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Your Guide To: Composting

As we strive to reduce landfill waste and become more diligent with all of our waste, it makes sense for anyone with a garden to think about composting. In this series, we will give you the basics about composting, as well as an overview of what you can and can’t compost.

Composting is a natural process where natural matter breaks down to form a soil that is packed with nutrients. Once organic matter has broken down to make compost, it can be added to soil to create an effective fertiliser and promote growth in your garden. No matter how big or small your garden, by making your own compost you can reduce waste, avoid having to buy compost, and help your garden to look blooming beautiful. And, of course, if you are a composter, you will feel that satisfaction that you get when you do something very green!

There is a range of opinions on how to make the best compost and most people tend to think that their method is the best! One thing, however, is not debatable: before you compost, you need a decent container:

  • Plastic bins are specially made and relatively cheap to buy.
  • Wooden bins are more versatile and offer better ventilation, which can speed up the composting process.
  • Concrete bins don’t rot and are sturdy.
  • Recycled dumpy bags make great compost bins, but don’t look particularly attractive!
  • Hurdle-style compost bins made of willow or strong trellis hold large volumes and look good, too.

As natural waste breaks down, it creates heat and this heat helps to maintain the breaking down process. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep your compost heap covered if you can, to retain heat and to prevent the heap from getting too wet.

Layering is a good way of getting a high-quality compost as well as expediating the composting process. For example, a layer of coarse material allows more air to circulate throughout the compost, which encourages the aerobic reactions needed for natural materials to break down. During the summer, when your compost is likely to be mostly grass clippings, you can add a layer of kitchen waste (e.g. coffee grounds, herbivore bedding, paper, cardboard egg boxes or egg shells) to encourage those all-important pockets of air.

Depending on the environment and the nature of materials that you are composting, the process can take between two and nine months. If you have a large garden, you could have two or more compost heaps, each at different stages of decomposition. You will need to access the bottom of the heap to get to the compost; shop-bought compost bins usually have a hatch at the bottom, but if you have a home-made, hurdle-style one, you can just remove a side to get to the good stuff at the bottom.

If you start composting now, you might have compost for your spring planting, and you will definitely have compost ready for autumn. If you would like help in the garden, check out our directory of handymen and gardeners near you.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for next week’s instalment: What To Compost, And What Not To.

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