As autumn progresses and leaves start falling in earnest, as the air is filled with a strong earthy sent, I turn my thoughts to compost. Compost is often called black gold! It is universally recognised for improving soil structure and water holding capacity. It’s a excellent and dead easy way to recycle the organic matter from your kitchen.
As I grew up in Romania, in a block of flats with only a small balcony and no garden I have to admit that I had never heard of compost or composting. When my Welsh friend visited and ask me why don’t we make compost for our gardens I had no idea what was she talking about. When she explained I found the concept a bit hard to stomach: it sounded to me that she was suggesting that I take my rubbish down to the end of the garden and in a while, it will turn into beautiful food for my vegetables. It sounded both disgusting and like some kind of strange hocus-pocus. But what about attracting rats, and the smell and the unsightliness, I said, a bit alarmed! Kerry explained it all but it was just too much to adjust to just then. So I paid little attention to that conversation and moved on with my life.
Years later, after I had I become the proud owner of an allotment and a garden and started growing my own vegetables it all came back to me. I started asking fellow allotmenteers about compost and realised that if I want my garden lush, composting is the way to go. Once I had purchased a black compost bin and saved all my vegetable peels to feed the compost bin I became totally hooked. I realised that with stuff I throw in the waste bin, as if through magic, I can now turn into good food for my garden. I continued to read more on the subject and to speak to many garden enthusiasts and I learned that there are many ways to produce compost and I wanted to find out what composting method would most suit my needs.
So one year, while I was visiting some friends back in Romania I learned about a composting method that needs no turning, no shovelling of the compost on the land. This was the way forward for me as I find it to hard to turn the compost or to shovel fresh compost about and I was looking for a solution that creates the compost on the spot where I need it. Since then I experimented some more with this particular method and I always got good results.
Here I introduce the tyre stack compost bin, our DIY version.
This particular compost bin works by feeding your vegetables directly in situ. You build the composting stack from old used car tyres. Then you drop your vegetable peels inside and plant your veg around the bin. The compost will decay inside the tyres and release nutrient juices that the plants then will soak up and thrive on. This works particularly well for vegetables that are hungry for nutrients, such as tomatoes. A note of caution: old tyres might be free but using them in your plot cannot be considered organic. If this is a concern for you, this design isn’t for you. That said, a tyre stack composter is free to make and will transform all your food waste in valuable feed for your garden.
Start by finding 3-4 old car tyres. We found ours at the local garage; we asked if they have any old tyres that they want to dispose off and they very kindly suggested that we help ourselves from the pile they were building by their back door ready to chuck out in the landfills.
Step 1: For the base, in the spot where you aim to plant your tomatoes for example, start by breaking up a circle of earth, about 1.2m in diameter. In the middle, dig a hole about 20 cm deep and 30 cm wide. Cover the little pit with a mesh of sticks.
Step 2: Sit the first tyre on this mesh. Pack soil around the tyre to form a seal.
Step 3: Add a couple of sticks on the top of the first tyre to allow the air to circulate then add the second tyre.
Step 4: Keep on piling the tyres.
The final product should look like this:
Now your compost bin is ready and you can start adding kitchen waste and plant your tomatoes or what have you around it. The roots of your tomato plants will naturally travel towards the middle of your tyres seeking the nutrients from your compost. Add all your vegetable peels inside this tower of tyres, lean back and watch your tomatoes grow gynormous! I planted some nasturtiums around mine, the idea was that they’d climb on my tyre stack and soften up the look of it while providing tasty flowers for my salads. They grew massive, covering not only my stack of tyres but also the fence behind!
The amazing thing is that the more waste we added into the stack the faster it worked and the tyres, helped by the sun, just munch away at all the kitchen waste with an incredible speed!
Did you know that a volunteer Master Composters could advise you on making your own compost? (if you live in the UK). To find a local volunteer ask your local council or google “Master Composters”.