Compost heap location

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Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:31 am

Hi,

I'll probably build a compost heap in the coming weeks and a choice of locations. Is it better located in full sunlight (here that can mean three months of hot temperatures, 30 deg C plus) or is it better if it doesn't dry out?

Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby diggernotdreamer » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:30 pm

What kind of composting construction do you have in mind and how much material will be going into it say on a weekly basis

best regards

A compost anorak
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:02 pm

Hi diggernotdreamer,

I'll probably make one compartmentto start with, about 1m3, but not sure whether to use wire netting or planks - any pros-cons to either method? I was thinking of three wooden-slatted sides with wire mesh on the front which could be easily peeled back for access once it has composted down.

Mostly I'll be putting weeds in it this year, from weeding the courtyard, maybe leaves from trees/vines in the autumn, weeds from the vegetable plot I hope to get sorted out these days, perhaps some kitchen scraps, and so on. There's another area of the garden I hope to grass over this year, so maybe some grass cuttings eventually. It won't be, I don't think, a particularly large amount of material this year, but as the garden becomes more established (I don't live there at the moment) and I get more fruit and veg growing, the amount could increase, in which case I would probably have a double-compartment system. I would say not much more than a wheelbarrowful per month apart from when I do some clearing out of other areas, particularly in the autumn.

The area I would like to put it in ideally (the veg plot) is roughly rectangular with the long sides running north-south-ish. The south end has a wire fence between my property and my neighbours, so I wouldn't like to put it there - it would look rather obtrusive - so along one of the other three sides would be best. The other three sides have various walls, barns, fences, and so on. Essentially, I could erect it on the north end of the plot, which would mean it gets almost full sunlight all day, or along one of the east-west sides, which would give it partial sunlight.

Cheers,
Mike
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby diggernotdreamer » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:55 pm

My advice would be to make one out of planks, I have some built out of gravel boards which are 6" x 1", 1m3 is a good size for the amount of material you would be putting in. Instead of putting a wire mesh front, I would advise making a slot in the front and cut boards to size that you can take out to access the compost. If compost heaps are exposed to the weather, they can dry out quite badly. When you add material, give a bit of a watering and then cover over with something like an old bit of carpet to keep the moisture in. If you add grass mowings, it's a good idea to put in layers of mowings about 6" thick and then put in something like crumpled newspaper, eggboxes, shredded letters etc., water the layers, if you lump in a load of mowings you end up with green goo outside and inside a dry grey coloured mould and nothing has broken down. Kitchen waste is great, t bags, coffee grounds, fruit skins (orange and lemon peels if you score them they will break down better), eggs shells, crush them well as they come out again intact, tough stalks chop them up (I used to use one of the half moon lawn edgers to chop that kind of stuff up, but then I bought a Lescher shredder that could take soft waste). I compost all the household bills, egg boxes, used kitchen roll and other low grade paper. The temperature should not prove too much of a problem if you keep the heap protected from the wind and sun in the way described. When you really get going, if you want to make compost quickly, build another box next to the first one and turn the contents from box one into box 2, mixing in grass mowings, stinging nettles, diluted urine, chicken droppings and other small animal bedding if you have it, adding water and letting it cook again, turning the heat gets the aerobic bacteria excited and helps break down the heap, the more you turn it the faster it will turn into useable compost which is really handy to have instead of importing in animal manures or commercial composts. The only place where I have seen compost fail is in really dark corners and under leylandii trees.

Dead autumn leaves should be dealt with seperately. They break down by the action of fungi whereas the compost heap is broken down by bacteria. Bang four posts into the ground and surround with chicken wire or similar, pick the leaves up with a mower if you want to accelerate to process. Leaves need to get wet in order for the fungi to work, so again wet them if they are dry. They may take several years to break down depending on the sort of leaves. If your leaves are green, they can go into the compost heap, but brown ones won't break down in there.

There, told you I was an anorak.

Happy composting, Lyn
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:13 pm

Thank you for that, Lyn. Excellent information. I'll follow your advice and put it together completely from boards. I have plenty of wood lying around the place so it shouldn't be a problem knocking something together. I'll put together a separate one for leaves, as you suggest. In fact, most of the trees/vines are in another area of the garden altogether so it'll be more convenient to have the leaf box in another location anyway.

Regarding the use of urine: as we don't have an indoor toilet there, there tends to be a plentiful supply of the stuff from chamber pots. Can this be added routinely to the compost heap or only when turning from one box to the next, or would too much create a problem? I've never really known what to do with the stuff, the only practical use I'm aware of being something to do with leather tanning.

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Mike
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby diggernotdreamer » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:41 pm

urine is good for the heap, top your pots up with water and chuck in the heap, if you have it, a sprinkle of sawdust or straw won't go amiss, will give the urine something to hang onto. Dilute urine makes a good feed for peppers and tomatoes, (1 part urine to 20 water should do it) and it can be watered onto the lawn to give the sward an emerald green sheen
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:28 pm

Thanks again.

Mike
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby oldjerry » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:39 pm

Good advice with the Compost,as far as the leaf compost goes,if your not blessed with loads of land,easiest thing is to wet them,then chuck them in a black plastic sack,pre-stabbed with a garden fork,tie the bags,stack,and leave round the back of the shed,takes about a year,makes great soil conditioner,or sieved and added to loam,good seed compost.If you've got stacks of land,dig a hole about a metre cubed,fill it with leaves,cover with soil,and leave a year.
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Lochside Yogi » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:51 pm

Hi Mike, I have just bought a book on composting that you might find interesting, it's one of a series of 'Bob's Basics' organic gardening books by Bob Flowerdew. I got mine secondhand from Amazon for just a few pence! I think there are still some available.
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Skippy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:51 am

In regard purely to location of a heap rather than how to build a heap I've put mine pretty much central to the garden. That way I don't have to walk the entire lenght of the garden with either waste to put in it or compost to come out of it. It's either ergononmics or idleness take yer pick.
My main one is around a yard square and built of slabs and bricks with a removable front timber section. They're the materials I had lying around so they got used. I also have a couple of those plastic bin types that tend to move around the garden from year to year.


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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:55 am

Thanks for the additional replies. Unfortunately it snowed the night before I went up to the house, and then snowed again on the Sunday, so I didn't manage to get started on the compost heap or clearing out of the (what is going to be the) vegetable plot :(

Repaired a fence instead and cleared out the old pig pens which were full of bags of rubble and scrap metal.
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Flo » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:04 pm

My favourite composting instructions are here as the list is very imaginative about what you can use and what you definitely shouldn't use. It also suggests but the cool way of doing things and the hot way of doing things.
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Maykal » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:50 pm

Great link, Flo, thanks! Nice list of things you can use (or not). I'll print that out and take it with me.

It recommends not having gaps in the sides, but I always thought that compost heap walls were supposed to have gaps or holes in them.
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby diggernotdreamer » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:52 pm

If you have gaps in the sides, it exposes the heap to wind which dries the heap, people sometimes think this lets air into the heap but this is not the case, only by turning your heap can you aerate it properly, and you must be in control of moisture and air if you want to make compost quickly. If you have ever seen an anaerobic heap (cold one), you can dig around in it and find things like whole cabbages that haven't broken down
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Re: Compost heap location

Postby Skippy » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:05 am

Interesting link flo, it seems I've been doing it pretty much right over the years. I did notice that it says not to compost disposable nappies. When my daughter was using nappies my wife prefered to use disposalables despite my objections. It wasn't worth starting arguments about it but I did at the time come across something on the 'tinterweb that said that the gel inside the nappies is compostable so I gave that a try. I'm not going to lie and say it was a loverly job taking used nappies apart but I did do that with quite a few and add the gel to the heap with no problems , or at least no problems that I've noticed.


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