Making compost is a very simple process. If you throw
the stuff in the dustbin it will be wasted and end
up in an expensive and undesirable landfill site, where it
will do no good at all. The
result of composting is a free supply of the best possible soil
improvement material for your garden and an alternative
to all the expensive artificial fertilisers and peat.
BUT, ISN'T IT COMPLICATED?
Nah, not really. It's all based on natural processes that ensure
most living things that die rot away (or decompose). The world is full of
organisms that feed on dead material, breaking it down to
products at the foot of the food-chain - they are Nature's
Recyclers. Wherever you find dead things you'll find a
concentration of them doing their job. In composting we simply
utilise their natural abilities to turn waste vegetable matter
into a nutrient rich humus which you can add to your garden soil
to boost it's growing power, improve it's structure and moisture
don't need any fancy equipment to begin a compost heap. Start in
an out-of the-way spot in your garden on bare soil, not on
paving or concrete, and simply start to build a heap from all of
your waste vegetable material. It's best to start off with a
course layer of prunings, bark and twigs to allow air to enter
the heap more easily (more of that later). You can knock
together a rudimentary three-sided frame out of old pallet wood
to hold the heap in place and help it's efficiency (Click
here for instructions); or you can
make your heap in an old plastic dustbin with the bottom cut
Once the heap has reached a reasonable size, those tiny
organisms will really get to work. In fact they work so hard
that the temperature in the middle of your heap can reach 70ēC
within two or three weeks (although it is more usual to find
temperatures of around 50ēC). It will take four to eighteen months
(depending on conditions) before your heap is ready to add to
your garden soil. You'll know when it's ready when it's dark in
colour and has a sweet earthy smell. Of course, the recently
added material at the top of the heap won't be ready yet, so
simply use the stuff from the bottom of the heap and put the
rest back to continue.
|WHAT CAN I COMPOST?
Fruit and vegetable peelings
prunings and broken-up twigs
Autumnal leaf falls
Horse, rabbit, pigeons & chicken manures
Feathers, hair and fur
Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
Crushed egg shells
|WHAT SHOULDN'T I COMPOST?
Meat, meat products, fish or cheese
Cooked scraps or scrapings
Soot or coal ash
Human faeces or used nappies
Pet litter or pet waste
Metal, glass, plastic, artificial textiles
In layers not exceeding 10 cm.
IS THERE ANY SPECIAL MAINTENANCE?
The micro-organisms and bacteria that turn your heap into
compost require three things: vegetable matter, moisture
and air. Excluding air means that you'll encourage
"anaerobic" organisms to get to work and turn
your heap into a smelly, slimy mess. So one essential bit
of heap maintenance is "turning". This means
turning the heap over with a garden fork once every
fortnight to mix and aerate it.
Your compost heap needs to be kept moist, but not wet,
so keep it covered to keep out the rain and water it a
little if it becomes too dry.
Heat is essential for rapid maturing of the heap. The
heat is self-generated by the organisms as they break down
the vegetable material, but the heat may be easily lost in
cold weather. You can help by covering the heap with old
carpets as the days get colder.
Things that will help accelerate the composting process
are nettles (especially young ones, but avoid putting the
roots in), chicken manure and human urine.