How to Make a Homemade Compost Bin
Making a Homemade Compost Bin
Unfortunately, the average suburban garden seldom yields enough material to produce the conditions necessary in a compost heap to produce rapid fermentation and decay. Consequently, compost heaps are frequently little more than neglected rubbish dumps. However, there are many ways to improve this situation and, in particular, the heap can be built up with extra material brought in from outside the garden, such as straw or fallen leaves.
The material in a compost heap is broken down by bacteria and other micro-organisms, which will thrive only if given air, water, nitrogen, non-acid conditions and a high temperature. And even under ideal conditions, there are limits to the rapid breakdown powers of the bacteria, so do not put woody material — not even Brussels sprout stems — on the heap. Chop any tough stems into small pieces before putting them on the compost heap.
Never use obviously diseased plant material in the compost heap, as the disease may be spread with the compost. Never use the roots of perennial weeds such as couch grass, oxalis or bindweed. Also avoid annual weeds which are carrying seeds.
The best compost for your compost pile is made from soft rubbish, such as dead leaves, lettuces which have bolted, pea stalks and leaves, beetroot leaves, dead, leafy hedge clippings, hay, straw and lawn mowings, along with the vegetable trimmings from the kitchen. Do not use cooked scraps or anything containing grease.
Build your homemade compost bin into a neat, regular shape, so that it is less likely to become dry around the edges. A heap measuring approximately 2m x 2m x 1.5m high (7 x 7 x 5ft) is necessary for quick results. But in a small garden a sensible approach is to set up a neat enclosure of wire netting and posts. The best size must depend on the size of the garden, but 1.5 x 1.5m wide and 1.2m high (5 x 5 x 4ft) is about right for the average garden.
The heap should be made directly on the, so that any excess water can drain away. The soil beneath, however, should be well drained.
You can also buy ready-made compost bins or make an open-topped wooden box, leaving spaces between the side boards to let air through. Brick constructions are equally suitable, as long as you leave a few bricks missing in the sides for aeration. If one side of the homemade compost bin is removable, it gives easier access to the compost within.
Try to build the heap a layer at a time, each layer about 30cm (1ft) thick. Tread down each layer and then give it a good soaking with a hose. To each layer add sulphate of ammonia at about 15g (1 oz) — one dessertspoon — per sq m/yd to act as an accelerator for the decomposition process, and cover it with 5cm (2in) of ordinary garden soil. Cover the top of the heap with polythene or sacking to keep in the heat until the last layer has been added and covered with soil.
For a free-standing homemade compost bin, build it up with gently sloping sides to the height you require. If your soil is naturally lime-rich there is no need to add more lime to the heap, but if the soil is acid sprinkle garden lime at the rate of 120g per sq m (4oz per sq yd) over every alternate layer and again over the finished heap before covering with a final layer of garden soil. The lime will keep the heap sweet. In a dry summer, hose the heap with water as soon as it shows signs of drying out.
Heat will build up rapidly when the heap is first made, but will die down after about a month, when the heap will have shrunk to about one-third its original size.
Decomposition is speeded up if the compost heap is turned after six weeks, moving the material on the outside of the pile into the centre. At the same time, water any dry areas. If you use compost bins, simply transfer the contents to a second bin, mixing the contents thoroughly as you do so.
However, turning is not essential, and in three months (or more if the pile was made at the beginning of the winter) the compost pile will turn into a crumbly, dark brown, manure-like material which can be dug into theor spread thickly around border plants, including perennials, shrubs and trees.
The normal application rate foris one 10 litre (two gallon) bucketful per sq m/yd. It can also be used as a top dressing or surface mulch.
If the homemade compost bin is to remain undisturbed over winter, protect it by covering with polythene held down by bricks or stones, or tucked down between the compost and the rails of the bin.