For the time being our garden waste collections are paused so we’re being encouraged to make our own compost. Before you groan, why not give it a go? Compost is easy to produce, but making good compost is an art. It’s a result of the careful mixing of vegetable and other plant waste. Get it wrong, and you’ll end up with a slimey mess.. Get it right, and you can create your own source of liquid gold….
There’s no need for expensive equipment or specialist knowledge. Just find a dedicated space in the garden and allow enough time for the rotting-down process to happen.
Good garden compost results from the careful mixing of vegetable and other plant waste. Most garden waste is suitable, but avoid the roots of perennial weeds, which are not always destroyed in the composting process; also weeds in flower and diseased plants.
Grass cuttings may be added in thin layers, or preferably added with coarser materials. There has to be a careful balance between coarse and fine plant material as well as a balance between moisture and air. Unless these balances are correct, you run the risk of ending up with a cold slimy, half rotted-down end-product.
The heap should be kept moist, without being too wet, so that conditions favour the relevant bacteria which carry out the breakdown process. Bacteria require nitrogen, so the heap should also be sprinkled with sulphate of ammonia which act as an accelerant. If you don’t happen to have any of this in your shed, you could get the male members of your household to have a very occasional silent pee, all in the interests of science of course.
Humble, but perfectly efficient, compost containers can be made from four stakes of angle-iron driven into the ground to support four wooden pallets forming a square ‘box’. Another variation of this simple theme is to use four sticks supporting a mesh of chicken wire.
Choose a size that suits you. The ideal minimum is 10 sq ft (1 sq m). The smaller bins (pic right)will work and are perfectly usable, but will hold their heat for shorter periods.
Sustained heat to temperatures of between 122F and 161F (50C – 72C) is needed to speed up decomposition, and kill off most weed seeds and disease organisms.
- Fresh grass clippings
- Plant trimmings
- House plants
- Vegetable/fruit peelings, tea bags, rinsed out egg shells
- Chopped up woody steam and dead plants
- Dry leaves and straw
- Cooked kitchen scraps
- Meat.bones, fish scraps
- Fatty foods including cheese, salad dressing, butter, cooking oil
- Dog and cat faeces
- Diseased or insect infected plants
- Pernicious weeds