Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Master Composter

One of the things that I have done during my time off from blogging is to qualify as a Master Composter. Where I live in Suffolk, this is a joint venture between Garden Organic and the County Council.
I had to do a very enjoyable two day course, and then have to commit a minimum of 30 hours to promoting the benefits of home composting in the County. So far I have done some 1-1 sessions with friends and staffed stalls at County Council HQ, the Suffolk Show and Folk East festival.
I have decided to use this blog to also publish some reviews of different home composting systems based on my own experience of using them at home and with other projects.
I stress the fact that my reports will be from my own experience, and anecdotes provided by other people - it may well be that you would have a totally different experience of the same equipment.

Basically organic matter will, over time, break down to form what we would all recognise as compost. If you were just to pile organic waste in a corner it would eventually form compost. However most of us use a recepticle of some kind to help us with this process, if only to keep things neat.
 In my reasonable small urban garden I used to have two wooden bins and when these eventually rotted away, I replaced them after much research, with the Earth Maker plastic compost system.

The idea is that it is a three part system and that you move the organic matter through at different stages. This works well in theory, but the bin itself is rather fiddly to use. Between stages one and twowhere there is a slot in the picture above, there should be a pull-out section which seperates the two areas. What I found is that it is impossible to get this back in once you have any amount ofmatter in the bin. I have now removed this, so the rotting matter drops through into the second section as I fill the top area.

It is then even more awkward to move the partially rotted compost down to the bottom section. You have to remove the front cover and use the tool provided to push through the hole shown above which is about the width of a fairly small arm. Because of the height of this hole I have to almost lie flat on the ground to do this (as I don't bend very easily).
However, despite the challenges that there are with this bin it does seem to work extremely well, and the end result is genuinely some of the best compost I have made.  It is fine and crumbly and very soil like. This may partially be down to my improved knowledge about getting the 'mix' right, but I do think that the bin system may also play a part.
End-stage compost
The bin seems really healthy and the red compost worms have no trouble finding their way into the top section to start their work. It is not rodent proof, but you could try putting some narrow guage wire on the bottom if this were an issue. Personally, I don't mind providing a home for a few mice and they keep the compost well aerated. One of my cats will also indulge in a spot of occasional population control. I will provide some tips on dealing with rodents in compost bins in later postings as this does seem to be one of the most frequently asked questions when we are doing stalls.
In conclusion, my experience is that the Earth Maker provides good results, but needs some re-design to make it more user-friendly. It is useful in a small space, but is not the cheapest option available.

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