Having a good compost system is essential for any allotment holder. Plants need good compost to grow and recycling your allotment and garden waste helps put the good stuff back into the ground. I inherited two black plastic compost bins that are ok to a point, but not want I will want to use in the long run. They are compact for the home garden and simple to use. You just add your compost material to the top and out of the bottom, after many months, you get lovely compost. However, the compost doesn’t get mixed much and it can take a long time to break down before it can be used on your plot.
I intend to use a three bay system. I will make three bays out of PVC coated wire mesh. People often use old pallets to make the bays. But I haven’t been able to source any free ones, and over time the wood rots and they need replacing. The first bay gets all the fresh material. As with all compost systems, you need a good mix of green and brown materials, otherwise it won’t breakdown very well. Too much green material and you end up with a soggy smelly mess. Too much brown and they don’t break down. Alternate layers of green (vegetation, weeds, peelings) and brown (leaves, small twigs, cardboard) makes for a good mix. Covering the pile with an old carpet helps to keep the compost materials warm, which helps the composting process. You also need to make sure that it is wet enough without being too soggy.
After a few weeks to a couple of months this will have started to break down and then you should move the pile two the second bay, turning it with a fork as you do so. This turning over helps the composting process further. Your first bay is then ready for more fresh materials. Repeat the process after another couple of months, moving the contents of the second bay to the third and the new first bay contents to the second. The material in the third bay should be quite well broken down, but leave it until you are happy to use it back on the plot. Larger plots could perhaps accommodate a fourth bay, but I only have room for three.
Well that is the theory. I’ll report on progress. This morning I built the first bay using the wire mesh with wooden posts to mark the corners.The area I have chosen to place the compost bins is very overgrown with weeds, brambles and ivy. However, it is part of my plot and so I should use it rather than give over growing space to the compost bins. The amount of clearing needed meant I only built the first bay today, but this will do to get the composting started. I’ll also be adding vegetable peelings from home, but not cooked food waste as I don’t want to attract rats.