The beginners guide to composting

Your garden can reap enormous benefits with the addition of just a little compost. Not only does it add nutrients and increase the activity of bacteria, it helps to improve soil structure, water retention and aeration.

1. Choose A Compost Bin

There are various types of bin you can use, each having its own advantages. You could buy a square or cone shape made for purpose bin, or make your own bin out of wood. Either way, any type can be used for composting.

2. Choose a Location

Select a site that is level and well drained, and don’t put it on top of stone or concrete; it is important that worms and other organisms can work their way into the heap. You can also help your pile by clearing the soil of grass and plants and turning the soil over down to about 6 inches.

3. Add Composting Materials

Most composting materials can be broken down into 2 categories:

  • Brown – leaves, hay, straw and paper
  • Green – grass clippings, manure, vegetable trimmings and green plant cuttings.

4. What Not To Add to Your Pile

Adding items like vegetable fats and dairy products will slow down the composting process by eliminating the necessary oxygen that organisms need to do their job. If you do add these materials, your compost will take longer to be ready for use. Items like meat, chemically treated wood, and pet excrement should NEVER be added to your heap – it can greatly increase the chance of disease.

5. Making Great Compost

Put down a 4 inch layer of straw or twigs at the bottom of the bin and then the same depth of ‘brown’ materials. Pop a layer of garden soil on the top. Now you can add a 4 inch layer of ‘green’ composting material. Fill the bin by adding layers of green and brown, making sure you dampen each layer as you go.

Turn the pile roughly every two weeks.

6. Using Your Compost

Depending on what materials you have put in your bin and how often you have been turning the pile, it can take between 2 weeks and 12 months to produce useable compost. It is ready when it is dark in colour and crumbly.

Happy composting!