New (Cold) Compost Heap


As not-very-serious gardeners, we used to put grass cuttings and anything else from the garden into a pile in the corner. It stayed there, getting slowly bigger, for 28 years. This year, the 2020-out-of-the-ordinary year, we started doing more vegetable growing, and my son and I investigated what was under the pile.

Extremely wonderful compost was the answer. 28 years worth… some of which was used on the new vegetable beds we dug out at the end of the lawn.

We decided we would make a proper compost pile -a new bin, divided into two compartments, un-rotted garden material on the left, and already made compost on the right.

We had to dig out the old compost pile onto sheets in the middle of the garden – we found 18 slow worms living in it. One of the slow worms lived in our greenhouse for the rest of the summer, consuming any slugs and snails foolhardy enough to try any of my peppers or tomatoes.

Researching on the internet, I found a neat way to make a bin out of old pallets – so recycling something at the same time. I asked on various local groups (Try Chew Valley Lockdown Gardeners on Facebook, or Chew Magna Village Group, also on Facebook), and soon found people with pallets they wanted to get rid of.

Makes sure the pallets are all the same size. They can be cut down.

My husband fixed them together with some straight and right-angle brackets from Dando’s Builders, and covered the outside and around the inside with chicken wire to help keep the compost in where we wanted it.

Ready for filling!

After all the gardening we had quite a lot of wood etc. to make up the carbon proportion of the new compost pile on the left – but we didn’t put all of it in – we left a good pile of old wood in the garden to house insects over the winter, too.

Part filled!

Luckily there just as many slow worms and a huge number of worms and insects to go back into the new compost bin! I put well-rotted compost on the right and filled the left hand bin with layers of compost, leaves, stems, plant prunings and grass cuttings, cut up wood and old cardboard and paper (scrunched up to provide air, egg boxes can do this, too). We are adding vegetable and fruit peelings, and teabags that have no plastic in, and crushed eggshells to add minerals, too. Quite a few apples from the apple tree have fallen into it as well…

We also left as many leaves as we could around the garden in piles, just clearing the paths that get slippery, as these also overwinter important insects for next year.

After – the finished bin.

In the spring we plan to make a proper front gate to it – at the minute, it’s bodged a bit! I have read that if it gets too wet you should add more cardboard and woody ‘browns’ and if it is too dry, add more leaves and ‘greens’. We are now going to turn the left hand side to aerate it, to help turn to into compost, rather than leave it for another 28 years… well, that’s the plan.

For more information on compost making, please see under the Nature and Wildlife tab, Making Your Own Compost.

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