I’ve been a big fan of ‘dalek’ compost bins ever since someone kindly left one outside our allotment shop, ‘free to a good home’.
Not one to turn down a freebie, I gathered up the bin and found it a new home in the corner of my plot. Immediately, I was taken with the neatness of the bin. Everything looks much tidier than the traditional pallet and carpet job I’d inherited.
When I began growing in my garden, space was at a premium, and the advantages of a dalek or two over a big pallet bin were obvious.
Three years later and my daleks are producing enough lovely compost to feed my three raised beds. Pre-daleks, I’d never used kitchen compost as a soil improver, but I’m completely in love with the stuff now. For me, it is by far the best manure and I’d hold up my rich runner bean harvest as proof.
I’ve learnt a few things along the way which has made my daleks tick though. The size of the material you’re adding to your bin is important, for one. Some ingredients, such as eggshells and woodier cuttings can take a lot longer than normal wet additions like veg peelings and old veg plants. I’ve found breaking up the eggshells and chopping the cuttings into smaller pieces help speed up the composting process.
Good Mix of Ingredients
A good mix of ingredients is key too. Essentially, you need an equal amount of green material, like grass cuttings, plus your kitchen scraps (veg peelings, etc), and ‘browns’. For browns, I often use cardboard – the bog-standard parcel-type stuff is best.
Regular checks of the dalek’s contents are important to make sure that your compost isn’t getting too soggy. If it looks as if it might be, that’s the time to add the cardboard. Make sure you rip it up into small chunks though.
The Importance of Heat
I’ve found heat to be really important to the dalek’s composting speeds too. One of my daleks is positioned in a sunny spot, and rots down much, much quicker than the dalek which spends a large part of the day in the shade. Make sure the lids are on tight too, as they help to keep the heat in. This also stops them from blowing away in a strong wind.
Rats have occasionally been a problem, getting in through the door, but I’ve wrapped some wire around outside of the dalek and this has kept them out.
The only other slight problem is that they can be tricky to turn, but I tend to stick a fork in every so often which helps keep things on the move.
One excellent tip I’ve picked up (but not yet implemented) is to put the daleks next to each other. That way you can easily move the contents between bins rather than turning.
If you fancy having a go with a dalek, try your local Council. Many sell them at a reasonable price. Check out www.getcomposting.com, who works with Local Authorities in the UK to provide residents with low-cost compost bins and accessories, wormeries, and kitchen composters.