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Using Our Own Compost.

Our Compost Bins are usually emptied about once a year and just occasionally twice. The local Farmer, John Martin, who actually owns the land that the Allotments are built on, is the man with the big machine that does the job for us. It is not actually a traditional Tractor that he uses and it has a much bigger Bucket on it that is fixed to a Telescopic Arm. With this he can easily extend it to reach the 6 foot or so to the bottom of the partly sunken Compost Bins.

When it is time to empty them he starts by digging out the Mature Bin on the left, the contents of which, he then he takes to the new Storage Area that we had built last year.

Even with the enormous Bucket that probably holds well over one ton with each scoop, it takes several loads to get the Bin emptied.
From a Health and Safety point of view, John normally likes to empty the Bins early in the morning when there are no Plot Holders on the Site to get in harms way.


After he has completely emptied the left hand Bin he digs out the fresh Bin full of weeds and waste on the right hand side. Especially on a cold Winters day you can see clouds of Steam coming from the Bucket full as he digs into the Bin. This is from the heat generated by millions of Bacteria that are created in the Composting process. Sometimes, when I clamber over the pile to level it out a bit and push the weeds into the corners, you can feel the heat that is being generated underneath. This heat does actually go some way to sterilizing the pile and killing the weeds and their seeds. Some seeds will escape this process and will germinate when the Compost is actually used, but to be honest, there are so many weeds seeds floating around the site, that if you leave any bare patch of soil uncovered for any length of time it will quickly weed up anyway.

As the Bin full of Weeds on the right is dug out, it is tipped into the now empty Bin on the left turning it in the process. Perhaps, the Compost would be ready more quickly and be a better product if it was turned more often, but we are more interested in disposing of the weeds generated on the site at no cost to the Plot Holders. Also very important of course, is the other big point concerning the amount of Soil that goes back onto the plots when it is re-used instead of the soil depletion that would happen if weeds were taken away from the Site.

After the Compost has been turned it is covered with some heavy duty Ground Cover Membrane. We have used various covers over the years and found that some membranes donít exclude the light completely which results in weeds growing on top of the pile.

The resulting bin full is then left for some months to finish composting properly before again becoming the mature Compost heap that is emptied and ready for Plot Holders to use.
Our friendly Farmer does a fantastic job for us and he does it all free of charge to the Allotments. I usually try to make sure that I go up immediately after he has emptied the bins and turned the fresh weeds to tidy up a bit and put the covers over both the Heap that is ready to use and the Bin full that has been turned.

Before we had our new purpose built Storage Area built the Compost was just tipped on to a corner of the Car Park. The Committee decided that this was not the best way of doing things as the soil always ended up going everywhere and making a real mess of the Car Park when people dug into it. So we had the new purpose built Storage Area constructed last year.


See Link to The Compost Storage Bays story.

 
 


When the Compost Storage Areaís design and construction was being considered we made our best estimates as to the amount of space needed for the different things. The Compost Bay is the biggest and we got it just right as it holds the whole Bin full just nicely, but unfortunately the bin allocated to holding Wood Chip could have been a bit bigger because when we had our first load tipped into it, it overflowed somewhat. However, it wasnít really a problem because the whole lot was gone in 4 days! We had been a little concerned that being in a concentrated heap the Wood Chip would itself start composting if left long enough and start burning from the heat generated. This has happened in the past when it was previously just tipped on the Car Park and when it did we had to quickly spread the Wood Chip out to stop the Composting process and allow it to cool off. When the pile was dug into later there was actually a quantity of white wood ash in the centre from where it had been burning! This in itself is a good fertilizer so nobody really minded, but it did make us more wary of how we looked after the piles of Wood Chip afterwards.


There is another even smaller compartment in the Storage Area to keep the bags of Horse Manure in and keep them tidy from occasional spills. It could also be used for loose trailer loads of Horse, Cow or Chicken Manure that we have had in the past.

Hopefully, the solid construction of our Storage Area means that it will last for many years, possibly for decades, and will serve us well for the foreseeable future enabling us to make good use of all the Compost that we produce on the Allotments.

 

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