How to Make Your Own Compost
Everything you grow in the garden will benefit from compost. It is vital for providing nutrition and improving the texture of soil. Plus, by making your own compost you can become more self-sufficient, live more sustainably and save a couple of quid too–result.
Here’s how to make compost:
Choose a Composter
You can purchase a purpose compost bin. Alternatively, you can construct your own container using a material such as wood, or use a normal bin or large bucket.
If you make your own composter, at the very least it will need adequate drainage holes at the bottom. Purpose compost bins tend to have no bottom at all as they are usually sat on the earth where worms and microbes can reach the compost and promote the composting process.
Things you CAN add to your compost bin:
- Vegetable peelings and waste (bananas are great for adding more potassium into the compost)
- Egg shells
- Dried leaves
- Garden waste (do not add waste if you have cut it away because it carries an infectious disease, however.)
- Shredded newspaper
- Cardboard–as long as there is no plastic at all in the packaging
- Straw and Hay
- Cow, Horse, Chicken, Sheep, Goat manure
- Used coffee grounds and used tea without the bags
- Ash or sawdust from burnt untreated wood
- Shredded bark
Things you CANNOT add to your compost bin (due to rodent problems, chemicals, plastics etc.)
- Meat or fish
- Cat or dog manure
- Oil or grease
- Ash or sawdust from treated wood
- Dairy products
- Glossy paper such as magazines
- Coal-fire ash
- Large tree branches (these will absorb nitrogen)
The types of matter you throw into your compost pile is usually classified as either ‘brown’ which adds carbon, or ‘green’ which adds nitrogen. Your brown matter includes dried leaves, sawdust or shredded bark, newspaper or cardboard, straw or hay. Your green matter includes fresh kitchen and garden waste and manure.
Typically you want to have a ratio of three parts brown to one part green for the perfect compost. However, if the compost looks wet, and slightly slimy, then you should add more brown matter. If, alternatively, it looks dry and hard, then you should add some more green material and also give it a bit of a watering.
How to Compost
- To start, you typically want to place your compost bin on earth to allow worms and microorganisms in to help break the pile down and make it more fertile.
- Start by placing small twigs, shredded bark, and straw down at the bottom to help improve drainage.
- Add your waste. Start piling your waste conscious of that three parts brown to one part green ratio.
- Add soil - Adding soil to the mix will help to introduce beneficial microbes to break down the soil faster. A couple of spadefuls mixed in with your waste should do.
- Keep the Pile Moist. You want to ensure the pile stays moist and doesn’t dry out, especially during hot summer spells. However, you also do not want the pile to become waterlogged as this will drown the microorganisms and prevent breakdown. Usually if the pile is too wet it will start to produce a bad smell and the matter may become matted together and not crumble apart. Ensure there is good drainage, and if it is too wet then add some more dry brown matter and turn the pile regularly.
- Turn the Pile - The microorganisms in the pile need fresh air to breath and to help break the pile down. Therefore you want to regularly turn the pile by sticking a garden form in there and mixing it up. If, when you do this, there is steam rising from the pile (more noticeable when it is cold) then rest assured the composting process is working!
- Wait 2-3 months - It usually takes around 2-3 months for organic matter to compost if you properly turn it and keep it moist with the process accelerating the warmer it becomes.
- Spread it around the garden - When the compost becomes dark and crumberly, it is ready to spread around the garden, enriching your soil and feeding your plants.