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  • Jane Westoby

Secrets to making great compost

Updated: Mar 28

Compost heap

Gardeners up and down the country are all dreaming of one thing - piles of rich crumbly "black gold". You can of course buy it in but when you can make your own great compost it will save a few pennies and help the environment.

Research has found that almost half of the food waste in the average rubbish bin could have been composted.....all for free.

What can be composted?

There is a surprising amount which can go into your compost bin for making great compost. From the usual suspects such as vegetable peel, teabags, and grass cuttings through to eggshells and the contents of your vacuum cleaner.

Both green and brown materials need to be mixed together with equal parts green and brown, OR with 2 parts green and 1 part brown. Anything between these two will work fine. You don't need to be exact and can add more of either if your mix is not decomposing well enough.

Green Materials

Green materials are something which has been growing recently and are often green , they contain lots of nitrogen which breaks down quickly and helps to keep the compost moist. Green materials include:

  • Grass cuttings

  • Coffee grounds/tea bags

  • Vegetable and fruit scraps

  • Trimmings from perennial and annual plants

  • Cut flowers

  • Young annual weeds which have not set seed

  • Eggshells

  • Animal manures (cow, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, but not dog or cat manure)

  • Seaweed

  • Leaves

Brown Materials

Brown materials include dry or woody plant material. In most cases these materials are brown, or will naturally turn brown. They contain lots of carbon, breaking down more slowly and adding structure to the compost. Brown materials include:

  • Autumn leaves

  • Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark

  • Hedge and woody trimmings

  • Egg shells

  • Straw and hay

  • Sawdust

  • Unlaminated/UnCoated Paper - shredded letters, Scrunched up cardboard, egg boxes and toilet roll tubes

  • Cotton fabric

  • The contents of your vacuum cleaner

What can not be composted?

The below items should not be composted:

  • Nappies, glass, plastic, or metalCooked food

  • Diseased plantsRaw meat and fish (including bones)

  • Cat or dog wasteDairy products

  • Bread and bakery products

  • Coal or coke ash

Steps to making great compost:

  • Find the right site - Somewhere you can easily add ingredients to the bin and have enough space to turn the compost and get it out. If you can, also site your bin in a reasonably sunny place and onto bare soil.

  • You can build your own compost bin from pallets, chickenwire and posts or buy a ready made version from wood or plastic.

  • Add your ingredients mixing together the greens and brown as much as possible. As the pile decomposes it will shrink so don't be afraid to overfill

  • Keep your heap most but not boggy ( I tend to water mine every now and again if there has been no rain, and in around 12 months your compost will be ready for use. It will have turned crumbly and brown.

Want to make your compost Quicker? Check out our Quick Composting guide

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