Using a Compost Bin
A few thoughts on various types of compost bin.
When discussing ‘bin composting’, I now know that we are simply referring to ‘composting in a container’, as opposed to having an open heap somewhere in the corner of the garden. In practice, there is a wide variety of compost bins available, including turning-units and holding-units, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Everyone seems to agree, however, that the container used does not materially affect the end result. We will still get compost, the quality of which will depend on what materials we have used and how we have managed the pile. The container is just the vehicle for our journey, hopefully making it easier if not faster. As always, not everyone has the same requirements and if you decide to go with a compost bin, it is important to work out which type is best suited to you and your situation.
You will need though, to understand which compost bins support either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ composting and you do need to take this into consideration when deciding which path you want to follow.
Briefly, a compost bin can be one of two types, generally known as:
Holding-Units are containers that simply hold your waste materials while decomposition occurs at its own pace. This would include most of the smaller DIY creations, basic plastic bins (daleks) and all those odd containers that end up as receptacles for anything to be re-cycled. Continuous composting is the method used when processing your ingredients in this way and generally, in these circumstances, you would be ‘cold composting’, that is the temperature of your pile would not be raised.
Turning-Units are those in which you ‘turn’ your ingredients in order to heat up your materials and so carry out ‘hot’ composting. Here, your compostable items are collected over time, and amalgated all in one hit. This is known as Batch composting. To ‘hot compost’, you need a vessel that will allow the temperature of your pile to rise to 140 -150 degrees or you need a pile that has a mass big enough to generate and retain a similar heat.
Your options when discussing turning-units are:
Click for further information on each type.
Why bother using a compost bin?
- A bin keeps a small garden tidier, resulting in a more efficient use of resources.
- It looks more attractive in your garden.
- It provides some protection from roaming animals.
- It helps to regulate the moisture in your pile.
- It provides insulation.
- It helps to speed up the process of decomposition.
- It helps to keep smells contained. (Not that there should be any if all is well!)
Not all bins will do all things though, so you need to work out just what you want your bin to do. For instance, if you want to protect your compost from animal visitors, a roll of chicken wire around your heap will not do the trick, although it will certainly help to contain the ingredients.
I think that a compost bin of some sort, especially in urban gardens with limited space has to be the way to go, whether holding-units or turning-units.Open piles are not particularly attractive, can take up a lot of space and could possibly be a source of friction with your neighbours.