Composting Events and news

22. Mar, 2020

People at events who do not compost often offer the excuse that they do not have room in their garden or do not have a garden.   But this is not a valid excuse  composting is practical in a garden of any size even if it is completely hard landscaped and indeed may be used with household kitchen waste  in an apartment, flat  or patio. Help to avoid waste beeing sent to landfill and help fight climate change  by spreading the composting message. 

A suitable composting bin, wormery or bokashi bin can be placed on be used as a feature in the garden, painted by the children or grandchildren or  screened by trellis growing plants.

A conventional style plastic bin that would normally be placed on soil can be purchased with a plastic base or stood directly on the concrete or decking with some soil or mature compost being added to the bin as a starter. If too much leachate is produced it might stain the concrete or timber but this can be avoid by standing the bin in a cardboard or wood chip to absorb any liquid and monitoring the contents so that they do not get to wet.

If the bin is cannot to be hidden by trellis wooden beehive bins are  aesthetically pleasing and add an interesting feature to the garden.

Tumbler bins are normally mounted off the ground on legs. The original tumbler  where quite large bins and consisted of a single chamber and were most suited  for batch composting but   there are now quite small dual chamber tumblers which allow continuous composting.

Wormeries provide  an interesting alternative to a compost bin and  are normally equipped with legs of stand on a base up off the ground. A commercially available plastic wormery is suitable for kitchen waste supplemented with shred paper and cardboard. There are versions available for use on balconies and even indoors.

19. Mar, 2020 has updated its page on Composting Hair.

A new paragraph has been included on the history of using hair in compost in China and India but the main changes relate to vacuuming hair from floors  and the risks of including microplastics in the vacuumed waste from synthetic carpets. Such plastics would enter the soil and ground water when the compost is applied to the garden. The original advice on composting hair was that vacuumed waste should be added to the bin. This was subsequently modified to suggest that it would be  better for the environment not to make compost from hair vacuumed from modern carpets but to dispose of the council provided  residual waste wheelie bin. (The photo shows hair and dust from a carpet cleaned each day)

However, the environmentally sound answer may not be to put the vacuumed waste into the kerbside bin destined for landfill as in a study  in which  twelve leachate samples from four active and two closed municipal solid waste landfills were investigated  microplastics were found in all the landfill leachate samples examined. In total, seventeen different types of plastics were identified in the leachate samples

In another study sampling and analysis of microplastics in leachates from a total of 11 landfills in three Nordic countries found  most samples  were positive for multiple microplastics.

 Solid floors do not present  a tile or wooden floors do not present a problem. With dogs that shed hair constantly and the floor is vacuumed daily the ratio of hair to other dirt is likely to be  significant.(see photo)

   Hair can also be obtained from local hairdressers or dog groomers but do be aware that any waste that comes from a commercial activity may be classified as business waste.  It should also be noted that this includes waste produced from running a business from home. See below. (Be aware that Regulations may apply to disposal and carriage of trade waste)

Composting Hair

Hair can form lumps (mat) when being composted unless added to the bin in a small quantity to form a thin layer or mixed with other Greens. It is recommended that the bin is aerated every two or three days for the first week to prevent lumps being formed and  to speed the composting process. The more hair being added at a time the more important it is to mix it well to prevent compaction which might reduce air circulation and create anaerobic conditions. Care should be taken not to overload the bin with hair. It should only form a small proportion of the Green material being composted.  If using a compost tumbler carefully monitor the process may not be as effective as a conventional bin as it has been reported that the hair may not compost completely in the time it takes other material when using batch composting.

12. Mar, 2020

Composting Parsnips

One of the pleasures of community composting on an allotment you never know what will be in the reception bin on any given day.

This week  we had more sprout stalks as another plot holder cleared their plot (more of these later) and a batch of parsnips. Normally there are relatively few parsnips to compost as they are not a crop which is allowed to go to waste in the ground but this year it was so wet many could not be dug and were lef to go woody.

Parsnips can be composted quite easily provided they are cut  into small pieces to present as large a surface area to the composting microbes as possible. If there are only one or two,  they can be easily cut with a spade but where there a couple of dozen I find it easier to use a hatchet to cut them into suitable pieces for composting.  This weeks offering provide enough cut material to fill a plastic trug enabling it to be shared across three bins. The photo shows the tug of cut parsnip ready to be added to our  Rowlinson Beehive to show household gardeners that a bin can be an attractive feature in the garden as well as a practical tool.   

11. Mar, 2020

The photo shows two “rats” in a compost bin, on our Stokes Wood Allotment Demonstration site, containing too many Browns and consequently offering a nice dry and comfortable home. In practice rat infestation is often associated with food being put in a bin which is not rat proof.
When rats are feeding, sheltering or nesting in a compost bin burrows can often be seen under the bin or holes are visible chewed into the side of the bin. The signs of their presence in the rest of the garden are also relatively easy to detect
The location of the bin can increase the risk of rats taking up occupation. As the brown rat prefers to move along runs close to walls, fences hedges, etc the bin should be positioned in the open away from potential rat runs. Leaving an open space round the bin also makes it easier to check for future burrows. As black rats like trees and shrubs it is best to place the compost bin away from these and if trees do overhang the bin cut the branched so that they do not provide a means of reaching the bin.
It is generally accepted that rat infestation of the compost bin will be linked to the composting of bread, cooked foods, dairy products, fish, meat, fatty and processed foods. Some composters even recommend washing eggshells to reduce the smell before adding them to the bin. While all of these are undoubtedly attractive to rats other kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings also provide appetizing meals once the rats have gained access. It seems that rats are quite keen on potato peelings and the smell of decomposing fruit certainly seems to attract rats to many school compost bins and food digesters
The is some anecdotal evidence that the number of times the heap is disturbed can influence whether it becomes infested by rats. It is certainly true that rats do not like frequent or continued disturbance. Putting the bin near the house or garden path that is used regularly and knocking, kicking or hitting the bin with a stick every time it is passed certainly make it a less desirable residence for rats. Regular aeration of plastic bins using a commercially available compost aerator or garden fork is also helpful as it disturbs the deeper layers of compost.
Rats frequently gain access to the bin though the soil on which it is stood. There are several ways in which this risk can be reduced by:

  • Laying a solid concrete base
  • Paving slabs can also be used to provide a less permanent solid base. These must be laid touching each other so that the rats cannot gain access between them.
  • Standing the bin on a layer of pebbles to make it more difficult for the rats to burrow below or round the bin.
  • A weldmesh or plaster mesh base can be fitted across the bottom of the bin.
  • If buying a plastic bin, choose one with a base (they may be sold as an extra) or choose a tumbler bin which is located up of the ground.
  • If using a wooden bin, a solid-sided bin is obviously more secure than an open-slatted one. Wooden but open-slatted bins can be made rat proof by lining the inside with wire mesh (weldmesh is probably better than wire netting.

More information rats in compost is given at
Details of our next Introduction to composting training session is given at


23. Feb, 2020

The section on composting has been revised to take into account changes made by suppliers since 2018. Addition infomation is included on microplastics released into the hot water when making tea which should further encourage the change to plastic free teasbags  Follow the link to What Can I compost?