Its only when we get our first garden that we soon wonder 'where am I going to put all this garden waste. The leaves, the hedge trimmings, the woody bits, the dead plants, the weeds and of course the never ending tide of lawn trimmings. That's when you realise that you need a composting bin. At first it may seem like a chore collecting the garden rubbish and throwing it into a bin. But, you will soon realise what a great job composting does. Not only can you use garden waste in the compost. But organic kitchen waste such as fruit peelings, vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee gourds, shredded newspaper clippings and even cardboard. Although, things like cardboard should be cut into small bits. It has been estimated that 40% of kitchen waste in the average household can be put into the compost bin. However, there are some things that should not be used for composting including, meat, fish and cooked food. Common sense should prevail.
When composting you are working with nature, its a natural process where you are harnessing the power of nature and all the goodness and nutrients from the waste products are returned to the soil. In our over crowded planet every little helps with improving our environment. Every year hundreds of tons of organic material are thrown away, filling up landfill sites needlessly. And this is the secret, you simply have to work out what is organic and will bio-degrade in your compost. And what is non-organic and will not break down and turn into that lovely sweet smelling stuff.
Compost bins are considered unsightly are are normally placed out of view at the back of the garden. However, when you consider the amount of kitchen waste that will be composted, then perhaps placing the bin somewhere between the kitchen and garden area would be more practical. Remember you can build a simple screen around it. A trellis with some type of climber would look attractive. Once you have selected the site you now have to consider which type of compost bin you want in your garden. The first consideration should be size. How big is your garden ? Even a small garden area can produce a lot of material, and don't forget all that kitchen waste. You can purchase the plastic type of bin from any garden centre, nursery or store. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and will all do an excellent job. However, whether its a case of not spending money on something that will just hold garden rubbish, or whether its a sense of achievement or self sufficiency, many people prefer to make their own.
By building your own you will have complete control over the size and shape of your compost bin. The obvious material when constructing a home made bin is of course wood. In fact wooden pallets are ideal, they are about 1 metre (3 feet) square in size and four decent ones will easily create the four sides for your bin. If you feel that you are up to the task, you can remove all the timber slats from the main supports on the bottom half of the 'front'. Then use the same slats to make a 'door' to fit back onto the bottom front. Using cheap, or second hand hinges. Fit the 'door' into place with the hinges at the top. So that you now have a door or flap that opens upwards giving you access to the bottom half of the compost bin.
Access via this door flap has two uses. When composting it helps to 'turn' the material every week or so to aerate it. This gives the rotting material oxygen, which means faster decomposition and less chance of bad odour's. Also, by remixing the ingredients the bacteria will work harder. By turning the compost over you will be preventing most problems that can occur.
The second use for the door flap is when the bin is full you will want to remove the older compost first from the bottom.
Turning compost can be a physical job. If you are elderly or disabled you may want to look at an alternative solution. Known as the 'no turn' method. Obtain a piece of plastic pipe about 10 Cm(4inches) in diameter and 1 metre (3 foot) long and drill it all over with a series of small holes. Place this in the centre of your compost bin, vertically upright, surrounded and supported by the garden waste. This will allow air into your compost and aid decomposition.
If your garden is large enough then two or even three compost bins can be built side by side. With this method you can have one bin in use filling it up, the second would be full and slowly composting, the third you would be emptying the compost as you wished around the garden. You can use your compost in many ways, the nutrient rich material will help your garden where ever you put it. As a mulch around shrubs and flowers, to richen and strengthen the soil structure, or as a lawn top dressing. To fully appreciate composting its something that you have to experience yourself. Filling a bin with all matter of garden and kitchen waste and then, six months later digging out friable, crumbly, sweet smelling, nutrient rich compost. Amazing.