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Compost - question and answer thread

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Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 11th March 2010, 9:33 pm

Hairyloon wrote:
Wilhelm Von Rhomboid wrote:
Compostwoman wrote:

Uncooked veg waste is fine in household compost ....

Cooked waste isn't fine on open compost heaps or bins because of attracting vermin.

I completely follow all of what you are saying CW, except these two bits.

My problem is this: Why should cooked waste attract vermin where uncooked waste would not?
They can digest it more effectively, therefore breed more productively.

But the would not be getting so much roughage or vitamins and so would die earlier from bowel conditions.

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Post by Hairyloon on 11th March 2010, 10:15 pm

Wilhelm Von Rhomboid wrote:But the would not be getting so much roughage or vitamins and so would die earlier from bowel conditions.
I was wondering about that. Considering how common they are, you really don't see that many dead rats lying about.
So where do they go?
Are they predated? If so, then on the whole, that is a result isn't it?
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Post by MrsC on 12th March 2010, 7:30 am

I do see some dead ones lying about. Not many, but we get a few on our nature reserve. Not sure what kills those ones though.

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Post by Compostwoman on 12th March 2010, 9:59 am

Ok. I have done a fair bit of research into all this and I think have come up with a (sort of) answer.
I wrote this after a trawl around DEFRA, CCN docs, various other reputable sites etc .

It is largely based on stuff from DEFRA guidance notes and the SI itself

A bit of history to set the scene!

Under the Animal By-Products Order 1999 (SI 1999/646) (as amended by SI 2001/1704) it was an offence to allow livestock, including wild birds, access to catering waste containing meat or products of animal origin, or catering waste which originated from a premises on which meat or products of animal origin were handled.

The aim was to prevent the introduction and spread of serious animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease that can be in the meat. Although this did not prevent the composting or biogas treatment of catering waste containing meat or products of animal origin, the ban on access by wild birds did, in practice, prevent its use on land (whether treated or not). This effectively banned composting and biogas digestion as treatment and recovery methods for such catering waste.

Post Foot and Mouth and also BSE, Regulation EC 1774/2002 (the ‘EU Animal By-Products Regulation’) has applied since 1 May 2003. It does permit the treatment in approved composting and biogas plants of catering waste and other low risk (Category 3) animal byproducts.


The definition of catering waste in the ABPR is “all waste food including used cooking oil
originating in restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens, including central kitchens and household kitchens”.


Home composting (regulation 16)


Regulation 16 of the Animal By-Products Regulations 2003 states that the composting requirements of the Regulations ‘do not apply to the composting of category 3 catering waste on the premises on which it originates provided that

(a) the decomposed material is only applied to land at those premises;
(b)no ruminant animals or pigs are kept at the premises; and
(c) if poultry is kept at the premises the material is composted in a secure container which
prevents the poultry having access to it during decomposition.’


This means that there is an exemption only for situations where the catering waste is generated, composted and then used all on the same premises i.e. once brought onto a site in the form of food, the waste material does not then leave the site. It is not acceptable to collect waste from a number of premises and then compost it and use it on a single premises.

The principal purpose for this exemption is so that domestic householders may compost their own kitchen scraps on their own domestic compost heap or worm bin, subject to the livestock restrictions listed above. However, domestic households are not the only premises that may benefit from this
exemption.

‘Premises’ does not have a fixed legal definition, but the following is intended to act as a guideline to the question of what may or may not be considered a premises under the Animal By-Product Regulations.

Generally speaking, the home composting rules have been developed on the basis that occupation of the premises gives the occupier access to a garden or similar area where composting may be carried out. The garden must be part of the premises (and not for instance a public park or community area).

So Reg 16 COULD apply to:
– Private homes
– Hotels
– Schools
– Prisons

But not to
• Shopping centres
• Caravan parks
• Allotments
• Villages

The advice is repeatedly given in DEFRA docs that "In any event, we would strongly advise against including meat in home composting, as it is attractive to vermin"

Also all Material from the compost heap should be fully composted before it is applied to the garden.

The use of garden (green) waste in domestic composting is not affected.


...................................................................................................................................

So...it looks like you all can compost cooked and raw meat as well as cooked and raw other foodstuffs in your bins, although officialdom would really rather you didn't. Whether it would lay you open to other legislation regarding attracting vermin is another issue.....

BUT you must keep the chickens off the composting material ( I do this, I let them have a go at the finished version only...)

BUT it looks like you can't keep pigs.....

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Post by Hairyloon on 12th March 2010, 10:16 am

Compostwoman wrote:BUT it looks like you can't keep pigs.....
I can't anyway, there is a covenant on my house barring all "animals or birds other than the usual domestic pets".
Since, biologically birds are animals, the fact that they've included it separately suggests that "animals" may have a different definition in law...
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Post by Sparhawk on 9th October 2010, 1:00 am

I've had a family of rats move into my bin recently, they have now been evicted Twisted Evil how long before it will be "safe" to use the compost, of course taking sensible precautions...

I remember from the pond courses you have to be pretty unlucky to pick up Weils disease, & actually it is mainly canoeists that get it, but there must still be some risk...


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Post by Compostwoman on 9th October 2010, 10:36 am

If you keep cuts covered up you could probablly carry on and use it now. The only risk comes if the rat urine is wet, and by the time you have spread it out and dug over the heap I suspect it would have dried off.

To be super cautious perhaps re compost the nest contents and bedding area? ( or burn it and add the ash to the compost instead)

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Post by Sparhawk on 9th October 2010, 12:34 pm

Thank-you ma'am...

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Post by Compostwoman on 11th November 2010, 12:16 pm

In answer to a couple of questions put to me in the height of summer this year

What are the clouds of tiny flies which come out when I take off the lid? I have just added a load of fruit peelings?

The little flies you sometimes see in the top of the compost bin? They ARE fruit flies and the easiest way to avaid them is to put a layer of newspaper on top of your fruit peelings, or a handful of soil, or scoop a hole in the top of the stuff in your compost bin, put the new stuff in the hols and then cover it over with partially composted material. It doesn't need to have much stuff on top to minimise the fruit flies.

Is it safe to add card and paper to my compost bin?I thought the inks were harmful?

Paper and card is usually printed with fairly harmless inks now (in the UK at least) and I certainly don't worry too much about that, as anything in there is well diluted and a lot of inks are ( I understand) vegetable based now, with the glossinesss being from clay particles. But if you are worried, perhaps steer clear of very glossy magazines? They can go in the recycling bin!


Last edited by Compostwoman on 11th November 2010, 3:16 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Cut and pasted my answers but not the original questions :oops:)

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Post by John Cossham on 11th November 2010, 12:58 pm

The flies in your heap MIGHT be fruit flies, and will be if a cloud of them fly out when you remove the lid in summer months.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_fly

However, they could be Phorid flies, especially if they run around or are more sedentary, or make short hops/flights, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoridae

Neither of these type of insects do any harm to your pile... infact, like all the organisms in there, they eat something within the heap, deficate and add to the decomposition.

So when I take off the lid from a dalek bin, and things fly out, I stand back and think, ahh, goldcrest food, frog food, spider food, and acknowledge that all of these are part of the ecosystem which you are helping to build by making a compost heap.

Yours helpfully, John Cossham, York, UK
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Post by Compostwoman on 11th November 2010, 3:15 pm

John, see my amended post above ...the questioner was talking about fruit flies, but I am sure readers will be interested in the other sorts of wildlife found in a compost bin.

I love the fact that so much goes on inside a compost bin/heap... Very Happy

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Post by John Cossham on 11th November 2010, 7:50 pm

aha, my fault for not looking back further into the thread to see the 'cloud of flies' quote...

I had problems posting my reply; twice the wifi went down or something went wrong, and I had to retype my answer. My subsequent answers were shorter and more succinct, but initially I listed some of the other beasties I have in my heap, which include:

various hoverflies, the larvae of which like really wet heaps and are called Rat Tailed Maggots. I really like these insects, and the adults mimic bees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat-tailed_maggot

springtails, or Collembola, which are very small and very numerous and can launch themselves away from danger with a forked organ which they tuck into a peg on their thorax. I sometimes find these living on the surface of standing water in pots or buckets.

Staphylinid beetles, which have long thin abdomens which they're able to arch up and some can fire smelly chemicals at predators. Their larvae seem to be a favourite prey of robins. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staphylinidae

Millipedes, which have a long segmented body with a circular cross section and two pairs of legs on each segment. They like wood and bark, dry heaps. I love watching them walk, as a wave of movement passes along their legs.

Woodlice, which also like dryish piles of material, and like the millipedes, are herbivores.

The fastest carnivore in your heap will probably be the centipede, which has huge jaws, a flattened segmented body and one pair of legs per segment.

Or it might be the Carabid beetle, which is a typical beetle shape and has shiny black wing cases.

If you look really closely, you may spot tiny arachnids called mites, or a strange looking arachnid called a pseudoscorpion, which look just like tiny scorpions but have no long tail with a sting. These creatures have a strange habit called phoresy, where they hitch a lift on an insect like a fly or beetle.

For me, compost heaps are a wonderful world, just as wonderful as the African Plains or the local millpond.

Happily, John 'Compost' Cossham
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Post by Compostwoman on 11th November 2010, 7:54 pm

I love all of them and love doing "bug hunts" in compost with a microscope.... Very Happy

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Post by Dandelion on 11th November 2010, 7:58 pm

No wonder the chickens love the mature compost so much - they can obviously see far more than I can (I don't wear my glasses in the garden, so I miss all these amazing creatures!)

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Post by Compostwoman on 11th November 2010, 8:03 pm

I have a really hard time keeping my lot off the working compost bins. Which of course I am required to do b law. So the bins all have wooden lids on... Rolling Eyes

But yes, the finished compost is "Chicken central" ....

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Post by mr_sfstk8d on 18th March 2011, 12:32 pm

OK, with a quick look at the compost threads, I hadn't found an answer (maybe overlooked) for a question I've got about composting and acidity. I'd made some squash chutney/relish thing last year. Problem was, we'd used squash from later in the season that was a bit too mature, and was kinda seedy. Flavor was good, but didn't really have the texture we wanted, so it hasn't been that popular. I'm thinking I'll just put the rest to the compost bin and review my material list for this year, lol.

The question is, with the added vinegar in the recipe, will the acidity of the relish/chutney adversely affect the composting process? If so, will liming the mixture more heavily that I ordinarily would have help correct the imbalance? It will probably be 6 to 8 quarts going in. Thanks in advance.
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Post by John Cossham on 18th March 2011, 2:50 pm

OK mr_sfstk8d, I can assure you that your acidic and unwanted chutney/relish will compost perfectly. As long as you have plenty of carbon-rich material, such as sawdust, twigs, woodchips etc, then you'll have no problem.

There is actually no need to add lime to compost heaps unless you add large quantities of acidic citrus etc, and even a citrus-heavy heap (and yes, I've tried!) will rot down given enough time and aeration. Lime is very soluble and will wash out of compost heaps, giving no benefit to the resulting compost. Also, although I'm not a biochemist and don't understand how, I've heard that adding lime creates some sort of interaction with the nitrogen rich materials and you lose some of the 'goodness' you would expect from an ordinary compost heap. Finished compost is slightly alkaline anyway, so adding lime will make it even more so and won't be good for the organisms in there which are used to the slightly higher than neutral pH.

I'll research the 'lime in compost heaps' question and post something here if there's anything more to add or to clarify.
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Post by Compostwoman on 18th March 2011, 7:23 pm

One thing to ask, Mr s...how big a compost bin do you have?

if you have one smallish bin then that might make a bit of a difference ( although I really wouldn't worry about the effect as it will be minimal, if at all.)

If you have several larger bins then it really really would not make a difference.

I have helped in schools where the compost bins are always very citrus fruit heavy and you get good compost at the end.

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Post by mr_sfstk8d on 18th March 2011, 8:44 pm

Well, as of Christmas, I have two, neither were new though, but that's ok by me. Had one since last summer, and DW surprised me with the other. Anyway, they're both the black plastic mediumish sized with a lid. Roughly square, and about a meter each way. So, I'll be doing a rotation, I think. New stuff, less new, and finished in a side pile.
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Post by Compostwoman on 18th March 2011, 8:58 pm

When you throw the relish stuff, spread it out a bit maybe but really it will not do any harm.

Good question, though!


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Post by mr_sfstk8d on 11th April 2011, 3:50 pm

I'll post up here a rough transcript of a PM conversation between CW and I about a compostiong question I had.

I'd asked if old Cypress mulch that I've been digging out of a bed to do repairs would make decent compost, or whether there would be some composition concerns. Her reply was:

Cypress contains inhibitors to germination (which is one reason why nothing much grows under them, lol)

So...use it where you do not want stuff to grow!

Or leave it to compost down of its own accord and you will have a nice fine compost in a few years time. I use wood chipping to make compost and it is beautiful stuff, but takes ages!

When it has composted down it will be ok to grow in....


So, I believe what I'll be doing is screening out the bits that are still big enough for using as mulch, and making a seperate pile of the broken down bits, root mats, weeds, etc. I'd taken from the bed and let it break down low and slow until it's ready to join the general population. Thanks again for your help CW!! And best of luck to anyone else working with this material as well.
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Post by Compostwoman on 11th April 2011, 4:01 pm

Always glad to be of service Very Happy Especially regarding compost Very Happy

Just had a personal delivery of Fertile Fibre growing medium by the boss of FF, who are based about 4 miles away. He got a quick ish tour of the composting area and the Polytunnel and got my opinion of his lovely products. ( Excellent stuff, btw Very Happy )

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Post by Chilli-head on 11th April 2011, 4:33 pm

On a similar note, I read once (HDRA website I think) that sawdust and shavings could be used on a compost heap with caution, moderation or words to that effect. I'm assuming that this is just because of the nitrogen depleting effect of adding woody materials, or is there more to it than that ? I seem to be making quite a lot of wood shavings of late in the workshop Very Happy
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Post by Compostwoman on 11th April 2011, 4:47 pm

High carbon, dry materials such as wood shavings and sawdust use up a lot of nitrogen in the decompostition process so yes, effectively rob nitrogen while doing so from their surroundings

So if you add uncomposted or partially composted wood to the soil the wood will deplete the surroundings of nitrogen - not good if you are wanting to grow plants there!.

BUT If you have a compost bin with a load of high nitrogen material ( eg grass cuttings) then the wood shavings are a good balancer. Only trouble there , is the wood takes a lot longer to compost down...

I have a LOT of Aubiose ( Hemp stem based bedding) from the hens and even mixed with high nitrogen poo it takes a very long time to compost down. I end up with partially composted flakes of woody stuff from the Aubiose mixed in with dark, lovely compost. So I have to add a bit more grass cuttings , mix it all up and let it all go around again for another few months.. Then it is wonderful stuff. Very Happy

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Post by Compostwoman on 11th April 2011, 4:51 pm


Another thread about conifers and their magical superpowers in suppressing growth can be found here

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Post by John Cossham on 11th April 2011, 6:31 pm

The previous messages, about woody stuff including conifer twigs and hemp stems, shows the importance of riddling your compost before use. The carbon-rich chunks, especially conifer which does take ages to rot can easily be riddled or screened out, the particles which fall through the seive are 'good compost' and all the stuff too big to go through can be put back on the heap, for another go round with lots of juicy putrescible nitrogen-rich materials.

I riddle with 3 things; a 'grandad riddle' which is basically a sheet of galvanised chicken wire on a wooden frame, about a metre square, which I prop up on something for materials to be rubbed through, OR a Rotaseive, which is a circular screen with a rotating bar above it which breaks up lumps and lets particles fall through, OR, when doing big quantities, I get my electric Scheppach RS400 rotary soil sifter out, and the rotating cylinder lets small particles fall through whilst larger bits pass out into a recepticle in a different area. It's a lovely bit of kit.
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