Compost Equipment – Time to Shop?
When starting out, you really don’t have to spend heaps of money on new compost equipment.
If you are an established gardener, you probably have a ready supply of tools, some of which will stand you in good stead when working with your compost. If you get serious though, you may find that you want to have a little flutter and see what compost equipment the garden centres have on offer.
When starting out, your compost equipment needs will be quite straight-forward and not necessarily expensive. Excluding your bin, if you decide to have one, the first priority in my view, is a decent fork for turning your materials. I have a small fork, known as a ditch fork. I bought a ditch spade as well. It is a bit of a strange choice, but I have a very small garden, with very little space between the shrubs. I am short and there is barely enough room around my bin to fully stretch my arms. Frankly, it is a total nuisance and turning my ingredients is a pain in the neck. Notwithstanding my desire to save money and to make one tool do two jobs, I have decided that I really want to get a proper pitchfork with scooped tines. These shaped tines allow you to scoop up the waste, lift it, toss it a bit and drop it back in again. The straight tines on my fork do no such thing and I end up scraping the top off my pile and little else without a lot of struggling. (Sometimes it is worth forking out for proper compost equipment!)
So – first piece of compost equipment I would go for would be an easily-handled pitchfork.
The next piece of equipment I long for is a shredding machine. I have to say that this would be considered a real luxury, but there you go. I have mainly shrubs in my small plot and I like to keep them under control. This means quantities of garden trimmings that need chopping down to size before they are put into my bin. I tried just tossing them in this year. (my hands were sore from using secateurs to cut up the small branches, so I didn’t take proper notice of what I knew in my heart was right. Be warned!) It definitely does not work. I would like to get a shredder, but they are quite pricey. At the moment I am chasing one for under 100 pounds. May have to go second hand.
Many texts on the subject, discuss the use of machetes, loppers, choppers, etc for reducing waste to small pieces and this could well be the answer for many, especially those who have larger gardens with lots of other things going on. Not for me, though, with my little urban garden and my shonky shoulders!
You can turn your ingredients regularly with your pitchfork, but you could also consider buying a compost aerator. These are special tools designed to help oxygenate your pile quickly – when, for whatever reason, you just cannot do the full ‘turning’ routine. There are two main types – the “harpoon” style and the “crank” style. Both appear to be effective, but there are reports that the harpoon style can get caught on large objects in the bin and prove difficult to pull out. I am certainly going to invest in one or other of these though. I am sure that one of these items of compost equipment would overcome the difficulties caused by my lack of space and my lack of height!
Finally and I think these are very necessary I recommend a good strong pair of garden gloves and maybe a mask to cover your nose and mouth. It is not sissy! If you cut yourself when handling materials that are, not to put too fine a point on it, rotting, you run the risk of picking up some really nasty infections. Some people wear masks to protect themselves from air-borne pathogens, especially when dealing with dried out manure and compost. In NZ and Australia, bags of compost carry warnings of possible legionnaire disease spore contamination and advise the wearing of a mask when opening them. Not stupid, particularly when the contents are dry and dusty. Have you ever seen the blue haze that rises off a piece of mouldy bread when it is disturbed?
To sum up:
You can start composting with nothing but an old spade and do a pretty good job. As you get further involved however, it is fun and often really helpful to investigate available compost equipment and maybe buy a few ‘toys’.
bin pitchfork spade thermometer aerator gloves mask wheelbarrow hose digging fork shovel clogs