Allotment Composting ~

Continuing our guide to setting up your allotment, we move swiftly onto composting. We’ve got 20 new allotments on the site, and rather than vegetables appearing, they seem to be sprouting incinerators. The latest count is six shiney ones and the older ‘rusty’ variety all capable of spreading throughout the new allotment site, causing pollution and a horrible environment for everyone to work in once they start to belch out their smoke.

Here’s a tip for anyone who has an allotment or veg patch in their garden, compost your waste! Things that grow are normally green and full of water, which are traditionaly not the greatest combustible materials. They will produce smoke, make the area smell and make your allotment hell for everyone else. Over the Bank Holiday we had four fires on the go at the same time, all from inconsiderate people thinking only about themselves. Put your waste in a compost bin or heap and get free compost for your allotment beds next year. Rant over, we move onto building a compost bin or heap. Depending on how much you want to spend on composting, you’ve got a few choices.

Plastic Compost Bins

The platic compost bins from DIY stores are quick and easy to use, but they cost money. Online ordering isn’t really an option here as the postage can be quite high but you may be lucky! Your local council may have a subsidised scheme for bins and may deliver them direct to the site or your home. A quick note on which ones to buy….Get the round, one piece variety rather than the four sided ones that you put together yourself. Wickes are selling the four sided ones and they are absolutely rubbish. If you want a bin that doesn’t quite fit together and will burst open when you open the spring loaded lid, then go get one. I’d stick to the round ones every time.

Wooden Compost Bins

If large plastic darleks aren’t your thing, then the slightly more attractive alternative is to buy or make a wooden compost bin. Prices range from £20 for a small slatted design to a few hundred pounds for a quadruple compost bin, or you could go old school and pick up some wooden pallets and build your own. The ones you buy come with their own instructions and can be built in minutes, but the pallet version can take longer depending on your design! Our latest allotment compost bin consisted of one pallet at the back, one on the left, one on the right, and you guessed it, one at the front. Screw them all together at the corners with some long screws and you’re ready to go. Make sure your design allows for a second bin to be added on the side while still allowing the front pallet to be easily removed. You’ll need to take the front off next year to turn the compost and eventualy take it out, without taking the whole thing apart. Top the whole thing off with some carpet to keep the compost warm, and plastic to keep the worst of the rain off, and you’re composting! The same style of compost bin can be made from an allotment favourite, corrugated steel. The layout is the same, but needs some stakes to hold it all together, and maybe a tetanus shot if it all goes wrong.

The Classic Compost Heap

If you really can’t be bothered to buy or build your own, then the minimum effort, ready to go method is to put your waste in a pile and add more waste as you go. While it may be free, it isn’t the tidiest way to look after your allotment, and some allotments do not allow open heaps like this.

Compost Bin Maintenance

No matter which type of compost bin you’ve gone for, you need to take some care over what you put in your compost. Wher possible add some ‘brown’ waste to your bin. Scrunched up paper (shed anything with your details on it) adds air to the mix and speeds up the composting process, cardboard, wood shavings, sawdust and soft prunings will all help. Add some soil to the mix as this will get the composting process started. Keep the compost well mixed and kep the different types of waste in balance. Adding loads of lawn cliipings will result in a smelly sludge rather than a finecompost material, so make sure you add lots of brown waste to keep the moisture level right. After a few months your bin should be filling up. Take it all out and then put it back in! This will add air to the mix and keep the composting process going. Turnign your compost over also mixes up the brown and green waste. ab

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