Composting

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The basic compost recipe couldn’t be easier. All you need is a basic compost bin… or even simpler a pile in the corner of the garden that’s out of site, and just keep adding the right material to it!

Whatever you use, start your compost on a bare patch of earth. This will allow the worms access to the material. 

The best compost is made by adding a mix of 50% green waste, and 50% brown waste, and doing so in layers – so a layer of brown waste, followed by a layer of green. However I never worry too much about getting the mix right and I haven’t failed yet. So long as you don’t add something that you shouldn't, in time you will get compost. The worst that can happen is that you will end up with either a wet sloppy mixture (too much green waste) or it won’t rot as quickly (too much brown waste).

  • Green Waste includes: Fruit & Vegetable waste from the kitchen; Coffee Grounds & Filter Paper; Tea bags; Lawn clippings; Annual Weeds; Old Flowers & Nettles; Rhubarb leaves; Spent Bedding Plants
  • Brown waste: Fallen Leaves; Shredded paper (avoid glossy magazines); Chopped Woody prunings; Corrugated cardboard (remove all plastic tape); Sawdust (avoid any from wood that has been chemically treated); Tumble Dryer lint

If you want to speed the process up further you could add a compost activator. This could be as simple as pouring diluted fresh urine on the heap (which incidentally also makes a great liquid feed for your brassicas), or you could use one of the commercial products available such as Bayer Natria Compost Activator.

You’ll know your compost is ready to use when the original material has been transformed into a crumbly, dark brown product with an earthy aroma… if you still have some woody bits left in the compost, don’t worry simply add these to your new compost pile and they will soon break down.

There are 3 main questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on what sort of compost heap to use.

  • How much space do you have?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How much time do you want to put in?

Here are the main categories of composters available on the market today, read on to find which is best for you.

Compost Heap

In the most basic form you can make compost in a heap in the corner of the garden. Just keep adding waste to the pile as it becomes available, try to mix similar quantities of brown and green waste, and turn with a fork every now and again.

This method is by far the simplest, and cheapest, however it is also the slowest as the heap doesn't retain the heat, and you will have to turn often to get the whole pile to compost. Material in the middle will compost quicker than material around the edges.

Pallet Compost Bin

A slightly better version of the basic compost heap, often seen on allotments and in its simplest form is a compost bin built by simply tying 4 old shipping pallets together. This works much better, however this will still need turning regularly to produce the good stuff.

Plastic Compost Bin

The humble plastic compost bin has gained in popularity over recent years. They are relatively cheap to buy, produce compost in a reasonably good time, and don't require too much mixing, making them easy to maintain too.

The only real downside to these plastic composters is that you will probably find that you need at least 2. One to fill whilst the other composts older material. If you have a big garden or allotment then great, this is the bin for you.

Compost Tumblers

These are the big daddy of the compost world. They will produce compost quicker and more efficiently than any of the methods above.... and as you will only need 1 of these it will also take up less space in the garden.

Simply add the material, and give the tumbler a turn when you do to mix it up and you could have compost in as little as 6 weeks!

They might look heavy and difficult to turn, but they have been designed with this purpose in mind... so much easier than trying to mix the heap with a fork!

Wormeries

Wormeries take up less space than any other method, and are ideal for people that live in small spaces. Wormeries come in 2 different styles - the stackable wormery, and the compact version.

The stackable versions such as the worm cafe below are better for outdoor use. Simply add waste to the top tray, and when ready harvest the compost from the bottom tray - you then place this empty tray on top of the stack and start again

worm cafe

Compost Troubleshooting

If your compost doesn't look quite right then have a look at the following troubleshooting guide to identify the problem and find a solution.

 

Problem

Possible Causes

Solution

Attracts insects & Slugs

This is a normal part of composting. The insects will actually help the process.

No problem

The pile is slimy and smells

This is usually down to adding too much green waste and not enough brown waste.

Could also be down to too much water in the compost

Add shredded paper or woody prunings and mix the heap thoroughly

Cover the heap loosely, allowing some moisture to escape.

It's too dry, and nothing is composting

The opposite of the previous point this is usually the result of adding too much brown waste

This might also be the result of not enough moisture in the pile

Add more green waste, lawn mowings and veg peelings are ideal, then mix the heap thoroughly

Water generously, and cover to retain moisture

The compost is attracting rats or mice

Usually the result of adding cooked food, or meat, fish or dairy to the heap.

Place traps right next to the heap, and avoid adding any other "bad" material.

You could also try sprinkling cayenne pepper around the base to deter them

The compost is taking too long

The pile may be too dry.

There could be a lack of oxygen in the plie.

The pile may not be getting enough heat

Add some water, and possibly a compost activator.

Mix the pile thoroughly, and add material in thinner layers.

Position it in sunlight and ensure it is always covered

 

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
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