3 Tips to Remember When Siting Your Compost Pile (or Bin)
I set up my new compost bin last week.
It is a simple holding bin – known as a Dalek bin – one of those that can be purchased through your local council for a quite reasonable sum. It was infuriating to realise that I cannot site my compost bin according to my own recommendations! I have no outside tap here, so have to attach my hose to a tap in my cloakroom. Since I am not going to place my bin on the deck where we cook, eat and entertain, I am going to have to reel my hose out of the house and out to the end of the garden every time I want to spray my compost. Curses!
Still it is in a well-drained and sheltered position, so I guess that two out of three is not too bad.
SO – HERE WE GO – 3 TIPS!
1. Siting your compost pile or bin near a source of water will make life easier.
You may know how important it is to keep your mix moist, s0 siting your pile near a source of water is well recommended. Water is one of the essential ingredients of composting and in hot, dry weather, it is advisable to add a spray of water particularly when adding ‘brown’ materials to your pile. The best tool for this is the spray fitting on the end of your hose. Using a bucket may result in over-watering and subsequent ‘pooling’ of water in the bin. The consequence of that, is a wet anaerobic mess where your micro-organisms are virtually drowned – as will be any worms and other small creatures that are doing their best for you. The water chokes out the oxygen in the pile and without oxygen there is no compost! So, to make it easy and to encourage regular dampness checks, try to site your compost bin or pile near to a hose pipe.
Tip: Your compost should be just damp. A handful squeezed should result in no more than a drop or two of water.
2. Make sure it is in a sheltered position with some protection from the elements.
Depending on the climate in your neighbourhood you will want to protect your pile from hot sun, freezing cold, rain and biting wind, particularly if it is a pile that is on open ground and so exposed to the elements. A simple holding bin is not so vulnerable, as it will offer some insulation, so siting your compost bin in a sheltered position is still important, but possibly not quite so crucial.
Extreme heat in the summer will just dry your compost out which will mean extra vigilance and regular watering if you don’t want action to stop. It is easier to have your bin sitting in some shade from the out-set. Of course if you live where the sun, even in summer, is relatively weak, you will want your bin sited in a sunny corner where you can steal its heat and use it to maintain any warmth that has built up.
In winter, cold and wind will force the temperature of your compost down, resulting in dormant insects and microbes, and even frozen worms. Composting will come to a halt and your materials may even freeze. In some areas, this is normal. In more temperate zones, insulating your bin with special wrapping and siting the bin in a group of shrubs or trees, or in a lean-to will go a long way to keeping the compost working, albeit at a much slower pace.
3. Make sure your bin or pile is sited a well-drained piece of ground
It is no good siting your compost pile or your bin on soggy ground where excess water cannot drain away. Neither do you want rain pouring on to it, making everything sodden.
An excess of water:
- Replaces the oxygen that is necessary for the microorganisms and fauna in your pile to be able to work, so stopping the composting process and making your pile anaerobic. This results in your materials simply rotting and becoming smelly
- Leaches out all the nutrients from your compost, washing them away or just letting them soak into the ground.
If you have a pile and you experience high rainfall in your area, the best plan is to cover everything with a piece of tarp. If you are using a holding bin, there should be a lid on it. This avoids the problem of rain altogether, and as long as you are on a well-drained area that is not liable to flood and has no drainage problems, all will be well.
Enjoy your composting. It is a great occupation for encouraging mental relaxation and can bring great pleasure and satisfaction.