I’ve always wanted to make my own compost, it’s a great way of re-using all those grass cuttings and saves the quantity of garden waste that goes in the brown bin to be taken away for composting. I don’t know about you but in the summer we could easily fill two of those a week with grass cuttings, weeding etc, but ours only gets collected once a fortnight. My perfect plan would be for it to be collected weekly in the summer and autumn and then perhaps fortnightly or less in the winter but hey ho I don’t make the rules.
I had a go at composting years ago; I had a cone shaped black plastic compost bin with a little hatch at the bottom but for some reason never actually ended up with compost. It was just a soggier mess of the grass cuttings, potato peelings and other pruning that I had put in there. What really put me off though was one day I decided to move the compost bin to a warmer place in the hope it would compost easier. I started to lift the contents and then found a whole load of baby rats, not surprisingly this didn’t fill me with the usual happy thoughts I get when I see baby animals. Because of my lack of success previously, I just faithfully fill my brown bin which gets taken away every fortnight and then a smaller dustbin in between which gets decanted into the brown bin when it’s empty.
Well recently I have read that chicken manure makes a brilliant activator for compost. It contains potassium and phosphorus and chicken manure compost is said to be the best kind of manure for your plants or growing vegetables because of the high nitrogen and balance of nutrients it contains.
It is important to note though, that you need to ensure that the manure is thoroughly composted or you could end up with harmful bacteria, which wouldn’t be great when it will be in touch with vegetables that you might consume. It is also not recommended that you use chicken manure compost for vegetables that are going to touch the soil, such as potatoes, cabbages, carrots, lettuces etc. However it would be suited to those that grow above the ground and don’t touch the soil, such as runner beans or peas and of course in flower beds too.
So now I have chickens and a free and plentiful supply of chicken manure I have decided to give making my own compost another bash. Using your own compost is a much better natural way to enrich your soil rather than using artificial methods or feed and will completely improve your soil for planting.
I researched carefully before deciding which garden composter to buy. I had initially thought about getting a wooden one, mainly because I felt that would be the most eco-friendly thing to do. Actually prior to this I would have liked to create our own, thereby recycling wood or other materials, although however amazing that would have been, I know that realistically it would have taken a long time and probably a whole load of DIY stress with it too. So I continued with my search of wooden compost bins and plastic compost bins, trying to decide which would be the most effective. I decided to try and source a plastic compost bin made from recycled plastic. I thought that these would have been plentiful and searching ‘recycled plastic compost bin’ I found, disappointingly, that there wasn’t a great deal of choice.
The reason I chose this was initially because I believed it was recycled plastic. However for practical reasons I also love the fact that it is square based and the opening at the top would be wide enough for me to empty the tray that goes beneath the roosting bars in my chicken house, straight into the bin! What a win! I also like that it has a locking lid so the lid won’t blow away on a windy day. Additionally the hatch at the bottom which is where you remove the (hopefully) fully composted compost, looks like it will stay in place. These features should also mean that my compost bin will remain rodent free. Unfortunately on my research I have discovered that the plastic is not recycled which is a shame, I just hope that the longevity will make it worth the while. Looking at a fully recycled compost bin led to one which was over £200, which unfortunately for me was over our budget. The one we bought was a pretty reasonable price in my opinion, plus it’s 300 litre which is a perfect size for our needs.
The bin came flat packed which meant less packaging and it was fairly simple to put together. It doesn’t have a base so you can put it directly on to the soil or grass so worms and other insects can get inside to speed up the composting process. As a rat or mouse deterrent – very important – we decided to put the compost bin on to a square of fairly close-knit wire (actually it was handy as we had a square left over from our chicken run which was the perfect size.) No pesky rats are going to gain entry to this compost bin! I’ll be honest it’s not the most attractive compost bin but are there any that really are? I’ve popped it right at the end of the garden in front of a patch where I am planning on sowing some wild flower seeds over the next month or so to create a butterfly and bee friendly meadow area.
I’m going to throughly research the best way to make compost. I know that we need to keep it warm, turn it regularly and also keep it wet. It’s important to have layers of different materials. I was happy to read that I can add shredded paper, what a brilliant way to securely get rid of shredded paper – that is assuming my compost bin doesn’t get raided of course. Although we have a food waste bin that goes out with our bin collection, it won’t be a bad idea to add vegetable peelings and tea bags, it will all add to the goodness of the compost. The chicken manure, which will be mixed with the wood shavings out of the chicken coop, should accelerate the process. I’m anticipating having some lovely nutrient filled compost just in time for spring, I’ll let you know how I get on.
Update: After a few months of usage, I am so chuffed with this compost bin. Because of the large lid, it is extremely easy to use and perfect for tipping in grass cuttings straight from your lawnmower grass catcher, for me it is also great for tipping the chicken manure and wood chip from the removal tray of my chicken coop. I love the fact that the lid stays open so there is no faffing around trying to hold the lid open with one hand whilst trying to pour grass cuttings in with the other. It’s lockable with an attached lid too so there is absolutely no chance of the wind whipping up the lid and blowing it away. I actually purchased another one as I quickly realised how much waste chickens produce!!
Have you been successful in making your own compost? If so, please can you share your tips.