Seven Fat Years

wheelbarrow full of compost

OK, so I promised you a post about compost and you were all keen so now I’ve actually got to write one. Naturally, this is the point where I realise that I have nothing really very interesting to say about compost except that it turns out to be much harder than it used to be when I had access to our old landlord’s vast composting infrastructure which consisted of seven huge bays, each of which took a year’s worth of garden waste, were topped off with well-rotted cow manure, covered, and left to mature for seven years until they came round again on the calendar. I can confirm that this method makes lovely compost, but is not much use when you only have a small plastic dalek army and don’t have the luxury of seven years to wait for them to get to work because you have raised beds to fill…

So the fantasy version of compost making with these dalek bins is that you put a nicely judged mixture of weeks, lawn clippings, kitchen scraps and additional *ahem* accelerator* in at the top, and then after some time you open the little hatch and scoop lovely crumbly compost out of the bottom:

compost and compost bin

Unfortunately because (a) the little hatch is useless and (b) the contents of the dalek are actually likely to be a mix of lovely crumbly compost, some minging slimy stuff you don’t really want to think about, weeds which are emphatically not dead yet, and clumps of vegetation which has managed to sit in the compost apparently unscathed for months, the reality is more like this:

overturned compost bin

The first picture is of compost that I had previously emptied out of a dalek (and then put back in without all the stuff I should have shredded first) a couple of months ago. The second picture is the dalek that we had been filling undisturbed for almost a year. So it seems that the secret to compost seems to be to periodically dump it out, turn it, and stick it back in the dalek until you need it. Think of it as an excellent upper-body workout. Or just buy another four daleks and wait.

I still have vague plans to set up a proper composting corner, which at least would make turning the compost easier even if we don’t have room for seven bays. But given my slow gardening progress, it’s likely that by the time that happens I will actually be in possession of seven compost daleks. And an enviably well-defined upper body … or a very bad back.

* If you want to see a discussion escalate quickly over something you thought was innocuous, and are bored about asking cyclist about helmets, it turns out that peeing on the compost heap is a gender issue, and not just because of the practicalities. Who knew?

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10 Responses to Seven Fat Years

  1. M says:

    I only own one, green dalek. He has been misbehaving with regards to composting. I think I shall have a go with this extra composting medium myself and see if it tames his wild, non-composting ways.

  2. rosemarybyde says:

    Growing up my mum had two compost bays and that was enough … whilst one was filled the other was emptied (digging from the bottom?) and then she switched over. I’d have to ask how long ‘a cycle’ was though!

  3. Oh those useless wee hatches!

  4. Has anyone noticed if the “plastic ” tea bags break down as promised by the manufacturers? I scrutinise my compost-in-progress as little as possible – because I don’t actually do any gardening with it- just try to make the stuff to limit material going to landfill

  5. disgruntled says:

    @M – perhaps he is lonely
    @Rosemary – possibly two will be enough once the garden is a bit under control & I don’t have raised beds to fill. But that assumes the garden will ever be under control …
    @Stephani – we’re not big tea drinkers so I haven’t noticed. Coffee grounds go straight onto the veg beds as a mulch

  6. We used to have bays made from pallets at our allotment, but tricky to get to the ‘good stuff’ at the bottom. Daleks were easier, but lack of ventilation and needing to remember to add some water occasionally were the downfalls there. We’ve combined the 2 systems and gone all posh and bought 2 wooden bins that look like beehives. Time will tell how well they work as compost bins, but they look amazing 😉

  7. The way to make the daleks work is to have 2 or 3, move the stuff from one to the next when full and be very patient. It does work eventually

  8. Charles says:

    I have three Daleks and a heap for grass cuttings. I fill one dalek, then another. I then empty dalek one into dalek 3. This takes about a year. Then dalek three has nice compost. Dalek two can then be emptied into dalek one – please keep up. The grass cuttings heap is because I have more grass than anything else. Compost is an all consuming passion.

  9. disgruntled says:

    I can see how you quickly end up abandoning the gardening part altogether to just concentrate on making compost …

  10. vegplotmummy says:

    I dont think the plastic ones would be very good as you need good ventilation. I have a wooden open slat compost bin. Built it a few months ago and it is worth the money. Already working it’s magic! Will be getting more I think. You could use 3 wooden pallets and leave the 4th side open so you can get in and turn it. Would just need a kick board to stop it falling out, building the side up as the compost increases. (This is a smaller scale of my dad’s set-up as his are big enough for a tractor to get it!!) haha.

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