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Composting in a city backyard

We’re talking composting a lot at the minute because, well firstly being November, it’s that time of year where as gardeners, we start to think about getting the soil in our beds and containers into tip-top condition for next year. And that means a lot of compost to replace the organic matter and nutrients that have been used up. You’d be surprised just how much compost a small urban garden needs, let alone the bigger gardens or even allotments. Also, it’s a hot topic just now generally given the interest in asking the horticulture industry, including home gardening, to move away from peat-based products and to find a more sustainable route. Now regardless of your thought son peat-free, there will be costs for the companies who provide compost as they try to find alternative materials to use. A lot of compostable materials that used to be happily given away free, like leaves for leaf mould and manure, will now be valuable items that can be sold. And all these costs will be passed down to the consumer who buys the finished compost products. So composting at home is now seeming like a really good idea for all us gardeners, regardless of our garden size.

As you guys know, we’ve been composting since we started our garden, at first just for fun of trying out the adventure, but now we produce about 80% of the compost materials we use in our garden and the upside of this is that we don’t need to make use of the local food waste collections and use the garden waste collections much, much less. However, I have learned over the last 10 years or so that there are different ways to compost and there are obviously things to think about when you choose a method. For me, a bit of consideration is that we have an urban garden, sandwiched in the middle of a city street with neighbours on either side.

So for me then there are two important factors I made a priority when I was deciding on my current method, the first being that I wanted to minimise smells. Because I don’t want my neighbours feeling like they can’t enjoy their garden because they don’t like the smell of my composting garden waste. This was a concern for me because although on the whole, composting shouldn’t cause odour issues, I did have a couple of times, usually after some really heavy rain, where my big traditional pallet compost bins were a bit pongy. So when I decided to look at alternative methods, I was very much looking for a way to help minimise the chance of pong. Also though, the other one was vermin. You absolutely don’t want to be encouraging rats and mice into city gardens. And although we never had any signs of rats, we did have a family of mice in the pallet composter at one point. So I wanted to find a way to minimise this risk. Now the final consideration for me was much more for our benefit than the neighbours and that was that we wanted compost bins that weren’t an eyesore. After all, this is our garden, our haven, a place where we sit and enjoy a sunny day. Even though our garden is also a practical area where we grow food, we absolutely didn’t want to detract from the general look and feel of the space.

So these are some of the factors that made us sway towards the hotbin composter which was a big change from our original pallet bin that kate had built. Firstly, it’s a sealed unit with charcoal filters, a big black box. So it looked very different but fit into the garden well as it’s compact with a small footprint and it isn’t unsightly and almost disappears. It’s also very neat and clean. The fact that it’s a closed unit means it doesn’t attract rats and mice, which is great. Although realistically we all know if rats decide they wanted in there, they absolutely would chew their way in. Nothing stops rats, not even concrete.

There are other benefits of this system, although theory weren’t factors originally, but this bin also via what we call hot composting, meaning that it churns away at 50C or 60C working very fast. VERY fast, we can have garden and kitchen waste to usable compost in 3 months rather than the year plus for traditional pallet bays. Perfect for a busy vegetable garden and greenhouse.

We’re going to be doing a lot more videos about composting over the coming season so if you think this might be something you want to investigate or might be a new adventure you fancy going on, click on Get Notified in the menu up top and subscribe to us on our youtube channel, that way you’ll get an alert when we post.

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