Monday, 19 March 2007


I have had some e-mails this week about compost bins. I agree when it is said that no home should be without one. It is surprising what can be composted. A friend of mine composts every scrap of food from the kitchen. Raw, cooked plant or animals, the lot goes in. He will also compost old cotton clothes He is very well seasoned in the art of composting so I wouldn’t recommend putting meat or dairy products into the bin just yet unless you are confident that you know what you are doing! There are factors that can put people off composting and below are two questions that are frequently asked by budding organic recyclers.


I went to put some old peelings into my compost bin the other day. When I lifted the lid off I was attacked by hundreds of little flies. I panicked and ran indoors to get out of their way and in doing so brought loads of them into the house. My kids have been flicking them with a tea towel to kill them. What are they?

A. The small flies that are occupying your window are fruit flies. They act a bit daft at the best of times and tend to drop into your tea or dinner when you least expect them to. You will find them happily sat on your fruit bowl and of course they will always land on your face when you are trying to have an afternoon nap. The flies come out of your compost bin because there is an abundance of food and it is a warm place to breed. The reason they are in such large numbers is because you have got the balance wrong with the ingredients in the bin. Mix the compost around and always add some dry matter such as paper, cardboard or straw. It is a fine balance getting good compost from a bin and can be more difficult than the experts make out. There’s one consolation though, because it’s too wet in the bin, you only have flies. It could be rats following you into the house!

I have one of those compost bins from the council but I’m worried if I start using it that rats might move in and use it as their home. Are there any methods of keeping them out?

A. Up until a few days ago I would have recommended a basket that you dig into the ground. The basket is similar to a washing basket and would fasten onto the bin making it difficult for the rats to tunnel underneath to make a nest. Unfortunately I know someone who tried this last year and the rats have managed to chew through the plastic underneath the ground. The rat family are nesting in the warm as we speak! The best method with the council bins would be to invest in some chicken wire. This can be placed on the ground and the bin could be placed on top. Pull the wire up around the bin and secure with sods of grass. This should keep the pesky rodents out.


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