Making a Slow Rot Bay

Maddy Harland
Wednesday, 23rd December 2015

Maddy Harland's step by step instructions for making a slow rot bay - useful for larger prunings and good habitat for wildlife.

I have long been a composter and a hot composter at that but I haven’t ever had a slow rot bin. These serve a very useful function. They are filled with leaves, plant matter and prunings that would take too long to rot down in a conventional composting system. No more intact sticks mixed in finished compost! They also save hours of chipping.

I had bartered 4 x 8 foot fence posts from building a friend a wood shed from 100% recycled materials. I also had some pig wire left over from pumpkin and tomato training experiments.


My friend, Lindy, and I therefore had all we needed to build a bay. Lindy advised me to build the structure as large as possible, 6 x 4 foot. We therefore cut the posts in half, dug holes with a tree spade to get started and then bashed them into the flinty, chalky subsoil with a borrowed post rammer. It was very hard work.

First of all we attached the left over posts to one of the shorter four foot sides to serve as a rail. Then we neatly jointed in the longer six foot rail at the back. We cut the joints with the chain saw and finished them off with the bow saw. Then we used screws to attach them. This is a rustic structure so no need for fancy carpentry.

We placed rails on three sides but not at the front (partly because we ran out of poles and partly because it wasn’t necessary to rail all four sides and it is useful to have a lower part of the bay for lifting heavy branches over). The rails serve a number of purposes. They make the structure more rigid and provide a fixing place for the wire. They are also useful if you are leaning on the structure with a bag full of prunings as you do not want to collapse the wire.

Post and rails in place, we cracked a few jokes about the need to tether a donkey and the High Chaparral… Then we started attaching the pig wire. We had some fencing staples left over from the days when we used to keep chickens. I tensioned the wire as best I could and Lindy hammered in the staples. We started at one end and worked our way around the bay.

Then we had the very real pleasure of finding all the prunings and sacks of woody weeds that have been lying around the garden and filled up the bay. In an ideal world we would have built two bays so we can alternative filling with rotting down but I am delighted with this one big one. It has saved hours of shredding and will provide habitat for all manner of creatures in my garden, especially common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) that love rotting wood.

Further DIY Ideas

Growing Pumpkins and Squash Vertically (this idea also works well with training tomatoes)

How to Build a Wood Shed from Reclaimed Materials for Free

PCM86_0.jpgMaddy Harland co-founded and edits Permaculture magazine. She has been practising permaculture since 1991.

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