The Home Composter

How to Compost

Compost safely

Your compost ingredients

Empty your compost bin

To turn or not to turn?

How long to compost?

Worms & Wormeries

Seasonal Tips

Compost kitchen waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and weeds

Too much grass

Leaves for Leafmould


Advice sheets

how to open frozen compost binTOPICAL TIP
If the lid of your compostabin is frozen solid don't give up composting. Use a screwdriver or blunt chisel to prise off the lid, then drape a strong plastic bag or sack over the edge of the bin and push the lid back on. When you want to lift the lid, pull up on the plastic bag and the lid will easily fly off into the nearest snowdrift.

Itís cold, your compost bin is covered in snow and everything is frozen hard but you can still keep composting.
Deep in your bin the micro-organisms that break down your kitchen and garden waste are still at work, but when it is cold they work slowly.
During the summer, our compost bins work fast, rapidly turning weeds, rhubarb leaves, grass clippings and prunings into fine soil-like compost. You fill a bay and a couple of days later itís shrunk to quarter the size.
The higher the temperature in the compost bin, the faster the bacteria will work. But during winter, everything changes. We keep adding to the compost bin and nothing seems to happen; it fills up and weíve nowhere to put our raw ingredients.

It is very difficult keeping a plastic bin warm. You could lag it with bubble film, but this, frankly, wouldnít make enough difference. Keep the lid on and leave any snow round the outside of the bin to act as insulation.
If you have a square New Zealand box, made from the traditional wooden boards or the more effective recycled plastic ones, a winter covering on top is important. This can be flattened cardboard boxes or paper sacks, layers of old bubble film weighted down with stones or any other cosy material.
Make sure it is easy to lift off at least part of the covering or you will be discouraged from adding to your compost bin.

You still need to mix green and brown, sappy and fibrous material. Otherwise, kitchen waste on its on will start to smell, and brown, fibrous material on its own wonít compost down.

So if you have only kitchen waste to compost:-
Add crumpled or shredded paper. This will absorb the surplus liquid and create vital little air pockets.
Add some soil. Throw in a handful of topsoil from time to time or scrape the soil off a leek, turnip or celery plant, straight into your composter, before bringing indoors. This injects a fresh supply of micro organisms.
No one wants a stinking, fusty heap of vegetation, caused by composting kitchen scraps on their own. Aerobic compost bacteria thrive in a damp, airy environment, and simply cannot survive in the soggy, airless conditions suitable for anaerobic bacteria. These micro organisms will produce compost, but you will get a disgusting smell.

Make more space by removing any finished or nearly finished compost. Place the unrotted material to one side and bag up the rest, all ready for use next spring. Fork the fresh compostables back into the bin, adding in some essential air as you turn the compost. Again, mixing in an occasional handful of topsoil pays dividends.

Try Composting in a Bag

A "Hot Bin" is a highly insulated composter that works at high temperatures and deals with a high proportion of kitchen waste.
A "Green Cone" is a food digester that  processes cooked as well as raw kitchen scraps. A basket is sunk into the soil, and a cone, with an inner and outer shell is screwed on top. The air between the shells warms up, creating air circulation, making this an aerobic, clean-smelling process. Inevitably, it will work more slowly in winter, but this is an excellent way of dealing with kitchen scraps and feeding the ground at the same time. It does take 3 years to completely rot down in Scotland, but you may prefer not to empty your Green Cone. Simply let it feed nearby cherry trees or shrubs. Another digester is the "Green Johanna": it has also been designed to process cooked food at home.

Trench composting is specially useful for veg growers, but it would also make a perfect site for a new shrub. Choose a bare patch of ground, dig a trench, preferably 2 spitís [spadeís] depth, and put the soil to one side. Every time you have a bucket of fruit and veg scraps, tip them into the trench and cover with a thick layer of soil. This will mask the smell of decaying vegetables, and the whole process will add nutrient for next yearís crops. Runner beans grow beautifully on a trench, as do tatties and courgettes. Any greedy feeders, in fact.

Keep composting even if there is snow on the ground.

Composting problem?
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More information about recycling can be found on :
 Scottish Borders Council Reduce Reuse Recycle