How to Compost Your Kitchen Waste All Year Round (Part One)

We have talked about making compost with the plant waste materials that come from our gardens – but what about the continuous stream of waste that comes from our kitchens all year round? In the warmer months of the year we can compost this waste with the grass clippings, hedge clippings and other garden debris that is available but during the colder months this type of heap will not heat up and it will just sit there and pile up. If not dealt with properly it can end up as a putrefying slimy mass and will probably attract rats.

The easiest solution is to use one of those plastic conical shaped compost bins, otherwise known as Daleks, which are very common place these days and are available at a discounted price from most councils. They can be easily adapted to convert kitchen waste to compost all year round.

If your soil is not free draining, it is best to dig a small pit about 4” (10cm) deep, slightly larger than the base area of the Dalek and fill it with gravel or hardcore. This will provide excellent drainage and allow excess moisture to seep away. Next, place a circle of housebricks on top of the gravel or ground ensuring that they form a level surface on which the Dalek can be safely rested. Make sure there are air gaps of at least 1” (2.5cm) between the bricks to allow air to get to the bottom of the heap. Drill some 8mm diameter holes around the rim of the lid – this will allow air to vent up through the bin and out of the lid.

Miss Bruce always used to build her compost heaps with a thin layer of charcoal in the bottom of her compost heaps. I think this is an excellent idea and one that I always follow because charcoal can absorb bad smells (charcoal is used in odoreaters!). It has also been proven that ‘biochar’ can aid soil fertility.

For all year round composting, the heat needs to be retained within the Dalek by adding a thick layer of insulation material around the upper part of the bin. This is a case of what you can get your hands on but it needs to be light, water proof and a good insulator. Several layers of old bubblewrap wrapped around the bin (above the hatch so access can be maintained to remove finished compost) to a depth of at least 4” is ideal. Secure the bubblewrap in place with some cloth ‘Gaffa’ tape (Duck tape) and/or stretch a couple of bungee cords around it. It took about 20 minutes to convert my Dalek and I admit it doesn’t look very pretty but the most important thing is that it will work and make good compost.

Add some old compost or soil into the bottom of the Dalek bringing the level up to a height which is above the top of the hatch so that when you add your kitchen waste materials they are within the insulated portion of the bin.

Make sure that rainwater can’t run down between the insulation and the bin by placing a large rainproof cover on top of the Dalek lid. Corrugated sheeting held down with bricks is good for the job.

In next weeks post I will explain the how and why of preparing the kitchen waste materials and adding them to the modified Dalek.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Anonymous allotments4you said...

I have two daleks which i got only a couple of weeks ago but I haven't done anything like this to it...I have just put it on the plot and staked it down...My parents have had one for a few years and put their kitchen waste in and it has given them some really nice compost just as it is.

April 14, 2010 at 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Damo said...

Hi, thanks for the tips I'm going to try this on my dalek. You may be interested in the quick-cook method I've posted about. I'll be trying this out....when I get round to it!!

April 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger QR said...

Dear Allotments4u

Despite following all the instructions and advice on using Daleks, I used to have lots of problems with them, until I tried using the QR method. Yes I have heard of people having success with them as they come but it takes a long time, maybe a year or more. The advantage with the modified Dalek is that it makes compost much more quickly, in as little as 6 weeks, and it can be made all year round. I’ll explain more in my next post.

Dear Damo,

Thanks for referring me to the quick cook method in your blog. It looks like all the right ingredients are there and I can understand where the heat comes from with the high amount of nitrogen fertiliser added. I may give it a go myself when I get the opportunity. Just one thing, are you sure that it requires a spadeful of lime? This sounds like a very large amount and would surely make the compost far too alkaline?

April 19, 2010 at 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A useful tip

June 17, 2010 at 4:34 AM  

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