Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Saving the planet one bin at a time

By Justin Newcombe

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It's filled with food waste and garden debris but there's no need to for your compost area to look like a dump. Justin Newcombe gives his bins a spruce-up.

Justin Newcombe stands proudly next to his completed composting area. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Justin Newcombe stands proudly next to his completed composting area. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Composting, by its very nature, is a messy business with a lot of dirty brown food scraps, sticks and other assorted detritus going through a long process of redemption. Compost areas thus tend to be the gardener's dirty secret.

In smaller gardens there are many options available from the black plastic "Dalek" to the spinning tumbler.

Keeping these spaces clean and tidy is important as they can usually be seen from other areas of the garden.

Last year I built a beehive compost bin to give the composting some aesthetic appeal but I've also built simple box versions and of course, I still have my old Dalek. It's a real hotch-potch of bins, although I prefer to view them as a collection.

Whatever you use, your bins must have an open bottom to allow soil bacteria and animals access as they are integral to the decomposition process.

I've also gone for a fancy paint job on the fence. I like to brighten things up and a back fence is a chance to try something different. I figure if my compost area looks more attractive then it is more likely to get my attention.

There's room for five small bins: that means I'll turn each batch of compost five times starting with a wooden bin and moving down the line, finishing in a plastic Dalek one.

Also included is a storage bin for sticks and cardboard which I'll add as I put in kitchen scraps. Transplanted comfrey will green things up, grow easily and be an excellent compost activator.

The bins are set on what is essentially a dirt platform constructed by back-filling sleepers with soil. This keeps things tidy and you can easily make a smaller version for one or two bins. Accessing the bins is another important consideration.

In the past I've used screens to hide the bins but these tend to get in the way as you turn or empty your bins. Far better to make the bins a part of the garden architecture, make them interesting and then create an open and easy to work in space that everybody can admire.

Composting is probably the single best thing we can all do for ourselves and the environment and as such its status could do with an upgrade.

Step 1

De-clutter your area and run a string line from end to end at the right height for the sleepers (in my case this was the hardest part).

Step 2

Dig a shallow trench to set the sleeper into. Drive nine-inch nails into the bottom of the sleeper and set these in concrete. Put a shallow pad of concrete on either side of the sleeper to support it.

Step 3

When the concrete is dry, back fill the sleeper with soil or mulch. An organic surface material is important for the composting process.

Step 4

Paint the fence. I've painted each board in a random pattern then hung the railings separately. Try using a bright colour pattern. Keep it fun.

Step 5

Place the bins and fill them with any existing compost. Leave one spare for a new heap.

Step 6

Install a mulch path. In the future, as it breaks down, the path will become part of my compost ingredients and will be refreshed every year or so.

- NZ Herald

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