Setting up your bin FAQs
- What should I put at the bottom of the compost bin?
- What style of bin can I use to recycle food waste without attracting small animals?
- Can I start to fill my compost bin at any time of the year?
- How do insects enter the compost bin?
- What are the best conditions for a compost heap?
- What are the recommendations for composting when you keep chickens?
- Can my compost bin be secured to the ground in any way?
- One of my bins is an old strawberry tub. Should I cover it with a piece of carpet to keep the heat in and will the holes affect the process?
- Does a compost heap need to have a lid?
- Can I site a compost bin in my shed?
- I'm being plagued by fruit flies from my kitchen caddy. How can I discourage them?
- How do I prevent small animals burrowing under the edge of the compost bin?
Generally speaking it is not essential to add anything in particular to the bottom a compost bin. It is important to site your bin on open soil, but if you can't, we provide advice on where to put your bin.
Assumptions are made about how small animals have been attracted to gardens. Compost bins are often blamed. This is not the case. If there are rodents in the locality, they will take advantage of the shelter and food that a compost bin provides. Do not try to compost meat, fish, bread or dairy products.
You can deter small animals by lining the base, sides and top of the bin with a heavy-duty metal mesh. The compost bin should also have a tightly fitting lid.
Regular use of a compost bin is likely to cause too much disruption for a small animal to want to stay.
You can start composting at any time of the year. Autumn is a popular time as many gardeners begin the tidy up in anticipation of the winter months. Spring is also a good time, as it ties in nicely with the start of the gardening season.
Composting works faster in the warmer weather, so you will see the contents breaking down more rapidly if you have a spring start.
These insects will enter your compost bin from the soil in your garden; therefore it is recommended that your composting bin is situated on bare soil. This will help all of the beneficial insects and other organisms to move into your compost bin when the conditions are right for them.
A compost heap, or compost bin, is best situated where it will get some sunshine during the day to warm it up and help with the composting process. If you can ensure that a 50:50 mix of 'greens' and 'browns' are placed in on the heap, the composting process will work well.
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) advise that if you keep poultry, you may compost your kitchen scraps at home but you must do so in an enclosed container. However, they do not specify the distance at which the compost bin should be placed away from the chickens or chicken coup.
As long as the chickens do not have access to the decomposing material, the bin can be placed anywhere within your garden.
There's no easy way to secure a plastic compost bin to the ground. If your site is that exposed it may be better to build a wooden composter that you can secure with driven-in stakes.
One of my bins is an old strawberry tub. Should I cover it with a piece of carpet to keep the heat in and will the holes affect the process?
A piece of carpet or polythene laid over the surface of a compost bin is a good way of retaining heat. This is especially beneficial during the cold months when a compost bin works more slowly.
Ventilation holes in your compost bin are not a problem if they already exist. However, we don't recommend that holes are drilled into a fully enclosed bin. It is more important to encourage pockets of air within the dense mass by layering it with equal amounts of 'browns'.
It is not essential for a compost heap to have a lid. However, a lid does help to regulate both the temperature and the moisture levels.
You could easily use a piece of old carpet (preferably Hessian backed rather than foam backed) or a thick piece of plastic tarpaulin weighed down with stones.
It is not recommended, as compostable materials have a high water content and when they break down this water is released. It then, of course, seeps out of the bottom.
This is a seasonal problem and may well cease in colder weather. In the meantime, try wrapping your fruit and vegetable peelings in newspaper before you put them in the caddy. This will discourage the fruit flies from landing on the fresh material and also provides a good mix of 'green' and 'brown' material when it gets to the compost bin.
If your caddy has a lid, try keeping it closed when not in use. Regular emptying and washing the caddy may also help.
- Make it more difficult for them to get into the bin by placing large rocks around the base to deter them.
- If appropriate, place the bin onto paving slabs. If you are going to try this, I would suggest you leave a centimetre gap between the slabs to allow worms and minibeasts access to the bin and for any liquid to drain away.
- Line the base of the bin with wire mesh. Allow enough to go up the insides of the bin slightly to really discourage them.
- Ensure that only uncooked fruit and vegetable waste is going into the bin; cooked food may tempt animals to your bin.