One of the best things you can do for your garden is to make a compost heap. It’s a brilliant way of putting something back into the earth for next to nothing!
When you add compost you’re not just improving the soil, you’re supplying plants with nutrients and elements, helping retain moisture in the ground and encouraging wildlife into your garden who will enjoy the warmth and protection of the heap. How good is that just for recycling your kitchen peelings!
A simple compost bin can be made from wood (the classic slatted version that you can add height to as the heap progresses), bricks and old carpet (definitely one to be kept out of view as even good quality Axminster will look crap after a few months outdoors!) There’s also the black plastic darlek type which some councils supply for free as part of their recycling package.
It’s best to keep the heap somewhere you can get to it easily, possibly screened off but in a sunny position as that will help add heat to the pile. Ideally you’d have two bins, one started the year or so previously which you will be using now and one that’s in the process of rotting down.
When filling the bin, put the various ingredients in layers of two or three inches deep to stop it turning into a big slushy mess which can happen when masses of lawn clippings are added. You can always add a thin layer of soil every now and again to help it along too. Turning with a fork every few months will benefit the pile, making sure it is not too compact so that air can circulate throughout it which ensures it rots down easier. Also check that the heap doesn’t dry out in the summer as moisture is also needed too.
To start off the rotting process you can use nettles, comfrey leaves and even human urine (better out of a pre-filled bottle I reckon, or your neighbours will be on the phone to the police!). As the material decomposes, the pile will start to create heat, so why not do like they did in victorian times and make a hot bed? It’s a compost heap with a raised bed on top which is kept warm from the rotting material below. Failing that if it’s in full sunlight, stick a courgette or a cucumber plant on the top of the heap which will thrive with the richness underneath.
What to add:
Shredded paper/newspaper (no glossy mags)
Used tea bags
Coffee grindings (free from coffee shops)
Autumn leaves (no evergreens)
Garden waste and clippings (softwood prunings, nothing too thick or woody or use a garden shedder on them)
Annual weeds that haven’t set seed
Old bedding plants
Overripe fruit and veg peelings (no cooked food or meat which will encourage vermin)
Nettles and comfrey leaves (which will help the composting process no end)
What not to add:
Perennial weeds, bindweed and ivy which can re-sprout from their roots or stems
Diseased plants (burn them alongside the woody prunings if you can’t afford that shredder)
One tip is don’t stick in woody stems like I did, as a couple of years on I am still pulling out sticks, so be warned! Also once you’ve got a heap in progress, get into the habit of sticking your peelings into a closable container in the kitchen which you’ll later transfer to the heap.
I’m fighting with my pile at the moment as it’s a bit wet and smelly, so I’ll be leaving out the “green” material and adding more “browns” like shredded newspaper and leaves etc. Composting might be an art form but when you get it right, it’s well worth it!
Happy composting, my friend!