Saturday, November 7, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Using a Spinning Composter

By Chris J Pugh

If you are thinking of starting your first compost heap or, even, think that you don't have space for one then a spinning composter may be for you.

The last decade has seen a huge shift in thinking on environmental issues and this has resulted in a great increase in the number of people composting at home. Growing your own vegetables has increased in popularity and, with the current world economic recession, it makes financial sense too!

Compost heaps have, traditionally, been just that - a heap! In most cases, and I'm certainly guilty of this, the process was very much one way. I tended to put grass clippings on the pile but not much else and it was more of a way to avoid going to the local refuse depot than a way to generate great compost for my garden - and grass clippings alone don't do the job very well at all.

Now there is a new way of making compost fairly quickly, cleanly and with little effort - the spinning composter. This device takes the effort out of maintaining your compost heap. A traditional heap requires 'forking over' regularly to mix and aerate the ingredients for best results, once every 2-3 weeks is recommended.

With a spinning composter the mixing and aeration is accomplished by turning the drum of the device, a process made simple by the product's design which consists of a rotating drum with ridges to assist with grip and mounted in a frame, the base of which can be used to collect 'compost tea', more of that later!!

So, how do you use the thing? Well, compost is a complex substance made from simple ingredients such as vegetable peelings, fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds and grass clippings. The trick is to get a balance of 'greens' and 'browns', both of which are needed for quick decomposition and rich compost. It is recommended to add them in similar proportions. You simply insert the ingredients through the flap in the top of your spinning composter and give it a turn!

Greens include the likes of grass clippings, algae, coffee grounds, hay and manures which add the nitrogen required for the composting process.

Browns add carbon and include bark, shredded newspaper or cardboard, fruit and vegetable scraps, peanut shells and sawdust.

It's tempting to stick everything in but it's important to avoid fats, pet droppings, or animal products as they will attract pests and can spread disease. You should also avoid plants that have been treated with pesticides. Your compost should be damp but not wet, about as damp as a sponge that has been squeezed out. Contrary to popular belief, the compost should not smell too much. There will be some smell but using the right ingredients in the right proportions will keep the odors down.

Expect it to take longer for your compost to decompose in the winter than the summer as the process is quite sensitive to temperature and, in fact, direct sunlight really speeds things along so placing you composter in the sun is a real bonus.

The base of many spinning composters is designed to collect 'compost tea' which is a a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used for foliar feeding or for watering plants in your garden, backyard, or houseplants. It really is gardeners gold!

Once the compost is ready then add it to your flower beds or planters 2 to 4 weeks before you are ready to plant out.

Happy composting and gardening!

Chris Pugh is an IT professional and keen gardener from the UK.

Spinning Composter Guide

Beginners Guide To Spinning Composters

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