adding leaves to compost bin

How do I make garden compost?

For some reason making garden compost has been swaddled in an air of myth and mystery and yet it is a natural process that we can replicate and harness very easily in our gardens. You don’t need a large garden and actually you don’t need a lot of kit either. You simply choose your composting method to suit the type of waste you have to recycle and the amount. This might mean using two or more composting systems, but it also means you get some pretty amazing material at the end to improve your garden soil. It’s basically soil conditioner made up of rich organic matter that will enhance the health of your soil by opening up the structure, holding moisture in the soil, adding nutrients for the plants and feeding beneficial soil micro-organisms and mini beasts. Good, healthy garden soil around the roots of your plants is critical if you are to get the very best from your garden.

Home composting is a vital part of a healthy garden. It enables you to recycle vast amounts of waste that would otherwise end up as landfill and it creates a sustainable supply of rich, organic matter that can be used to enrich your garden soil.

The term compost can be confusing because there are many different types. Basically compost can be divided into two sorts.

Homemade Compost is the result of home composting. It is an important ingredient of healthy garden soil. Use it as a soil conditioner or a garden mulch to help replenish what has been depleted from the soil by plant growth. Making your own home compost is a great way to reduce landfill and to help meet local recycling targets. In ideal conditions it can take as little as eight weeks to create fully composted home compost that is ready to use in your garden. It is NOT the same as specially formulated Potting and Planting Compost that you buy from garden centres.

hands in compost

Why make compost

Home Composting is more than just making copious amounts of free soil conditioner for the garden; it also goes a long way in the quest for householders to recycle their own waste. That’s more important now than ever before! It’s not just because the council won’t or can’t collect our waste, we need to understand that if we are going to leave a healthy planet for the next generation we all need to do our bit to soften our footprint on the planet and composting our waste is one thing that we can do.

Composting is very easy to do, even in a small garden.

You can compost most garden waste, shred it or cut it up if you can. Avoid diseased material, anything with spines and perennial or flowering weeds.

You can compost vegetable peelings and some kitchen scraps like egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. Avoid fat, cooked food and raw meat, fish or eggs.

food waste in compost bin

How it works

Composting is a natural process that occurs all around us in nature. It is a major part of the food chain, tiny creatures feeding on your garden waste that become prey to larger creatures that frequent the garden. Every living organism has a part to play to ensure that the natural resources are fully utilized in every way. If you imagine your garden and kitchen waste as a premium by-product of living and a vital ingredient in the food chain then you start to realise the bigger part that composting and recycling plays. This by-product is a valuable resource that can be used to feed beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms, beetles, microbes and more. It’s a natural degradation process fuelled by the contents of the compost bin.

The right mix

If you fill a compost bin with just grass clippings the result with be a wet, smelly mess. Likewise, if you fill it with shredded woody material it will sit and do nothing for weeks on end. But a mixture of pretty much equal quantities of wet and dry material will result in perfect results. Getting the mix right is critical. It’s a bit like making a cake. Too much flour and the cake is dry, crumbly and pretty inedible, but with too much egg or milk and it becomes a stodgy mess that is almost impossible to digest. With the right proportions the results are perfect, the cake delicious and the balance of ingredients just right. In the same way the resulting compost depends very much on the ingredients added, the proportions used and the quality of the overall mixture.

For the best results add material in alternate thick layers so that the wet leafy material sits next to the woody, dry material and the two gradually merge together as the microbes do their work.

adding dry material to compost

For more information on what you can and can’t compost click here.

If you want more information on the different types of composters click here.

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