If you are dealing with waste that would normally go into your green bin or even your food waste caddy then you might find it useful to know what you can and can’t compost and how to deal with different materials.
The first important thing is to try and use up any left over food that you can because a lot of it can’t be composted. You can freeze left overs in small containers or bags to be reheated and eaten at a later date. If you have a dog or cat or even chickens, see whether it is safe for them to eat any leftovers that you can’t use or freeze. Old bread can be made into breadcrumbs and frozen. Think about what you can safely feed to the birds always with care and attention to avoid attracting rats.
But if you still have some leftover food, some of it can be added to an enclosed hot composting system like the HotBin or to a Bokashi bin (see below).
In an average town garden your composting needs are dependent on your garden waste levels. If you have pots and containers and a tiny lawn then a small compost bin should cope. Add a Bokashi bin or wormery to your set up and you’ve got a good basis to deal with most waste types.
One of the most fun ways to recycle your kitchen peelings is to have a worm bin. Basically you are treating the worms as pets and feeding them a little and often with small amounts of waste. Strictly speaking it’s not composting, but the resulting ‘black gold’ that results from worm activity is a very rich and high quality material and ideal for feeding plants in pots. There are some small, funky and compact wormeries available that would suit a contemporary balcony, or terrace. Worm bins should have a tap fitted to drain off any excess liquid, which can also be used as plant food. A worm bin is ideal for small amounts of kitchen peelings, like potato and carrot peel. They don’t really like onion skins and citrus, but otherwise they will deal with most fruit and veg peelings, cores and waste. www.wigglywigglers.co.uk; 01981 500391
A Bokashi bin is another great system for kitchen waste. Again it’s not composting, it sort of pickles the waste. On the plus side you can ‘compost’ small amounts of food waste, including bread meat, fish, bones and dairy, and you can have more than one. It’s compact, clean, odorless and easy to use and you can keep your bin indoors.
But you need to add special microbe enriched bran to the mix every time you add some waste. This adds to the cost. And you need to have somewhere to ‘bury’ the resultant fermented mix, or a larger hot bin system to deal with it, which may not be convenient if you don’t have access to a garden. www.wigglywigglers.co.uk; 01981 500391
The secret to good compost lies in the temperature that it reaches. If you can achieve a hot heap, and that’s proof that the microbes are working hard, then it’s important to keep the heat in. These days you can buy insulated bins, of which the HotBin is a popular choice. It can be used to compost some food and garden waste. You can fire it up with the Bulking Agent or Kick Starter Bottle. There are two sizes, a mini version for small gardens and the original version that is suitable for medium gardens. www.hotbincomposting.com; 0808 168 8499
Three bin system
For large gardens it’s likely that you will generate lots of lawn clippings and prunings at different times of the year. A triple-bin system is a good choice if you have room for it. Usually it is three separate meter cube bins next to each other, they can share an internal wall. The idea is that you have a bin that you are filling, a bin that you filled previously that is now composting down and a bin of compost that is ready to add to the beds and borders. There are various materials used to make these triple bins. I would recommend a recycled plastic material where possible such as those available from Plaswood. www.plaswoodgroup.com; 0333 202 6800
Ideally you need plenty of space to utlise a compost tumbler. They turn on an axis and when full can be heavy and awkward to turn. But a compost tumbler aerates the contents and speeds the composting process, so you can make compost a bit faster than a grounded composter. And a compost tumbler is a good way to deter rodents, as the contents are pretty much out of reach. There are a few designs available including hollow balls that you fill and roll around the garden, and tumblers raised on a frame.