Pair of Dalek compost bins.

Dalek Compost Bin: Is it any good?

What is a Dalek Compost Bin?

A Dalek Bin is a lightweight plastic compost bin, often made from recycled plastic, with a lid at the top and usually with a hatch at the bottom and no base. The bins come in a variety of shapes, including flat sided, square and rectangular. The Dalek Bin gets its name from the Daleks of the Dr Who series, to which it does indeed bear a resemblance.

Dalek Bin’ come in a variety of sizes, varying from 200 to 300 litres. Dalek Bin’s can be good for casual composters but are not likely to meet the needs of more serious composters or those who want to achieve hot compost piles.

Pros and Cons of Dalek Bins

Pros

  • Lightweight – easy to move around (when empty)
  • Cheap – in fact, some councils give them away for free.
  • Easy to install – just dump on the ground and leave.
  • Can be used on concrete

Cons

  • Slow
  • Difficult to get sustained heat
  • Doesn’t produce huge amounts of compost
  • Difficult to turn.
  • Difficult to empty.
  • Bottom hatch door can break off.
  • Doesn’t allow oxygen in

How do Dalek Bins work?

Being lightweight, the Dalek bins are easy to move around. Because of their size, they are not likely to get hot for a sustained period of time, but if you get the right mix of greens and browns in they should eventually provide good compost.

You can extract compost from the bottom of the Dalek using a spade. This sounds easy, but when I tried it I found it quite awkward, as you have to try and angle your spade through the hatch.

Fortunately, when you have a full Dalek, you can lift the Dalek up to reveal a mound of compost. You can then relocate your Dalek, ideally shovelling the top of the compost mound (which will be less well rotted) back into your Dalek.

There’s no mechanism to turn the compost in the bin in order to aerate. So it’s a good idea to incorporate elements in the compost which help create oxygen pockets in your compost, such as scrunched up cardboard.

Pest control

Some closed systems prevent pests from entering. The Dalek doesn’t come with a base, but there are various ways you could add pest control. For example, you could put it on a base of wire mesh and then bend the wire mesh around the sides of the bin in order.

My experience with Dalek Bins

I inherited my Dalek Bin with my garden, and I have to admit that while I’m not huge fan, and I have yet to meet someone who is, I do have some uses for it.

Originally, I tried to get some hot composting going in it, but eventually gave up. In fact my results were very disappointing – a brown, dry, hard mess at the bottom. Real Men Sow, though, who are more in favour of Dalek Bins, find there are some tips to getting heat to help your Dalek Bin more effective:

“I’ve found heat to be really important to the dalek’s composting speeds too. One of my daleks is positioned in a sunny spot, and rots down much, much quicker than the dalek which spends a large part of the day in shade. Make sure the lids are on tight too, as they help to keep the heat in. This also stops them blowing away in a strong wind.”

Source: Real Men Sow

I’m sure that with the composting knowledge I have picked up in the last few years, I could get some hot composting go for a while. After all, if I can produce compost in a small Bokasi bin, I’m sure with some effort I could do the same with the much larger Dalek Bin. Unfortunately, the lurking green plastic Dalek doesn’t interest nearly as much as other composting systems such as the Hot Bin Composting system.

Do note that as mentioned above, when I have taken some compost out of the bin, it has been very dry. If you are using yours for serious compost, it might be worth keeping an eye on this and watering as needed. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do other than water from the top.

I now use the compost bin mostly for insidious weeds and bulbs which I don’t want to risk in my main compost heap, especially now in winter when it is harder to get it hot. I’m happy to leave those pesty plants there for years.

Also see Modern Mint’s take on the Dalek Bin. Image above by Tejvan.

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