Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes … lash-ups with pallets; expensive wooden bins; bottomless plastic dustbins ex-fruit-juice concentrate barrels; local authority-supplied plastic bins; simple heaps thatched with straw or bracken. Whatever you decide to use make sure …
- The compost is in contact with the soil so the worms and bugs can get in.
- The bin gets sunlight for a good part of each day.
- It has a lid or some form of covering to stop the rain leaching the goodness out into the soil.
- The bottom is secured from rats – use strong fine mesh underneath.
- The compost itself is chopped up as well as you can manage to give lots of surface area – see Colloids in this blog – I use the lawn-mower to run over all the compost and chop it up, it also gets some grass added in automatically which helps get it going.
An average British town garden may be able to accommodate two local authority bins – each bin usually contains about a cubic meter. The plastic compost bins provided in the UK at a good discount by your local authority are absolutely fine for working with biodynamics.
If you can fill one up really quickly when you’re having a clear-up then you can use the preps as in the Hot Heaps method – I’ve blogged on this today too. This is especially useful at the spring and autumn clear-ups or any other time you have a large collection of weeds to compost all at once, perhaps when making a new bed or clearing an old one. Any time you get so much material you can fill up a bin and leave it alone for a bit while you concentrate on the other bins for the weekly kitchen caddy and general weeding.
As well as the ordinary bins many people are now using wormeries and Bokashi. Both are excellent and can be used with the biodynamic Mausdorfer and/or cow-pat-pit preparations.
Wormeries are very good, giving you solid compost and liquid feed for the plants in a fairly short period, a few months. They can be a bit fiddly and take some getting the hang of as the worms are as idiosyncratic as any cat or dog! Wormeries are good if you have only a small space as they deal with compost quickly and without smell or mess – once you have the knack of them.
Each time you add kitchen waste to your wormery, sprinkle a teaspoonful of Mausdorfer or cow-pat-pit onto the top of the layer.
It won’t harm the worms in any way … possibly they may come out the other side even more fit and muscular than ever! Some people say they get seriously huge worms after they’ve been chewing through the BD veg and the BD preps! Out of interest, we notice how big and healthy our worms are here, how many there are in the wormery of all generations from tiny, wee babes like a wriggling piece of cotton to enormous ones that we think came from Frank Herbert’s planet Dune. My husband says he’s going to set a thumper to call them! Regardless of sci-fi in-jokes, having worms of all sizes is a good sign that they’re healthy and breeding well.
Bokashi is a Japanese system of composting using “bugs” which are applied in handfuls of a special bran supplied by whoever you got your bokashi bin from – see contacts. Within the bin, it’s an anaerobic process, excluding the air, which is different from other composting systems. We’ve found it very effective and much faster than the wormery – and much easier to get the hang of. The bugs are not contrary-minded as the worms are and just seem happy to get on with their job of digesting the kitchen waste. It is more expensive in that you have to keep buying the bran for the bugs.
Again, as with the wormery, you layer in whichever starter you decide to use with the waste material you add to the bokashi.
Bokashi is a very good way to deal with meat and fish waste. Many people worry about putting these into the heap in case they attract rats. First of all, remember that rats are omnivorous, they eat anything and everything; the ones on the farm next to where we live love the grain that falls from the straw and hay the cattle are fed, for instance. However, the bugs in the bokashi will deal with all the meat and fish, and the bones.
I’ll write about how to use bokashi in the garden in a later blog.
Using the Preparations
Whichever system you use – bins, wormeries, bokashi or all the lot – as you add each layer of compost to your bin, sprinkle on some of whichever starter you’ve chosen. They begin to work straight away, getting the compost going.
The starters will speed up the composting – provided your bin is in good condition – and give you a very good compost in four-six months, sometimes quicker if you chopped the material up well before putting it in the bin or went over it with the lawn mower.
In 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researched the compost preps. They found that using the preps “could speed up the composting process, better destroy pathogens and weed seeds in the material by maintaining high temperatures longer, and change the value of the resulting compost as a fertiliser by increasing the amount of nitrate.”
You’ll probably find you need less of the BD compost to bring the soil into good heart than you did of the usual non-BD compost.