Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

It’s time to compost!

A new campaign, launched at the ideal time to start composting, is encouraging smaller households to create their own mini compost.

A new autumn campaign is under way to encourage homeowners to create their own mini compost.

The campaign, which follows on from a Government report about the growing pressure on UK landfill sites, is aimed at smaller households who haven’t in the past thought about composting waste material.

Although it’s easy to start a compost heap at any point throughout the year, late summer to early winter is the peak time for composting.

The campaign highlights the best techniques for constructing a successful compost pile, including how to balance nutrients and the ingredients you should always leave out.

Compost is a collection of organic waste made up of food and plants that decomposes over several months before finally turning into ‘humus’ – an extremely nutrient-rich soil.

In addition to helping to eliminate landfill waste, this soil can also be used as an organic fertiliser for your garden.

A spokesperson for the Organics Recycling Organization said: “Composting is a great option for families who find that they have more food waste than they know what to do with – plus it’s great for the environment and is one of the most powerful nutrients you can feed your garden with.

“It’s actually possible to do it both indoors and outdoors but opting to compost indoors is a little trickier and will require a little more maintenance.

“Although it’s easy to start a compost heap at any point throughout the year, this early to mid autumn period is perfect as there’s lots of end of season garden waste which can be the basis for composting.

“Generally speaking, you only really need three things to start – water, browns and greens.

“Browns refers to tree matter which includes things like dead leaves and twigs, and greens covers grass clippings, food waste and coffee grounds – but you shouldn’t ever put any meat, dairy or bread in your compost as they’ll rot and attract pests.

“It’s also worth noting that finished compost should only be used as an additive in your garden, and not as the sole soil source.”

The ten point plan is:

1. Container

Select a container for your compost and place it in a grassy, relatively shady part of your garden. You should make sure that the container doesn’t have a bottom – the compost heap should be directly touching the ground– and that it’s the right size for you and your family. You want to make sure it fits everything you need to dispose of, but it shouldn’t be too big either.

2. Base

Pile a few inches of branches and twigs at the bottom to help aerate the pile. Air flow is critical to stop your compost getting too wet and therefore smelly.

3. Balance

To have the most success composting, you want an equal balance of nitrogen, carbon, water and air. Nitrogen will be found in the green materials you use, and carbons in the brown matter.

4. Preparation

A general rule is the smaller the matter the quicker it will break up so chop or break up any big chunks of matter before putting them in the container.

5. Ingredients

Some of the best ingredients for a successful compost heap include: dried leaves; grass clippings; manure; fruit; vegetables; peelings; coffee grounds; tea leaves; old wine; used pet bedding (from omnivores only – rabbits and hamsters etc.); dry cat or dog food; dust from sweeping and vacuuming; old herbs and spices; shredded newspaper; receipts; hair (human and pet); and wine corks.

6. Avoid

Avoid meat, dairy and bread which will rot and attract pests, as well as any high processed foods as they take longer to break down.

7. Work new  waste into your heap

If you are going to be adding new scraps quite regularly, it’s a good idea to bury them under the pile that’s already starting to break down instead of just throwing them on top.

8. Aerate

Around once a week, you should use a spade or shovel to mix the materials around and aerate the pile slightly. It is essential but can be hard work.

9. Water

When you notice the pile is getting a little too dry, you should use water to moisten it slightly. It will soon become apparent if the pile is too dry and not decomposing.

10. Ready to use

Your compost should be ready to use after a few months. You will know when it turns a dark brown colour, develops an earthy smell and is warm to the touch, which is a result of all the microbes living inside.

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