Having a compost bin or heap in your garden or down the allotment is invaluable, it’s fantastic for improving soil, mulching and as a growing medium.
It will improve the structure of your soil and aid nutrient retention.
Making a decent compost requires a 50:50 mix of materials which are rich in carbon and nitrogen.
Carbon is created from brown materials such as woody stems and cardboard.
Nitrogen is created from green materials such as grass clippings.
For every bucket of brown material you add to your compost, you will need a bucket of green material too.
To encourage your compost to break down easily it’s best to shred woody stems but scrunch up paper and leave egg boxes and loo rolls intact as these will help to keep your compost aerated.
Most compost bins are usually filled with too much nitrogen which results in a smelly sludge where as if you have too much carbon your composting process will be very slow.
Follow our guide to create the perfect organic compost mix.
To Get Started You Will Need
- A suitable corner of your garden or allotment
- An equal mix of carbon and nitrogen rich waste
- Compost bin
- Cover to keep rain out
Choosing Your Organic Composting Site
Locating the right site for your compost is important to the success of your compost. You don’t want your compost to be subject to extreme temperatures and moisture.
Micro-organisms that convert your waste to compost work best in steady conditions.
Ideally you want to have your compost bin or heap on an earth base as it allows drainage and access to organisms in the soil.
If you need to have your compost on a hard surface it’s best to add a spade full of soil to the compost bin.
Using a compost bin is recommended as bins retain warmth and moisture which produces quality compost quicker.
Using an open compost heap is fine however the composting process is slower.
The key to creating quality organic compost is ensuring the bin or heap can retain some warmth, allow drainage and let air in.
Creating the Right Balance of Organic Composting Materials
Keeping your mix of compost materials as close to 50:50 is best for the composting process as it allows the bacteria and micro-organisms to speed up the composting process.
Avoid having any one material dominate your compost, too much grass clippings will produce a smelly, slimy mess.
Mix kitchen waste and grass clippings are best mixed with brown woody material.
Best Materials for Organic Compost
Nitrogen Rich Green Materials
- Grass Cuttings
- Soft Pruning
- Annual Plant & Weed Remains (Before They Have Set Seed)
- Fruit and Veg Scraps
- Old Flower Cuts
- Tea Bags & Coffee Grounds
- Kitchen Waste
- Petting Bedding Waste
- Nettle Leaves
Carbon Rich Brown Materials
- Hard Pruning
- Hedge Trimmings
- Wood Chip
- Plant Stems
- Torn Up Cardboard
- Paper Bags
- Scrunched up Paper
- Paper Towels
DO NOT Compost These Materials
- Diseased Plants
- Cooked Foods
- Citrus (Slow to rot and very acidic which is not good for worm activity)
- Gloss or Colour Printed Paper
- Coal Ash
- Cat & Dog Litter
- Disposable Nappies
- Perennial Weeds e.g. Bindweed
Turn Your Compost Regularly
Turning your compost heap adds air which is essential for composting to occur. When the heap is too wet it will become compacted. This makes the composting process slower.
Aim to place a lot of materials on the heap in one go and turn the heap once a month. Failing to turn the heap is the most common reason for poor composting results.
It’s important to keep the heap moist in dry weather, turning will allow you to assess the moisture level of your compost heap.
How to Tell When the Composting Process is Complete?
It will take between 6 months – 2 years for your compost to reach maturity.
Mature compost is dark brown, with a crumbly soil-like texture and smells slightly sweet.
It’s unlikely that all the materials on the heap will be matured at the same time but that’s okay, they can be added to the next batch of compost you create.
Slimy, Smelly, Wet Compost:
This occurs when compost has too little air and too much water. Remove the layer of slimy waste and add material such as straw, shredded hedge clippings or crumpled paper.
It’s important to cover the heap to protect against the rain.
Dry, Slow Rotting and Fibrous Compost:
Usually caused by too much brown material and too little moisture. Adding more green waste or using a commercial activator or accelerator will encourage your composting process.
Swarms of Flies
Well run compost heaps don’t produce swarms of flies but if your heap does attract swarms of flies be sure to cover your kitchen waste with garden waste after adding it to the heap and check that moisture levels are not too high, causing insufficient air in the heap.