“ Brand: Blackwell „
I have been composting now for about three years. My neighbours had been doing it for years and had always said how easy it was but I just didn't know anything about it or what to put in it but it is always something I have been interested in. I went online to my local council website and clicked onto a link to Get Composting where they had a wide range of compost bins. I decided on the Blackwall 220 litre compost bin which was £16.98. They also larger ones which are 330 litre size but they do sometimes have offers for buy one get one half price so if you do need two this is a good time to get them. The bin does resemble a dalek but as it is at the top of the garden obstructed by some shrubs it is quite unobtrusive and you can't really see it from the house.
You should use a mixture of garden and kitchen water and make sure that everything is thoroughly mixed up together. One of the main ingredients is the obvious grass cuttings as these are the main garden waste, however you shouldn't use cuttings where you have recently treated your grass with weedkiller as this will affect the compost. I will also put in general weeds but being careful to shake off as much soil as possible first and clippings and prunings from the many bushes and shrubs in my garden, the same for your annual bedding plants when they have died off. I do try and only use small branches and twigs and if they look a bit large I will break them into a few pieces. We have a lot of trees in the park behind our garden so we have copious amounts of leaves especially in the autumn time and I will collect these with a large rake and pop them into the compost bin. They do need a bit of squashing down as they seem to take up quite a bit of room but it is easy to press them down.
The kitchen ingredients I put into the bin are vegetable peelings, egg boxes and egg shells, tea bags and fruit but you need to make sure that you don't put any food item which has been cooked. I have a large plastic container on my window sill where I collect these food items which does have a lid as it can soon get a bit smelly in the kitchen. I will line it with a newspaper so I can just tip it all into the compost bin together and saves keep washing it. You can put in newspaper and card but making sure that there are no coloured print on them and you can also put the tubes from toilet rolls and kitchen rolls in there. I find it is best to rip the card and newspaper up into small strips as this seems to mix in easier with the garden waste. If you find that the mixture is a bit wet and slimy you should put in a bit more paper which helps to soak the moisture up.
You should turn the compost regularly to get air in there and to churn everything up so that you get a good mix of ingredients. I will either use a fork or a long stick to do this. I will usually use the stick as I keep this in the bin all the time so I don't have to go the shed to get the fork out if I just open the lid and think it needs a turn. If the compost is too compacted with no air it will take a lot longer to break down and the end result won't be as good. You should always replace the lid as the rain will make the mixture too wet and slimy and will not compost so well.
A good finished compost is dark brown and quite crumbly but still has retained enough moisture for it to be quite dense and together. I love the smell of this and would describe it as a rich outdoor sort of farmyard smell, obviously not to everyone's taste. There is a base plate which you can buy for around £10 but I prefer not to use this as I think it drains better without and also the organisms in the soil and worms and creepy crawlies will infiltrate into the compost. If you have to put the compost bin onto a hard surface such as concrete or slabs it is best to just put a layer of soil at the bottom which will be the same temperature as the compost.
It can take between six months and two years for the compost to be ready. I would say that mine where I get it out the bottom is probably about two years as it is a continuous process of the compost working its way to the bottom of the composter as you remove it from the hatch. The hatch is around 12 inches by 12 inches and slides off so that you can insert a fork or spade and remove it. I will usually use a fork as I find this a bit easier, but if I just want a small amount for example to dig in with a new plant or cutting I will just use a small trowel to dig a few scoops out. When I first started to remove the compost I was horrified at the amount of worms and centipedes and other small creatures in there, but I have got used to it now however I always wear gardening gloves in case I touch any of them! You can also empty the contents of your hoover in there but I have only done this a few times, I think this is because I can't be bothered to take the waste collection part of the hoover up the garden. If you do find that everything hasn't composted properly when you get it out of the hatch you can just throw it back into the top and it will go through the process again.
I am very pleased with the results from my compost bin and happy that I am doing my bit for the environment by recycling my waste material. I am also saving money as I don't have to buy bags of compost from garden centres and I know that the compost I am using is 100% natural ingredients so is safe for me to use.
==Blackwell Compost Converter 220 Litre==
When we moved into the new house there was a lot of things that I wanted to get and there just wasn't the funds to get everything straight away which I really wanted. Thankfully for a few little items mum was able to step in and help out. She didn't mind getting this Compost Converter for me as she had bought one for my brother when he moved into his new house the year before.
==How much and where from?==
We actually did end up buying this Blackwell Compost converter over others because it was the cheapest and seemed to have fine reviews on Amazon (which is who we purchased it through). Also although we could pick up one that would cost the same from B&Q, not having a hatchback car we probably couldn't have fit it in our car which has just a large boot and the price on Amazon was with free shipping! At the time we bought it - nearly a year ago - it was £34.99 pence but having just had a look it is now a cheaper price at bang on £30 which is a total snip.
The item was delivered within a week or so and came in a massive cardboard box as there was no need for any kind of assembly other than clipping the front bottom hatch onto the bin which is easy to do and takes a second. For this reason there really was no instruction booklet needed. My little boy was super pleased with the cardboard box and soon had it turned into a car and once he was finished playing with it (or more so once I was finished with it getting in the way in the front room) we were able to tear up the cardboard and add it to our compost pile ready to start creating our own compost!
==The item itself==
This Blackwell Compost Converter literally is three pieces of plastic. There is the large main body of the composter which looks a little like a Darlik from Dr Who, the front hatch cover and then the lid. It is quite a big item and we have the one that holds 220 litres and I do believe there is a larger sized one which holds another 100 litres but I don't think we would have had room for this in the space that we had earmarked for it. Also we have the black one although I would have preferred the garden green colour which wasn't available for the same price but to be fair the black isn't as bold as I thought it would be in the garden and does look okay. We have planted a conifer in front of the bin so it is now well hidden from sight when in the house.
==Using the composter==
Straight away I was able to put the composter in the garden and start filling it up. We placed ours on a large area of soil that was ideal for it although I do believe you can put it on concrete although you would need to add some soil and worms to the mix where as putting it onto earth means that the worms can find there way up into the bin and I think it will generally work better on soil of its own. I did initially think that it would take ages to fill up as once you add bits they seem to have mulched down quite well by the next time bits are added. However I was surprised to see that during the summer we were already reaching the top of the bin. I had been putting so much in it from both the house and the garden and was surprised at how much bits could go in there. I also make sure I turn the compost over on a regular basis and I also use a compost accelerator to make the process work that little bit quicker too.
Some of the items I put in are as follows:
*Garden clippings (soft items are best for quicker decomposition) never add Ivy leaves or waxy leaves as these just take years to decompose. Small weeds and soft leaves with the tons of dead heading bits that I seemed to do over the summer
*Grass cuttings (lovely not to have to take them to the tip or waste a bag for the bin men to take them) and surprising how much you collect.
*Household fruit and veg leftovers - I never add anything that has been cooked as this will attract the rats but I do find that we seem to accumulate so much of this sort of rubbish like apple cores, banana skins, carrot peelings, potato peelings, green bean ends, grape vines (although these take a little longer to decompose), tea bags, the coffee grains and filters, mushroom skins and then old bits like tomatoes that haven't been eaten and jacks nibbled cucumber. I tend to not put in the skin of avocados and the stones that come from them too, orange skins (as these are waxy and don't rot quickly) and whole potatoes as these may sprout out and always get cut up fairly small.
*Both kitchen roll and used tissues can go in the composter as long as there is nothing like cooked food on them
*The cardboard rolls from both of the kitchen and loo rolls along with egg boxes can be torn up and thrown in there as long as there are no stickers on the egg box
*The vacuum cleaners dust can be emptied in there which I always find easier and less fuss than using a black bag to empty it into.
*Hair from my hair brushes and combs
*Scraps of material as long as they are natural cotton and the like.
*Newspaper sheets screwed into balls loosely so that air and worms can work their way through the gaps - too tightly and this will take longer to decompose.
I am generally always making sure that things have been cut up or torn up into small chunks as this is going to create a compost quicker than having large items that are going to take a lot longer to break down. The idea of getting used to only adding small items was easy to do but this really did aid the process of getting out my first batch of compost to use in the garden.
I couldn't believe how much was able to go into the garden to be made into compost. I was surprised that I was able to get a bit of compost out of the bin within the first year too, although I am sure the good variety of bits I have been putting in there along with the accelerator I used and the regular turning of the contents really did help.
I found removing the compost that has been created really fairly easy as the hatch at the front is ease to slide up and then you can scrape the made compost into a bucket. A sift through is required to make sure there are no lumps of anything and always make sure you wear gloves for doing this as it is a little mess as you would expect. Any worms or chunks that haven't decomposed thoroughly of course can be put back into the top of the compost bin to be added to the next batch. The lid of the bin is really quite secure although I still find it easy enough to pull off with one hand and empty the kitchen waste bin or the vacuum cleaner into it.
The compost that was produced really was very impressive and I couldn't believe that I had turned my waste into something that was super useful and something that would otherwise cost me money were I to buy a bag of this rich compost at B&Q or another garden centre. I was so pleased that I wanted and still do want to fill up the compost bin as much as possible and make sure if I have an apple or a banana at work that I will bring back the core or the skin to put in my composter rather than put it in a bin at work. Also when I add things to my recycling bin I look at it to see if there is any cardboard or paper that can be torn up or screwed up to be added to the compost bin in the garden. Not only is this saving space in the recycling wheelie bin but also it is giving me a compost product that I would more than likely have to pay well over the odds for. It truly is amazing.
The bin itself is doing really well and considering it is probably the cheapest bin that you can get in this sort of size it is super value for money. The plastic it is made from really is quite sturdy and will surely last for years to come. I should think if the compost at the bottom builds up too much there may well be a problem with the front hatch popping off as this is of course the only "loose" bit of the bin. As I can foresee this happening though I will do everything I can to make sure the compost doesn't put too much pressure on this area of the bin and hopefully this will ensure the bin will last as long as possible.
I really couldn't rate this compost converter highly enough. It is a fantastic price and is a well made item which I don't think I would do without now. It takes a good deal of household waste which is good for the environment as well as being good for your wallet as making your own compost is so much cheaper than having to buy it. It may be a little sad but the thrill of seeing something that has been made from the rubbish you throw away is kind of rewarding and I would recommend it to everyone and anyone who is able to have one in their garden.
I feel that a top score of 5 out of 5 stars and an exceptionally high recommendation is well deserved!
I do hope that this has been of some help/interest to you
Many thanks for taking the time to read.
These really are worrying times for our good old planet earth. Everyday, we hear a news story about global warming, dwindling resources are causing conflicts, there are more people lacking basic supplies than people having a comfortable lifestyle, animal and plant species are disappearing before we even know of their existence
I could go on, but you get the picture, I'm sure.
In the face of all this devastation, we understandably feel overwhelmed. After all, these are global problems, and there is little that individuals can do. In fact, some of these issues are so complex that we can sometimes make things worse by trying to improve them. We probably all know in the back of our mind that we need to make changes, but we are not sure where to start, or we feel it is too much of an effort, or we are not prepared to give up what we have.
To this already dark picture, I would like to add a little known problem, but one which has far reaching consequences, that of soil erosion. When you hear those words, they may bring to mind pictures of land getting washed away where the Amazon forest once was, or some other such global disaster. However this phenomenon affects Europe too, although to a much lesser extent. Its effects and causes are too complex to enter into in a review about the humble composter, but let's just say that combined with soil impoverishment, it could prove a threat to our very existence.
Now, this is going to sound very naïve and unrealistic, but to me it is a simple, logical concept. We are very busy most of the time taking resources from the planet, but we very rarely put something back. Soil can be considered a finite resource, as it took so long to produce. Now, I am not proposing to save the earth with a modest composter, that would sound a bit like when your mum told you to "eat your dinner as there are so many starving children in the world". I always wanted to reply "why don't you send it to them..." Of course, I now know that she was pointing out that waste is unacceptable when so many go without.
On the whole, I am an optimist, and although the state of our planet gets me down sometimes, I can't help but think we can do something about it. As far as I am concerned, a small change is easier to manage than turning your life around completely, it is more likely to be maintained, and it can bring many benefits. When you make your own compost, you are reducing your negative impact on the environment, and you are also having a positive effect. You will not regenerate the Amazon forest by composting, it's true, but you will lessen your contribution to landfill sites, to CO2 emissions caused by the collection and transport of rubbish, and you will produce your very own compost.
~Compost making in general~
Compost making is not a new thing, but it has enjoyed a bit of a revival of late. I put this resurgence down to the advent of the composter. Before that, the only way to make compost was the 'heap'. Whilst it is still probably the best way to make compost, the compost heap has many disadvantages that don't really sit well with modern life. For a compost heap to work, you need it to be fairly big, as the heat thus generated is a big part of the process. If I was to use this method, most of my garden would be taken over by compost making. And you also need a fairly big garden to produce enough waste to feed such a monster. You have to be prepared to wait 2 years to see the results of your work. Now that's ok if you have done this before and you know it will work, but for a beginner compost-maker, this could be a little disheartening, waiting all this time with nothing to show for it. And of course, let's not hide our heads in the sand, (and whatever we do, let's not hide our heads in the compost heap!!!) there are one or two side effects with a compost heap that can discourage the most dedicated eco-warrior. You know, what I'm talking about, that's right, flies and smells I know I would only be prepared to tolerate this if I had a huge garden, where I was able to spare an out-of-the-way corner, and no neighbours nearby.
So, enter the composter These come in many shapes and forms, I was amazed to see just how many models there are when researching this review. If you want to check this out for yourself, enter the word 'composter' into a search engine. In this review, I will be talking about the only one I have any experience of, which is a black, plastic, truncated cone shape with a tight fitting lid. (Similar to the above picture, but all black)It also has a handy hatch at the front for when you only want to take out some of the compost. I think the principles are fairly universal.
As I have explained above, there are many benefits to composting, and many advantages for the average person to using a composter. Which one you choose is a matter for yourself, although you should be aware that prices vary greatly. If you are composting mainly as a way to reduce your negative impact on the environment, then you should of course choose a bin made of recycled plastic (or you could make you own out of wood). One that has a tight fitting lid will help reduce smell leakage and will keep flies and other pests away. Your bin should be heavy enough not to blow away, as it will probably be a while before there is enough waste inside to keep it firmly down. I could be wrong about this, but I feel a black composter helps to absorb ambient heat into the compost. You can buy composters online or from garden centres and DIY stores, but if your local council is trying to encourage composting, they might sell them at a good price.
~What do I have to do?~
The process itself is fairly simple, but there are a few rules to follow. A composter will turn your kitchen and garden waste into beautiful, useful compost without you having to do very much.
# Place your composter on well drained soil, in a sunny spot if you can.
# Make sure the soil below your bin is loose, to allow drainage and permit your friendly neighbourhood worms to enter.
# If you have made compost before, use some of your previous batch at the bottom of the new batch to introduce the necessary bacteria. If not, you could use manure or simply kitchen waste.
# Use a good mix of waste material and add them in layers, 5 to 15 cm deep.
# It helps if you turn the material in the bin over once in a while, as air is a necessary part of the process.
# Add meat, raw or cooked, as the smell can attract rats.
# Put in disposable nappies, used paper hankies, human and cat or dog excrement, as they can carry diseases which aren't always destroyed in a compost bin, as these don't get nearly as hot as compost heaps.
# Let your compost dry out or get too wet.
# Add too many grass cuttings. Although these are very good in small quantities, as they contain nitrogen which acts as an activator, if you put in thick layers, these will turn to slime and it is not the result you want I find letting them dry out a little first works well.
~What can I compost?~
A wide range of things is the answer to that, and I will list a few to give you an idea.
# vegetable and fruit peelings, or fruit and vegetable that have gone off
# tea leaves, coffee grounds and egg shells (egg boxes too for that matter)
# hair, yours or your pet's
# animal manure and droppings, but stick to vegetarian pets only.
# the contents of your dustpan or vacuum cleaner, as long as you don't have synthetic carpets.
# garden waste, but avoid weeds as the seeds are not always killed by the composting process. I know some weeds are OK, such as nettles, but you need to be sure, or your lovely compost will turn out to be nothing but a breeding ground for weed. Avoid anything too woody as it takes a long time to break down.
I have made perhaps 3 or 4 batches of compost. I found it took a little trial and error to manage it well. The first couple of times, there was always a sticky moment, when I felt the awful mess in the compost bin would never turn to compost. But before I knew it, bingo, the magic took place and I had beautiful, dark, and not at all smelly compost. The whole thing takes between 3 and 6 months from start to finish, with winter batches being the slowest to breakdown. I find it a real joy to make something useful out of my rubbish, and the process is an endless source of fascination to me. We have bought a double-bin from the "rationell" range at IKEA which slides out, the front bin being for our kitchen waste. This is a really useful thing to have, as the lid keeps in any possible odour, and it allows you to put a fair amount in the composter at one time, thus saving you having to go out all the time and also allowing faster composting, as the more you put in at once, the quicker it composts.
I now have two composters, one I put the waste in, the other already fairly full I leave to turn to compost.
Before you attempt this for yourself however, you need to be aware that it is not just a matter of throwing stuff in a different bin from your usual. One thing I find a bit of a pain is turning the compost over. I now take off the bin and mix the compost before putting it back in the bin. I have also found that you can get the occasional whiff, but only rarely and only when in the vicinity of the bin. However, you might prefer not to put it directly under a window for instance. And whilst flies have not been a problem, there are lots of tiny fly-like things in the bin at time. Oh, and another things: potato peelings might be a big source of waste, but be aware that if you compost them, you might have lots of little potato plants growing in your garden!
~The compost itself~
The volume of the finished product you obtain is of course a lot less than what you put in. The compost is ready when you cannot see any of the things you put in anymore. By then it should be a lovely shade of brown, crumbly and should have no unpleasant smell.
If you are a keen gardener, there is a lot you could use this for. You can dig it into the ground as it will improve the texture of any kind of soil. If you soil is sandy, it will help it stick together and slow over-drainage. If on the other hand you have a clay-based soil, compost will open it up, make it lighter to work and allow better drainage and aeration. Whatever your soil, it will act as a slow release fertiliser.
If you are a fair-weather gardener like me, you can use this stuff as mulch. Just spread it thickly on a patch of soil, and it will retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. The worms will eventually do your work for you and dig it into the soil.
If your compost is very well processed, you could even use it as potting compost.
In conclusion, I would say that despite some minor inconveniences, I enjoy making compost. I think anyone can do it, as exemplified by many a primary school across the country, as long as you have a little bit of ground. It is one of the simple ways in which we can regain control of our environment, and if you get into the habit now, it will save you a fortune when they start charging for waste collection by weight or some other waste-reducing scheme is implemented.
Blackwall leaflet: "Getting the best from your composter"
Alan Tichmarsh, "How to be a gardener", book one.
Available in 2 sizes. 330 Litre. 220 Litre. Comes complete with easy access hatch. Simple to use. Needs no assembly. Available in Black or Green. Made of 100% recycled plastic. Guaranteed for 10 years.