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 The Garden Bin Composter Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Why compost?
Composting garden and household organic waste is one of the most environmentally beneficial activities you can participate in, it reduces pollution, cuts down on landfill and saves money. 30% of domestic rubbish is organic waste, it's removal from bins allows other materials to be recycled, making composting the starting point of all good “urbanwaste” systems.

What is compost?

Is it Peat?
No. Peat is harvested from peat bogs formed by the decomposition of plant materials over a long period of time. Peat is a limited resource material that is non-renewable and used mainly by the nursery industry as a soil-less potting medium.

Is it a mulch?
No and Yes. Mulch is versatile, and can be used as an inorganic or organic ground cover. Mulch can be made from pebbles, straw, shredded paper, bark, wood-chips, plastic, etc., which can be helpful in retaining moisture. Compost can be used as high-quality mulch, especially around new transplants. Compost is biologically active and contains nutrients, which add to the benefits of using it as a mulch.

Is compost a chemical fertilizer?
No. Commercial fertilizers do not contain any organic matter and are composed of specific proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (sometimes other nutrients) that are soluble and readily available to plants.

Is compost a soil?
No. Soil is the foremost layer of the earth, and is composed of various proportions of sand, silt, clay, and small amounts of organic material. Rich soil containing compost typically outperforms other soil types.

Compost is?
A mature compost is a stable humus material created by the decomposition of organic material in a controlled environment. Controlling temperature, moisture and oxygen to achieve quick decomposition and allowing the finished material to fully stabilize or mature through a curing period, the finished compost will not overheat during use or give off unpleasant odors. 

How long does it take to complete the composting process?
A number of factors effect the decomposing process, include temperature, moisture, oxygen, particle size, carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and the efficiency of ventilation ie: aeration. An immature compost can be produced as quickly as four weeks with hot batch composting, while a mature compost may take twelve weeks to complete. 

What can I compost?
Almost anything organic (that's to say once lived). Left over vegetable scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings, will compost aerobically but are better feed to worms for a quicker turn over and therefore less chance of unwanted visitors. Human and pet waste, oils, fats, dairy products, meat fish and bone all require special treatment and should not enter domestic a urban compost bin. That leaves just about everything else that's not plastic, metal or glass. Have a look at the compostable materials guide for a more comprehensive list of suitable materials. 

Why the slots around the base and under lid of the Garden bin?
The Garden Bin Composter has air slots under the lid and base. These form a unique ventilation system enabling the air to enter through the base rise up due to convection, the chimney effect of warm air rising and exhausting out through the vents. So long as the composting ingredients have a bulking agent like, chipped wood or shredded cardboard to provide voids throughout the mix, adequate aeration will take place.

How often should I turn my compost pile? 
We recommend aeration is achieved by adequate ventilation. A good mix including wood chip to create voids for air passage. The Garden Bin Composter with aeration base enables an up flow of air with convection and the use of a pile aerator to create extra air channels. We do not recommend pile turning as this is hard back braking work often failing to sustain any increase in aeration.

How many Garden Bin Composters do I need?
You can operate a three bin system if you require, we advocate the storage of pre-composting materials in other types of containers, such as our Flexi-tubs and Big bag containers, the hot batch composting in a single Garden Bin Composter and the finishing off completed outside of a container. If you are a hard and fast compost pile turner, then two bins will do the job.  

Should I shred my waste first?
Shredding the raw carbon materials produces several beneficial results, the ingredients become more susceptible to beneficial bacteria in the pile because a greater surface area is exposed. Moreover, a piece of solid wood or tightly packed clump of leaves packed together will take much longer to compost than small particles of materials. Shredding the material makes it more homogenous, produces better aeration and controls moisture. Shredded ingredients heat up more uniformly and produce a more manageable end product. As a rule there’s no need to shred nitrogen rich green materials, as these will normally have a high moisture content and will breakdown very quickly.

Particle size?
No ideal particle size, but around 1 to 2 inches of irregular shapes is best. In some cases such as in grass clippings, the raw material may be too dense to permit adequate air flow. A common solution to this problem is to add a bulking agent (straw, dry leaves, paper, cardboard) to allow for proper air flow. Mixing materials of different sizes and textures helps to keep the compost pile aerated.

Aerating the composting material?
As the composting process takes place the materials inside the compost bin will dramatically reduce and compact under its own weight, this will slow down the rate of decomposition reducing the piles temperature. Loosening the composts structure with the effective use of a compost aeration tool, will open up the marital to re-ventilate and the pile will heat up again.

What kind of paper and card can be composted?
Large amounts of newspaper and cardboard should enter the well developed recycling markets along with Glossy, shinny magazines. There’s lots of paper and card that isn't suitable for recycling that ends up in your waste system and could be composted. These include office, computer paper, old envelopes (remove the plastic window and sticky strips first), ripped up cereal packets, toilet roll cylinders, cardboard egg boxes and tissue paper. Avoid frozen food packaging and cartons used to hold liquids, as these are often bi-material, lined with a thin film of plastic or foil. These urban waste need to be shredded to accelerate their decomposition and avoid clumping together and restricting ventilation of the pile.

Why is moisture so critical to compost?  
An efficient Composter needs to have a moisture content of around 60% (feels like a wet sponge) If the moisture content falls much below 40%, many of the micro -organisms will cease to function, under-watering is the single most common factor effecting slow composting. Moisture content above 70% may cause the pile to go anaerobic, thereby producing foul odors, over-watering is the number one cause of this. Remember when the composting materials are squeezed, just a few drop of water should come out. If your worried about your judgment a low cost soil moisture indicator can be used.

My compost bin is infested with lots of little flies, how can I get rid of them?
These tiny flies are fruit flies, they help break down the fruit and vegetable material in your bin and are a harmless part of composting. To help reduce their numbers, make sure that you bury any fruit and vegetable scraps deep under other garden material in the compost bin. Don’t be tempted to use fly spray as this will kill off other useful creatures in the bin.

Why do I need to cure the finished compost?
In the curing process the compost is aging like a fine wine outside of the composting bin. During this period, the compost is chemically changing to a more stable compound. Fresh hot compost out of the bin is thoroughly decomposed but has a degree of phytotoxicity (toxic to plants), because the compounds are very "raw" and have just been active. As the compost cures micro-organisms continue to convert the organic materials and acids into forms that are not harmful to plants. Curing is not necessary if the compost is to be used directly as a thin mulch (around trees or shrubs) not being directly in contact with plant roots. During the curing process the ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen comes into balance as does the pH that shifts to neutral. Curing will further the decomposition of resistant compounds, organic acids and large particles of material and increase the concentration of humus. The overall quality of the compost an its uses will be greatly improved by a thorough curing process.


 

 

My compost is wet and smelly?
If your compost starts to smell bad chances are it's too wet. Excess water fills the voids between the materials, impeding diffusion of oxygen through the compost and leading to anaerobic conditions
Mixing in additional bulking agent such as dry wood chips, cardboard pieces, or newspaper strips is likely to alleviate the problem.

Do I need to protect myself when handling compost?
Not unless you are composting manure, but good gardening practices of wearing protective gloves and washing hand after use is sensible..

Can I empty my vacuum cleaner into the compost bin?
Yes you can, but the vacuum dust tends to be very dry and difficult to rehydrate so make sure you add water in if needs be. Most household dust consists of skin particles which will readily decompose. However, the synthetic fibers found in most modern carpets will not decompose and will be present in the finished compost.

Can I put worms from my garden into the Garden Bin Composter?  
Earth worms and other beneficial invertebrates will enter the Compost Bin naturally through its special base. Special composting worms, as used in the Can-of-Worms wormery, can be added but these need to be removed form the finished product.

My compost is infested with woodlice?
This is ok, but it can indicate the heap is too dry, give it a good mix, and add water if needed.

Why sieve compost? 
Sieving compost removes clumps of matter that have not completely decomposed and partials over a set size, often removing undesirables such as plastics that have entered the compost bin. If you intend to apply compost to your lawn its recommend you sieve/screen the compost, making it finer easier to spread, rake and water it into the grass.

What will I need to replace in the future?
As the bin has few moving parts and is constructed from robust materials it is unlikely that any parts will ware and need replacement. 

What if the compost pile smells?
A well constructed compost pile should not produce unpleasant odors. However, if it emits an ammonia odor, the problem might be too much nitrogen rich material, if it emits a rotten egg odor it might be too little air.

Does it matter where I keep my Garden Bin composter?
Try and locate the bin to maximize the radiant heat it will receive. Keep it close enough of easy access for filling and on well drained soil.

Why is the Garden Bin Composter only available in black?
The bin is designed to capture and retain an much radiant heat as possible and black is the best colour for this.

Do I need to use a temperature gauge?
Strictly just to produce compost No! But be careful the compost can and should reach temperatures upwards of 70oC-1600F, enough to leave a nasty superficial burn on your skin. If you want a serious record of your composting or an accrete indicator of what’s happening in the center of your pile then you need a long compost temperature gauge. Very hot conditions can dry out the contents, which should be kept moist.  

What happens if the Bin freezes?
The process of decomposition will slow down or even stops with freezing and restart again on thawing out, it's believed that this can even aid composting.

Can I compost weeds?
Yes, put annual weeds into the pile before they go to seed. Perennial weeds such as docks, dandelions, couch grass and bindweed, compost only the foliage or else you will find them growing in the compost bin or you could contain these types of weeds in black bags, devoid of light and air they will die after a few weeks and can then be safely added to the compost bin.

How do I use the compost?
The compost is a pure organic fertilizer with a neutral pH level. It is a ideal mulch around the base of trees and shrubs and can be dug in to enrich soil, particularly for growing vegetables.