Garden Composting – A Guide For Beginners
Compost is a natural fertilizer that gives you a healthy soil which is full of nutrients. Expensive and often harmful fertilizers are unnecessary – compost is the most effective and eco-friendly way to achieve a beautiful garden.
Composting is ever more popular and has numerous environmental benefits. So do not be tempted when faced with the shiny pre-bagged variety at the garden center. Take a look through our information and tips to learn why you should do it and all you need for fool-proof compost.
What is Compost?
Compost is the natural result of the biodegradation of organic matter by micro-organisms (bacteria, yeast and fungi), worms and invertebrates. In soil science, this rich, dark and sweet-smelling product is called humus. And you can use it on your lawn, in your plant beds, in houseplants or as a potting and seed starting mix.
Why make Compost?
There are many benefits to making compost. It is not surprising that gardeners name it black goldÂÂ.
- It's free – reuse waste and save money
- It saves waste disposal costs – with increasing restrictions and rising council taxes
- It helps the environment. Your waste need not be transported to landfill sites – in fact it's 100% environmentally friendly – it does not pollute in any way
- It makes great, healthy soil – recycling nutrients and improving structure
- It's a natural fertilizer – saving money on chemical fertilizers
- It helps to retain soil moisture
- It also improves drainage with even water retention
- It increases worm activity which is invaluable for gardens
- It breaks up clay soil
What should go into your Composter?
You can divide the two types of waste that should go into your compost into 'greens' and 'browns'. 'Greens' are quick to rot and provide essential nitrogen and moisture. 'Browns' are slower to rot, provide carbon and fiber, and allow the formation of air pockets. For the perfect balance, aim for approximately 2 parts 'Green' to 1 part 'Brown' in weight, with only small amounts of items listed under 'What not to add'.
What to add to your compost bin
- Food scraps such as vegetable peelings, fruit scraps and tea and coffee grounds
- Garden refuse such as grass clippings and weeds
- Herbivore droppings such as those of guinea pigs and rabbits
- Rotted manure
- Urine – preferably diluted with water
- Cardboard and paper such as egg boxes and newspapers
- Fallen leaves
- Twigs, branches and bark
- Hair is slow to decompose but a good source of nitrogen
- Egg shells – these will not decompose in the bin but will add valuable minerals
- Natural fibers such as 100% wool or cotton
What not to add
- Weeds with seeds or pernicious weeds
- Diseased plants
- Thick branches
- Disposable nappies
- Meat and fish
- Cooked food
- Dairy products
- Coal and coke ash
- Dog droppings and cat litter
How to make compost
The key to perfect compost is a good balance of 'Greens' and 'Browns'. Plan your kitchen storage facilities to make sure your valuable leftovers are not wasted: for example using our ergonomic kitchen caddy .
After adding your products, it really is as simple as leaving it to itself: the breakdown is a natural process so just keep adding until the bin is full and settled. To make this as quick as possible make sure all paper and cardboard is shredded or broken up. With this method your compost will take 6 to 18 months. If you want to speed the process up, then turn the material each week and make sure your bin is placed in the sun. Once your compost is dark brown, crumbly, thick and moist, and also producing a sweet, earthy aroma, it is ready to use.
The Compost Bin
With their green color blending into garden aesthetics and their robust structure with a lid to protect the contents from the elements and help insulate – compost bins are designed to help the composting process along its way. And you will not need to use external agents such as bio-liquids and powders to operate a modern and good quality compost bin. They come in various sizes so do not just buy the largest; choose one that fits the size of your garden. A wide opening also makes adding and removing compost easy.