How to make a good compost heap

Whether you’re a keen gardener or not, composting is a terrific idea all round. It’s incredibly good for environment and it can help to drastically reduce the amount of waste that you throw out into landfill. Not sure where to start? Garden experts Greenhouse Sensation is here to help you become a composting-whizz in no time at all.

  1. Start a compost pile

If you have more space at your disposal, you could consider building a compost heap. If space is limited you can either opt for a wooden or plastic bin – it’s all about picking the best one for your garden and one that suits you.

Once you’ve decided on your container, it’s time to find the perfect spot for it to live. Ideally you want it to sit on a level patch of land that is also well-drained to allow excess water to disappear naturally. A well-drained spot also gives easy access to worms, who are vital to breaking down the ingredients of your bin – composting can’t be done without them! A position in shade or light shade will help to keep the temperature and moisture levels well-balanced.

  1. The right ingredients

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different things you can compost – the possibilities are practically endless. Here are just a few things you can throw in your composter – this is by no means a complete list so make sure you do your research…

  • Scraps of fruit and vegetables
  • Spoiled/cooked food such as:
    • Soy/almond/coconut/rice milk
    • Pasta
    • Rice
    • Stale bread and crisps
    • Stale crackers and cereal
    • Old herbs and spices
    • Stale and crushed candy
    • Pizza crusts
    • Crumbs swept off the counter
  • Crushed eggshells (provides fantastic nutrients to the soil)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Loose leaf tea and teabags (only if made from natural materials)
  • Used paper towels and napkins
  • Shredded paper bags
  • Cardboard pizza boxes (unwaxed and cut up)
  • Cardboard egg boxes (shredded)
  • Pet waste e.g. horses, cows, chickens and rabbits

Annie Spratt

  1. The wrong ingredients

Just as the correct things in your compost can work wonders, adding in the wrong ingredients can lead to pests, smells and unusable compost. Here are a few things to keep out of your pile…

  • Dog and cat waste (this can only be done in a special composter)
  • Tea and coffee bags with synthetic fibres
  • Onion peel
  • Citrus fruit peel
  • Scraps of meat and fish
  • Sticky labels from fruit and vegetables
  • Ash from coal fires
  • Paper that is glossy or coated
  • Sawdust from treated wood
  • Large tree branches
  • Synthetic fertiliser
  1. Find the balance

Believe it or not, but there is a lot more to composting than throwing your waste in a bin at the bottom of the garden – but don’t let that put you off! In order to get the best compost for your plants, there’s a balance to get right, but it’s easy to find. It’s all about the “greens” and “browns”.

Green materials are rich in nitrogen, and include things like:

  • Plant-based kitchen waste
  • Barnyard animal waste
  • Grass clippings

Brown materials are rich in carbon:

  • Fallen leaves
  • Dead flowers
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw

If you find that your compost is too wet, add more ‘brown’ materials as this will help to balance out the excess moisture. On the other hand, if you notice it’s a little on the dry side, add some ‘greens’ to give those water levels a boost.

  1. Add the air

There’s only one more step involved with caring for your compost heap to ensure it produces a good quality soil for your garden. Every couple of weeks, use a shovel, fork or specially designed aeration tool to ‘turn’ your compost heap. The aim is to move the compost in the centre of the pile to the outer edges, and vice versa. Don’t worry if you see steam rising as you start to work; this is just heat caused by the decomposition of the materials.

  1. The finished product

So, you’ve done all the hard work, how do you know when your compost is ready? At the bottom of your bin you’ll start to notice a soil-like layer that is either dark brown or black in colour. Its texture will be spongy and it’ll be jam-packed full of fantastic nutrients. Use this on your flowerbeds and vegetable plots to improve the soil quality, suppress weeds and eliminate the need for pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

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