Most people who are minded to make compost will set up a single compost bin and start filling it. Then, after a while, you find that the compost bin is filling up and you need to think about where else you’re going to put your kitchen our garden waste. It may be that you can start extracting finished compost from the base of your compost bin. When you do this, the contents of the bin will drop. This will make space at the top for fresh material.
In many cases the amount of organic kitchen and garden waste that we generate, gets ahead of us. You may get to the point where you find yourself asking: do you need two compost bins?
Yes. Two or more compost bins will make compost making easy. It comes down to assessing how much waste you are likely to be generating and how much space you have for making compost. If you have enough waste to justify two compost bins, don’t rule out the possibility that you may need three or more.
Making compost is a slow process, whichever way you do it. You can’t hurry the natural process involved. Kitchen and garden waste placed in a compost bin, will turn into compost eventually. You can move it along by intervening. A static heap, pile or contents of a single compost bin can be agitated by using probing devices. This will introduce air into parts where it wouldn’t otherwise get to.
When you start loading organic waste into a compost bin, you need to observe the rate at which it fills. After a while you will get a ‘feel’ of how long it will take to fill your compost bin. As you keep adding to the growing mass, you will notice that the level in the compost bin, won’t be rising very quickly.
This will be because the material lower down in the gathered mass will be rotting down. As compost forms it will occupy less space. This is what we want to happen.
The filling of the compost bin will carry on and unless you remove some finished compost from the base, the compost bin will inevitably become full. Here’s where you could do with two compost bins.
Having two compost bins would give you options. There are a couple of ways that they can be used. One option is to allow your first compost bin to fill completely. Then start loading organic waste into the second compost bin.
The first bin can be just left there to do its own thing. You may want to give it an occasional probe to introduce air but all it will really need is to be left alone for time to run its course.
You can then carry on filling the second compost bin until this is becoming full. This is where you need to decide where you go from here. By the time you’ve filled the second compost bin, the first one should have rotten down. This will depend on the time that it’s taken to fill the second bin.
The ideal length of time for compost to form in a compost bin would be 12 months plus. When a compost bin is full, you need to leave it to work. This would give the contents of the first compost bin a really good advantage. By the time that the second compost bin is full, you should find some space in the first compost bin because the level should have dropped.
You could add to the level in the first compost bin but the space will be used up relatively quickly. The preferred option, here, would be to examine the compost that’s formed in the first bin and decide on whether you could start using it on the vegetable patch.
If it’s ready, then this will mean that you can empty the first compost bin completely, freeing it up as an empty bin that you can start filling again. The second compost bin can then be closed off while you fill the first.
Another option would be to have two empty compost bins from the start. Fill one of the bins completely. When you have achieved this, remove the entire contents from the first bin and load it into the second bin. Doing this will agitate the forming-compost in the most effective way possible.
The major upheaval of digging over compost in this way will introduce air. This will accelerate the composting process considerably. Compost bins that have an open bottom are the best bins for doing this. They are designed to be tapered; wide at the base and narrow at the top. Compost bins of this type can be lifted up to reveal a cone-shaped heap of partly-made compost at the base and fresher material at the top.
You may need help when lifting compost bins
It may take two people to lift the bin up but because of the tapered design, it will only take a little movement to free the bin from the heap inside.
If moving compost from one bin to another is too much work, then, there’s another way of using two compost bins or more. This would be to use all the compost bins that you have and add waste to each in rotation. This would mean that all your compost bins would fill up completely at the same time but it would take a long time.
You could then start extracting some finished compost from both or each of the compost bins that you have.
Why do we compost at home?
If you’re thinking of making compost or perhaps you’ve seen others with a row of compost bins, you may be wondering if it’s worth the effort. Making compost means handling waste, not everyone wants to do that. Then there’s the potential issues of bad smells now and again.
So, you could quite easily ask: why do we compost at home? Why don’t we just put all our waste in the trash-bin and let someone else deal with it?
Probably, the main reason why we compost at home is because most people who do it appreciate the value of organic waste as a resource. Done properly, all kitchen and garden waste can be converted into compost.
If we send it off to landfill we are losing an opportunity to make something of use from what is essentially very basic material. Locked in the middle of a vast heap of other landfill material, the opportunity is lost forever. There is also the broader consideration that by making compost at home we are reducing some of the burden placed on landfill capacity.
What most people don’t understand is that a huge amount of organic waste is constantly being deposited at landfill sites. This material becomes buried along with everything else. Because of the nature of organic material of any kind, gases are generated from the anaerobic process that takes place deep down in the heap of landfill material.
These gases are a potential fire hazard at the landfill site and are what you will occasionally smell if you ever find yourself in the area of the site. We can all play our part. If we all made compost at home, there would be a massive reduction of any gases being generated.
There are some regions where organic ‘green’ waste is collected and processed into compost by local authorities. This is making good use of organic waste as a resource but it’s questionable as to whether it’s making good use of local taxes that have to pay for this facility.
Looking at why we compost at home
Another reason why we compost at home is to produce an organic fertilizer that will improve garden soil. There’s no soil in the world that wouldn’t benefit from a regular supply of compost, whether it’s made at home or anywhere else.
This is particularly true when we consider heavy clay-soil. Compost will help to bring soil to life. Plenty of compost will encourage plenty of worms. You don’t need to dig compost into the ground. If you just scatter it over the surface, the worms will turn up and pull it down into the ground.
It will depend on what type of system you use for making compost but making compost at home can be done for free. You don’t need to spend any money at all to be able to make compost at home. If you can find some old wooden pallets and you can tie these together in a four-sided box-type creation. This would be enough to get started at making compost at home.
On the other end of the scale, there are many types of compost bins that you can buy. These are made for making compost at home. They all make the job of composting simple and easy.
How do you use compost?
If you go to the trouble of making use of your kitchen and garden waste and recognise it as a resource rather than a liability, compost will be the result. Your efforts and commitment will be rewarded. You will have a load of organic fertilizer at your disposal. But a question that you may ask is: how do you use compost?
Before you can do anything with the compost that you’ve made, you need to be sure that it’s fully formed or what some would say ‘cured’. It’s not wise to use compost before it’s ready.
The timescale for making finished compost will depend on the method you use for making it. If it’s been in a compost bin without any agitation, it will take at least twelve months to form into compost that you can use.
If it’s been through a tumbler system it’s possible for organic waste to turn into black, crumbly compost that you can use after six months. The Rolypig composter can generate compost that can be used after sixteen weeks but this is aided by the fact that worms find their way in and play a big part in the composting process.
Given that you have compost that’s black, crumbly, no smell, other than earthiness and there’s nothing in it that you recognise, you can assume that your compost is ready to use. With this you have options.
Making use of compost is the easy bit
You can use compost for growing vegetables. There can’t be a vegetable patch anywhere that wouldn’t make use of a good-sized load of compost. There are regions in the world where the soil has a high level of humus and general organic material. If you have this, then, you’re lucky. Most of us have to use whatever type of soil that’s going, with the house that we have.
There’s a couple of ways that you can use compost on a vegetable patch. Most people use the compost that they have on a specific area where they want to grow a particular vegetable. This can be done by spreading it on the ground where they want it and digging it in. This will ensure that the roots will have direct access to the nutrient value of the compost.
Another way is to spread the compost over the vegetable patch and just leave it for the worms to take it into the ground. This will take longer to happen. Most people who do this will spread their compost in the Autumn/fall time and allow the worms to do their work over the Winter.
You can use compost around growing-flowers. Flowering plants need all the nutrients that compost, of any quality, can provide. The same applies to shrubs. All growing-plants will benefit from a regular feed of well-composted organic material.
Another way to use compost is to use it as part of a medium for pot plants. Compost alone shouldn’t be used for pot plants. Compost is so high in nutrients that plants would struggle to function. They will either grow too much and become spindly or not grow at all.
Make a mixture of finished compost and soil or sand. A ratio of 1 part compost to 1 part soil or sand would be a good place to start. This will provide a balance of nutrients that will support most pot plants. It will also help to allow a limited amount of compost to go further.
Wherever you put your compost in the garden, there will be a growing plant that will be ready to reach out and make use of it. When you look around in your garden, you will see where your compost has gone and where it hasn’t. The question will most likely go from: how do you use compost?: to: where can you get some more?