Building compost bins

compostbeforeThis is an isolated garden. In geographic terms the only people who really see it regularly could be counted on the fingers of one hand. A dozen or so in the summer when guests come.  No passers by. Unless they are lost.

But as I write about the news on the mountain top three times each week I like to think there are more people peering over the fence.

And dare I say, casting a critical gaze?

IMG_6100And it is thanks to all of you that I finally sorted my compost bins.

The two huge bins beside the house have gone. So the dumping grounds behind the potting shed were about to be inundated with more weeds.

But there was a problem.

It was, frankly, an eyesore. This was the dreadful area behind my potting shed and right up against the edge of our property that abuts our lovely neighbour Jean Daniel.  His horses park themselves right behind the hedge area to wait for apples.

This happens most afternoons and if I don’t look up from wherever I am working, there is a bit of impatient whinnying to remind me to attend.

compostbuildingSo I go here a lot.  And it was only when Nicolas did a proper bit of slashing of the huge number of unwanted water shoots (rejets) around the huge chestnut tree that I could see its potential.

Before it was a thicket of sticks.  Now in the space of six months it had become a thicket of poorly managed mess.

And you know that dumb realization where you think you are hiding the mess on a mountain top… And then realize that you can see it from all points of the garden?


Look up beyond the potting shed and there it is.

This was the problem.  I tried constructing my own compost bins out of large pallets of wood. I’m quite adept at this form of construction on a flat surface. But this is sloping ground. And full of hidden roots. So the job I did was frankly shocking.

Not surprised you haven’t seen any pictures of it? That’s how shocking.

So I made a decision that I needed something more pleasing and permanent. And one with lids so that the pine martens couldn’t supplement their already rich diets with my vegetable leavings.

compost lidsAll bits of the construction are recycled – the metal from an old bit of roofing tin. The wood base were our old wood veneer kitchen work tops. And the sides are the only new bits – off cuts of chestnut trees from a nearby sawmill. Spaced apart so air can circulate.

Total investment: 30 euros plus one day’s labour from Nicolas. Oh, and two drill bits as Nicolas really is a gardener more than a builder and things break. But he is keen for work of any kind right now. And he gets the need for all gardens to make compost.

So I let him at it.

IMG_6098I wanted it set back far enough behind the potting shed so it wouldn’t stick out when you are standing lower down the farm.  And proper doors on the front (recycled from the old bins) with hooks and separate compartments.

In my fantasy life I turn my compost every Friday. Hah. That doesn’t happen here. This is the real world of one person trying to do it all and not enough time to even get through weeding the 2016 weeds before the 2017 ones burst into life.

The dirt in front of the bins won’t stay that way for long. I’ll have to give a thought to how I’m going to keep down the growth. I might start mulching this area with grass cuttings. But right now it is dry as can be and the weeds haven’t noticed such a blissful opportunity to explode into life without competition.

IMG_6018And I can’t wait to have a go with my paintbrush on those mismatched white and green doors.  The white is bright. And quite unnecessary. Dare I go mad and slap on some Farrow and Ball Downpipe dark grey? Possibly too chic for an outdoor set of bins.

But I’m even toying with the idea of Hague Blue.  All the sorts of hilarious distractions and fantasies when you know it will be weeks before you get round to it.


IMG_6204It has taken me all Easter just to sift the dumped pile of compost from the old bins.

And thank goodness my god-daughter Lauren isn’t squeamish. She sat down and sifted and riddled the compost for me each day when she took a break from studying.  Zillions of worms. Good. Hundreds of cockchafer grubs. Bad. One bit fat and rather surprised toad. Scary.

The grass under the tarp is killed of course. But Etienne’s need to shove the compost somewhere during the building work has been a blessing in disguise.  Having spent so many hours toiling away under the plum trees next to the soft fruit orchard and in front of the lavender bank has given me ideas.

But I don’t have time to tell you all. I’m too busy carrying buckets and buckets of sifted gorgeous compost around the veggie beds. And admiring my bins.