Organic Home Gardening – How to Make Compost
Making your own compost is a fantastic way to reduce food waste, create a rich, nutritious environment for your plants and veggies and do your bit for the environment!
Although it takes a bit of time for your first batch of compost to be ready, once you get everything set up, it’ll become second nature to repurpose scraps to benefit your garden.
Let’s run through everything you need to know with a kit list, dos and don’ts, and a cheat sheet of which food waste you can (and can’t) compost.
Why Make Your Own Compost?
There’s a good reason green-fingered gardeners call compost black gold! Dense compost packed with valuable nutrients can work wonders on a tired garden and boost soil moisture at the same time.
If you’ve never tried composting before, here are a few of the reasons to give it a go:
- Recycling food waste: if every household recycled their scraps, we’d reduce organic matter in landfills by as much as 30%! Although we might assume decomposable waste doesn’t matter, methane is a big climate change culprit.
- Educational gardening: composting is easy and educational, and you don’t need to be a gardening pro to get it right. Kids love to learn how they can take positive steps to help the environment and turn veggie waste into something beautiful.
- Cost savings: we’re all conscious that budgets are tightening, but if you transform your rubbish into compost, you’ll get a chemical-free fertiliser that is 100% free.
Set up a humble compost bin for 12 months, and you’ll offset all the carbon you produce in a year’s worth of cups of tea, or three months of washing machine cycles, with minimal effort.
The Compost Making Kit List
You can use all sorts of receptacles and containers to compost, but we’d recommend a proper pet-proof, wildlife safe compost bin.
Hedgehogs or mice can nest at the bottom of a cosy warm compost bin, but that means you’ll not be able to use your organic fertiliser – and might end up inviting vermin that you’d rather do without.
Pets – particularly curious dogs – often love to eat compost (the smellier, the better!), a recipe for tummy trouble. We also advise you to think about childproof lids if you have little ones at home.
Open wooden compost heaps are fine for allotments, but otherwise, something with a lid is a better solution.
We’ll talk you through how to make a hot compost heap since it’s quicker, but you can also invest in some composting worms if you have time to spare. The beauty of composting is that much of what you need is readily available: air, water, carbon and nitrogen.
You’ll also need:
- A sturdy wheelbarrow, like our Compact Clipper 90lt model (and maybe a Junior Wheelbarrow if you’re getting the kids involved).
- A bucket or small scraps bin for the kitchen to collect your food waste.
- Brown materials such as leaves, cardboard, hay or wood chips – a sack of Pine Chips will work
- Green materials – kitchen scraps, horse manure or grass cuttings.
- A quality Hose Pipe or a large watering can if you’re feeling strong.
- A Digging Fork for stirring your pile and a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.
You can scale the materials you use up or down depending on the size of your compost bin, so don’t worry if you don’t have a huge volume to start with.
What You Can Compost at Home
Before we get to the process, it’s important to note what you should put in your compost.
Materials well suited to composting include:
- Fruit and veg scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Dry leaves and plant clippings
- Fine wood or bark
- Sawdust and straw
- Newspaper torn into strips
What you can’t put in a compost bin:
- Meat or fish – the odour of decomposition is unpleasant and will attract insects.
- Dairy, oils and fats – cheese and yoghurt are magnets for contamination.
- Treated plant or wood – timber sprayed with insecticide or fungicide doesn’t belong on the compost pile.
- Animal waste (apart from horse manure). Cats and dogs sadly can’t contribute to your eco-friendly efforts.
The latter is the most important – compost with any form of hazardous waste could introduce parasites to your veggies, particularly roundworms, so stick to food scraps, wood and plants.
Step by Step Guide
Now we’ve got our kit and know what we need for nutritious compost, the steps to put it all together are straightforward.
- Mix up all your brown and green materials: the aim is to get a decent heap of about three feet deep. Combine dried plants, kitchen scraps, and plant materials with 75% brown to 25% green. Don’t skimp on the bark or wood shavings, as these stop the compost from getting too wet or smelly.
- Grab your hose and water the compost: you don’t want to saturate everything, but get it to the consistency of a squeezed sponge.
- Use your fork to stir the pile once a week to keep replenishing the oxygen in the middle: the more you turn it, the faster the compost will cook – it also prevents matting and strong odours. Keep checking the temperature; when it feels warm or is between 54° – 65°, it’s time to turn.
- When the compost cools down and becomes brown, dry, and crumbly, it’s ready to feed: you should aim for four to six inches of compost on flower beds and in pots.
Keen to get your compost pile cooking quicker? Try shredding all of the materials (plant and food waste) into smaller pieces to speed up the process.
Once your compost pile becomes established, you can keep turning it, scooping off the rich brown fertiliser, and adding more materials as you go, as an ever-lasting supply of compost to keep your garden healthy and well-fed.
Don’t have time to wait for your compost to mature? Visit our Compost range for a selection of peat-free, organic and professional growing media to tide you over until your home grown compost is ready.