Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In the mix

A few years ago the local council of a neighbouring area, in an effort to promote the recycling of household waste decided to subsidise the provision of compost bins for domestic use. The uptake was disappointing but given the small gardens that most modern houses in the UK are provided with these days maybe it was not so surprising after all. As a result of this situation I was allowed to apply for a compost bin and shown several models to choose from. I chose the biggest although our household comprises of a couple Carol, and I. There was a stipulation that those who took part in the scheme should attend a one day seminar on composting and that after six months they should provide a detailed list of materials composted and submit this to the scheme administrator via a survey form. Not a lot to ask for a £50 subsidy.

The compost bin I chose was of a modular construction and made of recycled plastic, the walls of the bin were ventilated and double skinned insulating the compost with a later of air. The modules were each formed in 1m2 elements and stacked to form a cubic metre of usable space covered by a lid. Other composters expressed the doubt that we could fill such a bin.

Over the next few months all our fruit and vegetable waste, tea bags, lawn clippings, shredded newspaper were added to the bin. A garden shredder made short work of the tree and shrub prunings, all were added to the mix at first in layers and then later turned and mixed. When short of green material I would take my neighbours lawn clippings and use them to re-activate the heap.

When the survey form arrived I began to fill the form in. Quite straightforward really, the usual questions about the compost bin model, house occupancy etc. When it came to the ingredients of the home made compost mine probably differed from most of the other members; mine contained Blackbirds and thrushes killed by the neighbourhood cats. It also contained several Koi carp from my pond killed by Herons. Unfortunately I haven’t yet managed to add the Herons to the heap but I do live in hope.

The compost produced by the bin is of good quality, any small pieces of material that have not rotted completely go back into the mix for next year’s compost. And mix is the key if you turn the material to mix the contents then the heap rots down more quickly and there are no bad odours. Far from being too big for us I now have material kept in other containers waiting to be added to the heap.

When we bought the house the soil was heavy clay, we have been able to add our compost over the years which has rendered the heavy ground into a reasonable soil, though we do get a lot of cold wet days here.

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