Options for making a compost pit, a heap and a box for feeding potatoes in the country

With a good owner, everything goes into business. Properly organized disposal of household and biological waste provides the garden with valuable fertilizer and eliminates the need to destroy most of the garbage. Although ready-to-use compost is sold in gardening stores, this valuable fertilizer is easy to make with your own hands. You just need to prepare a place – a pit, a compost heap or a box, and then properly prepare the compost by filling in the appropriate organic matter with layers of a certain thickness and sequence.

Sometimes a wooden compost bin is made from leftover materials from construction. Gardeners who do not have time, but have financial resources, buy plastic compost containers.

Example of a factory-made plastic container

The quality of the compost depends not only on the type of pit or heap in which it is prepared, but on the composition of the raw materials and compliance with waste processing technology.

Choosing a place for the compost heap

The composting facility can sometimes be a source of unpleasant odors. During rains or melting snow, runoff seeps into the ground under a pile or pit, which can pollute the water in a nearby pond or well.

In order not to spoil the rest for yourself or your neighbors, it is very important to choose the right place on the site for processing waste into compost. Most often, such structures are installed closer to the fence, behind outbuildings, be sure to take into account the prevailing wind direction on the site. The container for collecting waste must have a cover with holes for ventilation. The compost pit or heap should be covered with a thick dark film.

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When choosing a place, you must respect the distances:

  • from a residential building – at least 15 m;
  • from the nearest reservoir and source of drinking water – at least 25 m.

Creation of conditions for obtaining compost

In order for the intensive process of processing plant, food and household waste into a useful substrate to proceed, the humidity inside the compost heap should be like in a greenhouse, and the temperature should be about 60–75 ° С. To maintain the vital activity of aerobic bacteria, a constant supply of air and water should be provided.

Full maturation of compost in natural conditions occurs in 2,5–3 years. If you need to get fertilizer faster, they use EM preparations (agents with “effective microorganisms”), for example, Baikal EM-1 solution, dry concentrates “Shining”, “Compostar”, Bioforce Compost and others. Thanks to the bacteria they contain, the substrate matures after about 8 months. In this case, it is important to use the drug according to the instructions on the package.

Waste for composting

Compost is the result of complete decomposition of plant, food and household waste with the addition of manure, peat, silt or other biologically active substances. However, not all waste is capable of rapidly and completely decomposing.

photo of correct compost layersOne of the options for stacking compost layers

Best suited for compost:

  • mowed grass, weeds and fallen leaves;
  • shredded tree roots and branches, needles, bark;
  • hay and straw;
  • rotted (stored for at least a year) horse manure and mullein, rabbit, goat and sheep manure, bird droppings;
    river silt and peat;
  • used tea leaves and coffee grounds;
  • kitchen waste: vegetable peelings (it is better to boil potato ones in order to get rid of late blight pathogens, rhizoctoniasis and other infections that nightshades are susceptible to), banana skins, eggshells, remnants of prepared food;
  • wood chips, shavings, sawdust and ash (from natural, unprocessed wood);
  • pieces of fabric made from natural fibers: linen, cotton, silk;
  • table napkins, paper and cardboard without dyes.
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There is an exception for fruits: citrus fruits contain essential oils that can kill beneficial microorganisms.

Wastes that are not suitable for composting:

  • nightshade tops (can be infected with phytophthora spores);
  • metal, plastic, ceramics, glass, rubber, synthetic fabrics – everything that consists of inorganic materials and does not decompose naturally;
  • plants that have undergone chemical treatment;
  • large branches;
  • weeds with ripe seeds;
  • feces of domestic cats and dogs (may contain helminth eggs);
  • bones, meat and fish waste. When rotting, they emit a bad smell that attracts rodents, birds and other intruders.

Making compost to fertilize potatoes

There are several types of compost, which are designed for feeding different crops and differing from each other in composition.

In the compost for fertilizing potatoes, it is recommended to lay in layers the leaves and old bushes of strawberries (after picking berries), carrot and beet tops, foliage and stems of vegetable crops, except for nightshade. Weeds weeded out in autumn, fallen leaves of berry bushes and fruit trees are also suitable.

A layer of peat 10 cm thick is placed above the layer of plant waste and sprinkled with superphosphate, then again a layer of green mass, and so on, until the entire container is filled. In dry weather, this mixture is poured abundantly with water. From autumn to spring (for 8 months), everything has time to rot, and the finished compost is brought into the holes in May when planting potatoes.

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It is useful to fertilize the soil with dolomite flour before planting (at the rate of 2,5-3,5 kg per 100 square meters). Calcium and magnesium in the composition will replace lime and protect potatoes from scab.

photo of dolomite flourDolomite flour – a source of calcium and magnesium

Compost pit options

Making a compost pit in the country is very simple. This does not require special skills. It is enough to dig a trench at the chosen place with a depth of no more than 50 cm, a width of no more than 1,5 m, a length – as much as possible, but not less than 1 m.The dimensions in width and height are determined by the required mass of raw materials, at which composting starts and a high temperature remains. as well as serviceability.

Do not put waterproof and airtight materials down. The bottom is covered with large poles and branches: this is how drainage is provided so that excess liquid goes into the ground, and earthworms processing waste have unhindered access to the contents of the pit.

The walls of the pit are reinforced with slate or other materials at hand, preventing the earth from shattering. The raw materials are laid in layers, which need to be mixed from time to time, otherwise the contents will cake. For better air circulation, it is important to alternate between soft and hard waste layers.

The pit is covered with black plastic wrap, maintaining the greenhouse effect inside and preventing the escape of free nitrogen, which is necessary for the vital activity of beneficial bacteria. This applies to all options for arranging compost pits and heaps. If small children are resting on the site, then this method of composting is unsafe.

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photo of homemade compost pitSpecial doors instead of foil to protect against children and animals

To obtain more compost, the sides of the pit are increased to the required height (optimally, up to 1 m from the ground). The contents are periodically dug up or pierced with a pitchfork, providing free air access to the middle of the formed pile.

Sometimes a wooden box is built above the pit, with a lower board attached to the front wall 30 cm above the ground surface. Fresh raw materials are added from above, and the finished compost is taken out with a shovel through the lower opening. As a result, the aboveground part subsides, and the contents of the pit are constantly renewed. With this option, labor intensity is significantly reduced: the waste does not need to be specially agitated.

Whenever possible, make a pit with concrete walls. To do this, several pillars are driven in at the corners of the dug hole (depending on the size of the hole) and formwork is made from scrap materials about 10 cm thick. The prepared concrete mixture is poured into the formwork and allowed to harden. Then the formwork is removed.

photo of a concrete pit for compost4-compartment concrete compost pit

The bottom must remain earthen. Worms are placed in a pit with concrete sides. The top is covered with wooden boards or black polyethylene.

Considering that the compost pit cannot be moved anywhere, the place is chosen especially carefully, in compliance with all sanitary standards: it should be in the shade, located away from fruit trees, residential buildings and not spoil the look of the site.

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For greater convenience, the compost pit is divided into parts using partitions: from 2 to 4 compartments are made. Fresh raw materials are placed in one section, last year’s raw materials are transferred to another, in the other sections ready-to-use compost is stored. As the fertilizer is used, the contents of the compartments are reversed, the process goes on continuously.

Making a compost heap

A pile is easier to make than a pit. You just need to choose a place and prepare the site. For the correct compost heap, sod is removed at the base to a depth of 10–15 cm. If the soil is clayey, a layer of sand and peat is poured on top; the sand embankment is covered with a layer of clay, then with a layer of peat. Then the waste is laid out, gradually giving the heap a regular rectangular shape, so that the process goes evenly throughout the mass.

photo of homemade compost heapA pile is easier to manufacture, but spoils the aesthetic appearance of the site

The pile is covered with a dark plastic wrap with ventilation holes. Layers of waste are interspersed with layers of garden soil. Just like the pit, the heap is constantly watered and kept at a temperature.

To give the heap a more neat look, the place is fenced with wooden pallets or metal mesh. In the corners, wooden racks made of timber (50x50x1000 mm) are placed, onto which the netting is pulled. The top is covered with polyethylene.

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photo of a metal compost heapCompost heap with metal frame

Another option: a round fence is made from the mesh, and a film is placed inside, fixed at the edges with plastic clamps or clerical clips. A compost heap is formed inside the fence. The positive quality of this design is mobility: the heap can always be moved if desired.

How to make a compost bin

Gardeners with construction skills can make their own compost bin. The best material for this purpose is wood.

photo of a simple comopst boxThe easiest compost bin

To obtain high-quality compost, a three-section model is most suitable. The volume of one section is 1 m3 (1x1x1 m).

Each compartment requires air access, so there should be at least 10 mm gaps between the boards in the wall sheathing. The front walls of the first and second compartments are equipped with a small door in the lower part, and the third – with a door to the full height, so that it is convenient to remove the matured compost from it.

Above the box is closed with a gable roof, in which above each compartment there is a hinged hatch for loading the processed material.

The frame of the structure is made of a wooden bar (50x50x1000 mm). The side and front walls, as well as the internal partitions between the compartments, are sheathed with edged boards (100x30x1000 mm). For the back wall, boards with a size of 100x30x3000 mm are needed.

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For the floor, a slab (100x30x3000 mm) is used, which is laid with a distance between the boards of at least 10 mm – these gaps are designed to drain excess liquid.

To assemble the box you will need:

  • screws M5x40;
  • window hinges – 12 pcs.;
  • latches for closing doors – 3 pcs.

photo of a compost bin for 3 sectionsThree-section compost bin

All wooden parts should be impregnated with an antiseptic so that the wood does not get damp and is not exposed to putrefactive fungi. Paint the finished compost bin with any wood enamel.

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Anna Evans

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