This comprehensive guide provides you with a step-by-step method to make good, or, dare I say it, ‘perfect’ compost time and time again. So let’s dig in!
Time and/ or money that you invest in the soil in your garden will always cater to the best in terms of return.
And what is the return?
Vigorous, healthy plants together with excellent harvests.
When you opt to keep garden waste as well as kitchen scraps (though not all kitchen scraps are suitable) from going to landfill there’s an even greater reward on offer – in addition to the fact that you can avoid having to pay higher council rates for the “luxury” of having your garden-waste bucket emptied regularly.
You can, of course, invest in ready-made compost to get ahead of the game. Nevertheless, unless your composting processes are too limited to meet the needs of your garden, there’s no need to do that. Having a trailer-full of fresh horse manure dumped at your front door is not a practical solution for everyone anyway.
It’s easy and it’s not at all expensive to make your own compost provided you have a little knowledge, the appropriate materials, and some decent equipment to boot.
In this article, you’ll receive all the insight you need to get started making your own compost (or making better compost than perhaps you’ve managed to do previously). And it doesn’t matter what method you use for composting.
And if you do need a composting bin, I’ve reviewed a handful of them so the ‘dirty’ work is already done for you. Check out this article: What’s The Best Compost Bin (UK)? Review Of The Best UK Compost Bins For 2020.
Or, if you’re interested in learning how to compost everything, including meat, fish, dairy products – the whole gamut – have a quick read of this article: What’s The Best Compost Bin (UK)? Review Of The Best UK Compost Bins For 2020.
Only 3 Elements Involved in Making Your Ideal Compost
If you add homemade compost to your soil – the sort of homemade compost that I’m about to tell you about – you’ll be doing yourself a big favour.
Why is that?
Because quite unlike when there’s weeding or double-digging to be done, both of which are time-consuming and the latter of which calls for a lot of physical effort, when you make your own compost, that compost actually “makes” itself.
1. Start out with a container
There’s nothing fancy about the container you choose. Or rather, there doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It’s just about holding the ingredients of your decomposing materials together so the beneficial macro- and micro-organisms can break it down effectively.
There are two types of compost bins:
a) Stationary compost bins
b) Rotating compost bins/ tumblers
Both stationary and rotating bins must periodically have their contents turned. This way, oxygen is provided and the decaying materials are better combined.
The stationary compost bin can be very simplistic. You can make your own using wooden crates or wire fence sections. Or, indeed, you can purchase a bin.
If the compost bin is well-designed, it will retain heat and it will retain moisture, and in turn, you’ll enjoy a faster end result.
The rotating compost bin/ tumbler is comprised of what are (hopefully) easy-to-turn bins, and it’s this periodic turning action that helps to speed the process up. So, this way, you’ll have compost that’s ready to roll in a matter of a few weeks. It’s all about oxygen infusion blended with heat retention.
Stationary compost bins are larger than rotating compost bins/ tumblers. So, decide on one or the other based upon the amount of plant matter you generally dispose of, the size of your garden, and how rapidly you want to have your finished product available to you.
For both types of compost bins, you’ll want to position the bin in a sunny location. That’s because you want the bin to get as much external heat as possible (without taking extreme measures).
For obvious reasons, though maybe not so obvious reasons – if your bin spends all day and every day in the shade, yes, decomposition will still occur, but because decomposition requires a source of heat, the decomp process is going to take a whole lot longer than otherwise it would. Even more so during the autumn and early springtime months when temperatures are at or near to freezing.
2. Ensure the mix of ingredients is correct
A pile of compost that’s low maintenance will have a combination of green and brown plant matter and some moisture (so that the beneficial bacteria keep doing their stuff).
If you’re concerned about what you should add to your compost bin, here are some examples of materials that are completely compostable:
Green material that is compostable:
- Almost all plant matter, including wet leaves and wet grass clippings.
- Vegetable scraps, including potato and onion peels.
- Fruit scraps, including apple cores, banana and orange peels.
Brown material that is compostable:
- Paper towels, toilet roll (including the inner cardboard bit), cardboard including egg boxes and other types of boxes (best to shred the cardboard).
- Wood chips and wood shavings.
- Dry leaves.
- Dry grass clippings.
With respect to your outdoor compost bin, don’t add any dairy products, any fish, or any meat.
These additives, if they were indeed to become additives, would work in attracting all sorts of pests, including rats.
However, and on that note, there is an alternative here.
Rather than adding fresh dairy products, fish, and meat to the traditional compost heap, which you’re not going to do anyway, and rather than dispatching it to the bucket men when they arrive, you can, in fact, turn this stuff into really excellent quality compost that is extremely good for your plants – a plant superfood, if you like.
It’s all down to the Skaza – Mind Your Eco Kitchen Composter. You can read about the Skaza here: How to compost all your food waste.
Getting back to our garden composing exploits…
If your compost bin is a simplistic setup and it doesn’t have a base, or even if it’s not a simple setup but it doesn’t have a base, start out your fresh compost pile with small-sized twigs or stems that are woody and place those at the base so that airflow is encouraged.
Each time that green material is added to your compost, add in some brown, too. This will create air pockets and help in maintaining a positive moisture balance.
If you like, you can jump-start a fresh compost pile and get things well underway with a compost activator.
Are compost activators really necessary? No, they’re not. An activator merely moves things along faster.
Vitax Compost Activator – to speed up the composting process
3. Some simple chores to remember
It’s far from difficult to take decent care of a compost pile. Nevertheless, a wee bit of care can make a big improvement.
Add material frequently so that the beneficial bacteria have some fresh nosh to consume and so there’s plenty enough insulation to maintain the warmth inside your compost bin.
Every week or every couple of weeks, turn the pile with a compost aerator or with a pitchfork. This way, all the materials blend well and work together well.
Once the pile is mixed find out if it’s a bit on the damp side by grabbing a handful. If it’s too dry the decomposition process will be slow. If it’s far too soggy, you’ll be left with a soggy mess.
If it’s too dry, add water. If it’s too wet, add more brown and green matter.
After a few months, the finished product ought to be a crumbly, dark-coloured soil that has the aroma of fresh earth.
Even for someone that has never made their own compost before, it’s ever so easy to make good garden compost.
All the same, some further direction may not go amiss.
Don’t start out with too little
To do its work, the natural breakdown process requires a certain critical mass. Nevertheless, some compost bins work well with a relatively small amount of material. That said, if you’ve yet to choose a compost bin, choose one that fits in with the size of your garden area.
Keep it moist
Remember that composting is an active process. That said, do check your compost often, particularly when the weather is hot and dry.
Your compost needs more than one kind of material
If you’re the sort of ‘composter’ that believes adding only grass clippings to your compost pile will work wonders, then you’re on the wrong track. Grass clippings all heaped together will stick together and remain stuck together for years. Add in a variety of greens and browns to your compost and the natural forces will work well and work fast.
No long-rooted weeds, please
Actually, you can add perennial weeds – those weeds with the long root systems – to your compost. However, and it is a BIG however: You should only do so once the sun has thoroughly dried out the roots. And for that to occur, you have to lay out these weeds in the sunshine for two to three weeks. Once the roots are baked hard, then it’s fine to add them to your compost pile. Otherwise, this is refuse fit for the bucket lorry.
Header image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay