During a time when it’s never been more important to do our bit to reduce our individual carbon footprint, one easy way to be a little kinder to the planet is by composting at home.
If you’re not already composting or want to grow your compost capacity, before you rush out to buy a compost bin, you may want to think about making your own.
Inexpensive and easy to do in no time at all, this is a great little garden DIY project that even the most junior of DIYers can get involved with too, whilst learning all about composting and its many benefits.
But first up:
Composting is a means of recycling organic waste such as leftover food scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings and garden waste.
Lots of the things that get chucked in the kitchen bin and eventually end up in landfill can actually be broken down organically and used to support the growth of plants, fruits and vegetables across the garden. This is the process of composting.
There really are so many benefits to composting at home.
Making your own compost bin is a great way to save money as well as recycling any left-over timber products from a recent decking or fencing project.
If you don’t have any leftover timber and are starting from scratch, we’ll show you which timbers and materials to use to get started.
A hand saw
You need to start with a level ground surface. Clear an area of your garden that is easy to access, yet out of the way of seating areas.
Starting with your 75x75mm 3m sawn posts, measure, mark and all both posts in half, so that you have 12 equal lengths of 1.5m.
Next cut the 75x25mm 3.6m sawn timber. Measure, mark and cut 12 1.5 metre lengths from your 6 pieces of timber. Keep the 6 leftover pieces of 600mm timber for later.
To prevent pesky rats from getting into the compost heap through the bottom and side, you can use wire mesh. You’ll need to cut the mesh to sizes of 1.5m2.
The first thing to do is build a strong and stable base frame.
For this, we’re going to use 4 of the 75x75mm 1.5m sawn timber lengths.
Take 4 of the 1.5metres lengths of 75x75mm timber and lay them on the ground to create a square.
Check that each end is flush with its adjacent length before screwing the 4 pieces together to create a perfect square.
Repeat this step to create the top frame.
Starting by attaching the bottom frame to the side frame panels will enable you to fix the bottom layer of wire mesh.
You’re going to use the remaining 4 1.5m 75x75mm sawn posts for this next stage.
Lay one of your 1.5m2 mesh cuttings over the top of the base frame, then place your first 1.5m side panel on top of the base frame, smallest end down, sandwiching the mesh in between.
From the outside in, screw the bottom of the base frame into the end of the first side frame. Use 2 screws for a secure hold. Repeat this for the 3 other side frames.
Take your top frame and repeat this step, minus the wire mesh.
Next, take three ready-cut 1.5 m lengths of 75x25mm.
Role your frame onto its side, lay over 1 of your remaining 1.5m2 sections of wire mesh so that it is covering the entire side.
Take one piece of 75x25mm sawn timber and place it 300mm up from the bottom of the base on its flat side, sandwiching the mesh wire in between. Once flat and straight, attach it to the side frames using screws.
Repeat this process, from the top frame down with the second piece of 75x25mm timber. Then place the final piece of 75x25mm exactly half way between the top and bottom 75x25mm now fitted sife panels.
Repeat this process around the remaining 3 sides.
You’ll notice that the side panel wire mesh is not secure at the bottom and top. Take your leftover cuttings of 600mm 75x25mm timber, and cut each section into 16 100mm lengths.
Use these smaller lengths on each corner of the compost bin to tack the mesh securely down.
It’s as simple as that!
Now you have your compost bin ready, it’s time to get started.
Next, you can start adding in your organic waste. It’s important to do this in layers. A layer of waste, followed by a layer of green waste, such as grass clippings, will keep the nitrogen levels up, which is important for the breakdown process.
The compost should be laid in bare earth. This allows worms to worm their way through to aerate the soil. Start with some twigs or straw, which will further support the aeration, as well as the pile drainage.
You need your compost pile to stay moist, so let the rain do its job, or during dry periods, a little sprinkle with the hose or watering can will do the trick.
Heat is important for the breakdown process too. To keep your pile warm, use a sheet of tarpaulin or even carpet scraps. This will keep heat and moisture in whilst stopping the pile from becoming too wet.
Grab a fork or shovel and give the pile a turn every couple of weeks. This will keep the compost aerated, adding all-important oxygen to the mix whilst ensuring an even organic breakdown throughout.
You can compost:
Things you can’t compost:
Of course, when you start the composting process, the waste you chuck into your compost bin will not break down overnight.
This natural and organic process takes a bit of time. And, the rate of composting will very much depend on what you put in the bin, and what it’s surrounded by.
Compost is good to go when it looks like dark, brown soil. The smell of rotting vegetables will have passed, and instead, it should smell like earth.
There shouldn’t be any visibly, recognisable signs of the organic waste that you have put into the pile. At this point, it’s full of nutrients and plant-loving minerals.
Spreading pre-mature compost across your garden could cause damage to your plants because it may include acids and pathogens.
As it continues to break down alongside your growers, it requires nitrogen and oxygen, which it will be pulling away from the plant if the compost has not completed its break-down cycle.
Now you have a compost bin in the making, why not create the ultimate growing spot for your favourite plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables by building raised sleeper beds?
Raised beds are the perfect way to create an ideal growing environment for certain plants, simply because you’ll have more control over the soil composition, temperature and garden placement.
For tips on how to build your own raised sleeper bed, click here.