Build a Compost Bin

Good compost adds so much to a garden. It's a great organic addition to your soil, improving its structure and fertility. It's also an easy and productive way to dispose of organic household waste.

It is not difficult to prepare compost. You simply need air, moisture, worms and other micro-organisms. I find I don't need lots of fancy compost starters, but I do ensure I keep up a regular supply of organic waste.

Building your own compost bin is simple and effective. It gives many advantages over most commercially available bins – you can provide easy access to remove compost and turn it, to make sure you get good aeration.

Select the site for your bin carefully. It should be level, well drained, at least one metre square and have access to soil. Protection from full sun is advisable or it may become too hot, but don't put it in a dark, dank corner either.

Your bin should be a minimum of one metre square, though slightly bigger would be better. First make the sides. Lay two 30mm square battens, about one metre apart, on the ground and nail planks across them starting about 50mm along the battens. By leaving a small gap between the lowest two or three planks, you can encourage air movement into the compost bin, a vital feature to keep your mix well aerated and to keep it cool in summer.

Repeat this process for the other side of the bin. Stand the two sides up at a space apart equal to the dimension of the bin and nail some pieces of wood across the sides to hold them in place.

Now nail planks on to form the back of the bin. Remember to put in gaps between the lower planks for aeration to match those on the sides.

If you are concerned about vermin getting into the bin through these gaps, you can nail some small gauge chicken-wire tightly over the gaps.
Nail two further battens inside the front side of your bin to provide a guiding rail for the front of your bin to slide in.

Nail a front rail about 50mm above the ground and two bits of timber adjacent to it between the battens to act as stoppers to the front boards.

Slide planks down the front of the bin to form the front panel. Now fill your bin with household waste, lawn clippings, leaves, etc. Try to alternate layers of nitrogen rich material - grass clippings, vegetable peelings and other organic waste - and carbon-rich material - bark, straw, shredded paper.

Don't put in thick layers of grass clippings, sawdust or newspapers.

You may choose to turn your mix in the bin. This will speed the forming of good quality compost. You can introduce worms, but they will find their way in naturally through the floor.

If the mix becomes too dry add water, but you may choose to prepare a simple cover of plastic sheet and wooden battens to keep the rain out. I find that if I use vegetable scraps and lawn clippings my mix stays nicely moist.

Remove compost as it becomes ready (when it is dark and rich and smells sweet), after say two or three months, though it may mature more quickly if you turn it. Apply the compost to your garden as a really good conditioner.

And it's free!