Hot composting using a wire mesh container

Wire mesh can make a cheap and portable composting container. We never had much success with this at The Oak Tree farm, probably because the site was very exposed to the wind, but Nigel Griffith at Landews Meadow Farm and Dave Beecher use this technique successfully.

We are trying this again at a new site which is much more enclosed from the wind, and we have the benefit of mains power for pumping. However, we don’t have borehole water, so we had to fill a 220l water butt with mains water1, and leave it to stand for a couple of days to vent the chlorine.

scrounged heap of chipped tree prunings
scrounged heap of chipped tree prunings

Materials were freshly chipped tree prunings scrounged from some guys who were trimming trees for the council and a combination of hedge trimmings, windfall apples and other green material. These were shredded using a domestic rotary garden shredder to this sort of consistency

green shreddings
green shreddings

We had to estimate the composition of this material because it did contain some woody material. We used large garden trugs to quantify the volume. The green material is chipped better and ends up denser that some of our previous attempts, because the machine is modern and has sharper blades than the hand-me-down used at The Oak Tree, which should help us keep the material packed down more.

Compost making setup using mesh and trugs to measure volume
Compost making setup using mesh and trugs to measure volume

turning out all the green material after chipping gave us a heap this size

all the green material put together
all the green material put together

We scattered the material in fairly thin layers into the mesh cylinder

Starting the heap off with some sticks and branches at the bottom to help aeration
Starting the heap off with some sticks and branches at the bottom to help aeration
the assembled heap
the assembled heap

So far this heap has been promising – it has shown a steady rise, levelling out at about 65C

this heap levelling out just over 65C and stayed over 55 for six days
after six months of composting
Heap ID 170819
container garden trugs
volume (init)
Material loads density Nitrogen Green Woody Norm N Norm G Norm W
Chicken pellets 1 0.8 1 0 0.8 0 0
shredded hedge trimmings 3 1 0 0.5 0.5 0 1.5 1.5
shredded hedge trimmings 4 1 0 0.66 0.33 0 2.64 1.32
woodchip 3 1 1 0 0 3
totals 0.8 4.14 5.82
Normalised proportions 7% 38% 54%

 


  1. It rains enough in the southwest that we can use rainwater from these water butts now, we have two 220L water butts coupled fed off a shed roof 

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