Garden Composting is a good way to make use of kitchen and garden waste. It has the added benefit of
producing excellent fertilizer in-situ. It can also help to reduce your gardening costs and the amounts of
chemicals that you use in your garden. Here are some tips I have put together for starting your own compost
Compost containment - Ideally, compost should be produced in a
container,sufficiently isolated from your living area. Although many large compost heaps have been used for
Ready-made compost bins or barrels can be bought from many garden centres, or if you are good at DIY you
can build your own.
You will need to make a three or four-sided structure using wooden or metal posts, chicken wire, mesh or
another breathable, porous material. If you are building your own, the size only depends on the amount of space you
have available. But a 4ft by 4ft heap is a good start.
Location - There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing
the location of your compost heap :-
- Open air heaps will need to be away from your house, as compost can attract pests and
hosehold pets. You don't want to have to clear up after Fido several times a week. There will also be some
unpleasant odours at times, which you would prefer not to be under your open windows.
- Sheltered from the wind to prevent the heap from being blown over your garden and to
prevent unpleasant odours from annoying your neighbours.
- Drainage needs to be good as the heap needs to be damp but not under water. You don't want
a slimey run off across your garden paths.
Compostable materials -
Not so good -
- You should never place human waste or cat or dog litter in your compost heap, but manure from
non-carnivorous animals, such as rabbits, is ok.
- It is important to not attract pests and animals, so items such as cake or bread, old bones and meat
scraps, even cooking oil should be avoided.
- Diseased plants can spread a fungal infection to other plants, so they too should be avoided.
- Newspaper and thin plain paper breaks down well in a compost heap, but magazines and other
heavily printed materials do not.
- Kitchen waste can mostly be composted,fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells and coffee
grounds and filters are all excellent for encouraging the composting process.
- Garden waste that is free from chemicals is brilliant for bulking up the compost
- Natural sawdust is fine but processed sawdust could well contain chemicals so avoid
Waste bins will be needed to temporarily store the kitchen waste until you take that trip up
the garden to the compost heap. So some kind of lidded container will be really helpful to prevent unpleasant
Composting process - The compost heap will need to be turned occasionally to promote
decomposition. A garden fork or shovel is fine to open up the heap to allow some air in and to help to dry at times
after heavy rainfall.
- The addition of some thin layers of garden soil can help the process, as will keeping the heap damp during
- Lawn mowings and soft weeds applied in layers can be good activators to the composting process. Whilst
tougher plants and branches take much longer to rot down but add body to the final composted material. I
normally cut up all woody stems into small pieces to help this process. So learn by experience how to
build up your compost heap.
- The heap will need to be covered over with an old tarpaulin, plastic sheet or thick cardboard.
- Compost bins normally have a trap door at the bottom to aid the removal of composted material, with heaps ,
at the time that you are turning the heap you can remove the composted material.
Once the compost has broken down into black, soil-like material, it is ready to be added to your plant beds or
vegetable garden. This natural material is rich in nutrients such as nitrogen that will enable your plants to
Return from Composting to springcleantips home