anything.
Owners of small gardens often complain that for the amount of waste they get it just isn’t worth the bother and others say they haven’t room for a compost heap. Frankly I can’t accept either excuse. Making compost involves a certain amount of trouble, this is undeniable, but well-made compost, on analysis, is as near an alternative to manure as most of us are likely to get.
To suggestions that certain things such as rhubarb leaves and privet should not go into the heap, my answer is that anything that has once lived, except perhaps rubber, can be composted. Some materials may take longer than others to break down and if they are not sufficiently decayed, they can be shaken out when they appear and put at the bottom of the next heap.