Tag Archives: compost bin

Mr Mac has a new toy!

My attention was caught recently by a magazine flyer advertising a lightweight garden tiller. If the marketing was to be believed, this piece of equipment would revolutionise gardening life. It would do everything except bring you a chilled glass of wine while you lay in a hammock watching it do all the work.

I waved it under Mr Mac’s nose and after some humming and hawing and Google research he decided that it might not be such a bad idea given the state of our soil, the number of vegetable beds and borders (soon to be increased) and the amount of landscaping in this year’s garden plan.

But for Mr Mac it was to be none of this namby pamby lightweight nonsense. Oh no! Off he went to the agricultural machinery shop (I’m sure there is another name for it!) and on Friday last week, our garden saviour was delivered.

Life changing!

Life changing!

So despite the single figure, coldest Easter weekend on record temperatures, we set about seeing just how life changing this piece of kit was going to be. First of all the empty veg bed……

This is the veg bed before.

This is the veg bed before.

An action shot!

An action shot!

The result after 25 minutes!

The result after 25 minutes!

Impressive I think you’ll agree. Mr Mac was now a man on a mission to rotivate anything that did not move but as there was not anything else ready, he decided to try it on the compost.

Now I am ashamed to admit that our compost bins have been badly neglected since last summer and all three bays were full and needing turned. Mr Mac attacked them with the tiller, churned it all up and I (because Mr Mac had put his back out by this point) turned it all to be left with one bay of finest useable compost, one bay “in progress” and one empty. All in all this took us a couple of hours but mainly due to the fact that (a) there was so much and (b) I’m a girl!





Now while this was also very successful, Mr Mac has decided that to make the compost break down even faster (and hence transform our lives beyond recognition!) he really needs to get a shredder.

Boys and their toys!

Speedy compost and decoys

Well what a week it has been. I spent most of the time doing the greenhouse hokey kokey…in, out, in, out, have a cup of tea…trying to dodge the showers.

The good news…

It was time to turn the compost for the first time since creating the new bays. I timed Mr Mac and it took just over 30 minutes. A huge improvement on 2 years! He just used a fork and lifted the compost over into the empty bay. I ripped up some cardboard and threw it in too to add some carbon. I have also learned that adding cardboard can also stop the compost heap smelling! We shall see….

The middle bay was full and ready to be turned into the bay on the right.

30 minutes later..all done

All of the new waste is now on the bottom and lots of air has been introduced to help it break down quicker.

And the not so good news…

The pigeons got the blame for eating the chard and the tulips. However, we then noticed the rasberry canes had all been stripped of shoots and leaves up to a height of about 3 feet. There is no way pigeons could have done that. Perplexed, we spent the day building frames to support nets over the raspberries and at 5am the following morning, Mr Mac got up before any of the birds, set a trap and sat at the back door Elmer Fudd style…waiting.

Mr Mac

Do you know what it was?

It was the pheasant! He has been wandering around for a few weeks now but we had never seen him in the garden. He makes a very loud “caw, caw” noise, followed by flapping his wings so you can hear him, even if you can’t see him.

One morning he woke us up and I even joked that he was so loud it sounded as if he was at the bottom of the bed! That was probably the same morning he ate all the tulips!

Fear not! He is still alive and well but we are following his movements closely and if he comes anywhere near the garden he gets chased away.

We are still not convinced the pigeons are entirely without blame for all the damage. I watched a programme recently about the London Underground. They have so much bother from pigeons at depots and stations that they employ a hawk which scares away the pigeons.

I half joked to Mr Mac that perhaps we should get a hawk to scare away the pigeons. He told me I was a genius and went next door to see Wallace. His real name is John but I call him Wallace because he was the inspiration for Wallace and Gromit. He is always designing gadgets from bits and pieces lying around.

Anyway, this is what they came up with…

Our decoy hawk - terrifying!

He is made from plywood and is attached to a bendy bit of metal so he “wobbles” in the wind.  Wallace is currently designing some form of swivel mechanism.

Apparently, a second decoy was also produced but he looks more like tweety pie!

Welcome to Compostopolis!

What a fantastic weekend. Two days of glorious, warm sunshine. It made me smile!

This year, Mr Mac and I have a long list of jobs to do in the garden other than growing things. The problem is one job needs to be done before the next one can be started. The time had come, we could put it off no longer – the compost bins had to be moved!

How NOT to build a compost bin!

old compost bins

How not to build a compost bin

When we moved here almost 4 years ago, Mr Mac built 3 huge composting bins at the bottom of the garden. One bin had to be demolished last year to make way for the new greenhouse and the remaining 2 were just in the wrong place.

As you can see from the photo they were huge and we could get loads of stuff in them.  However, size is not everything! To make compost successfully it needs to be turned. This is done by mixing it up to allow the air to get in. Our bins were too high to be able to do this.

We did eventually get lovely compost but it took nearly 2 years while we waited for the waste to break down.

How to do it properly

The error of our way was made clear one Friday evening courtesy of Monty Don on Gardeners World. He showed (or showed off according to an envious Mr Mac) viewers his composting “bays”. Simple compartments open at one end to allow waste to be wheelbarrowed in, tipped and left to break down.

The walls of each compartment were low enough to allow the compost to be turned by moving it from one bay to the next. A few weeks later it can be moved back. The most recent waste on top is then at the bottom and plenty of air is introduced which then speeds up the process.

This system should provide useable compost in as little as 3 months – a substantial improvement on 2 years!

New compost baysHere is the result using some old corrugated seets and some fence posts.

The end bay will hold the compost that is ready to use and the other two will be used to alternate the compost that is breaking down. The walls are low enough to allow the composting waste to be lifted over with a fork into the next bay, introducing lots of air in the process.

So what do we compost?

To make good compost we use lots of different material. Fine waste such as grass clippings, coarse waste such as potato peelings, dry waste such as cardboard (Mr Mac highly recommends empty beer boxes for this!)  and wet waste such as other garden waste. We keep one of the small plastic composting bins you buy in the supermarket under the kitchen sink and fill it with veg peelings, tea bags, coffee grinds and egg shells.

A balanced mix provides the right amount of air and moisture to allow the bacteria to heat up and break down the waste. Worms also help – hence the reason Mr Mac has banned me from adding citrus peel – the worms don’t like it apparently!

And finally……

After a hard day in the garden I sat down to read the Sunday paper. I came across an article about an award-winning composting shed which is set to become the star of this year’s Scotland’s Garden’s Scheme (www.scotlandsgardens.org). Feeling quite smug about our newly constructed compost bays, I read on to see what the fuss was about.

The garden’s owner had commissioned a firm of architects to build the £22,000, 7ft shed made of curved weathered steel and with a wildflower meadow roof.

Our composting bays probably did not even cost £2 – and that was the cost of the biscuits we ate while having our tea break!