Making your own compost

How do you make compost?  How can I make my own compost?  What ingredients make the best compost?  What are the main compost ingredients?

Making your own compost at home is much easier than you might think!  We have all the information right here to get you started in 7 easy steps.

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Before we get into it - let's discuss a few key points.

What is compost and what is it used for?

Compost is made up of recycled organic matter such as grass clippings, food waste and manure.   Once the natural process of composting has taken place, you will be left with a natural, nutrient rich soil improver to feed your plants with or use as a mulch.

Why should I use compost in my garden?

There are many ways compost can be beneficial to your plants but to put it simply - it improves your soil thus your plants!  Compost also helps the soil retain water meaning you should save money on water.  Another great benefit is that you are recycling some of your food waste which will save some bin space as well as help retain our landfills for longer which are quickly filling up.  

I only have a small garden, can I still compost?

Ideally all gardens should compost.  Even the smallest of gardens can consider worm composting or indoor composting.  

When can I compost?

Great news!  You can compost all year round, however late summer to early winter is the peak time due to weather conditions being ideal.

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So what are these 7 magical steps to make your own compost?

1.  Ideally you want to start your compost pile on bare earth so that worms can aerate the compost - this also allows for drainage and access to the soil micro-organisms.  If you are unable or choose not to have your pile on bare earth, then you should put a layer of soil at the bottom of your container.  Using a compost bin is beneficial as they retain heat and moisture, which will make better compost quicker.  If you have an open pile (not in a container) then it will still compost eventually, just make sure you cover it to avoid over watering from the rain and to retain heat and moisture.  Finally make sure your pile is placed on a level surface free from weeds.

2.  Add a base layer of twigs and straw a few inches deep, this helps with aeration and drainage.

3.  Layer you compost with alternating green and brown (wet and dry) ingredients. 

Green examples include:

  • Grass clippings

  • Coffee grounds/tea bags

  • Vegetable and fruit scraps

  • Trimmings from perennial and annual plants

  • Annual weeds that haven't set seed

  • Eggshells

  • Animal manures (cow, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, but not dog or cat manure)

  • Seaweed

Brown examples include:

  • Fallen leaves

  • Pine needles

  • Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark

  • Straw or hay

  • Sawdust

  • Corn stalks

  • Paper (newspaper, writing/printing paper, paper plates, napkins, and coffee filters)

  • Dryer lint

  • Cotton fabric

  • Corrugated cardboard (without waxy/glossy coatings)

What should you NOT compost?

  • Meat, fish and bones as they attract pests

  • Perennial weeds or diseased plants

  • Pet manures if compost is to be used on food plants

  • Banana peels, peach peels, and orange rinds that may have pesticides on them

  • Dairy, Fats, and Oils

  • Black walnut tree debris

  • Charcoal ash

4.  Feed your compost with nitrogen- rich feed or well rotted manure.  This will help speed the process along as well as producing higher nutrient compost.  Green manure like clover, buckwheat or even grass clippings with help keep the nitrogen topped up.

5.  You may need to wet your compost with the hose or with water from a clean water butt occasionally.  The ideal conditions for the composting to occur are when it is moist and warm.

6.  Keep your compost covered at all times.  If it is in a bin it should have a lid but if not then make do with what you have - a plastic sheet, some plywood or an old carpet will do!  This is to protect your pile from flies, keep in any bad odours and to stop it becoming too sodden with rain water.

7.  Stir/turn your compost pile regularly with a pitchfork or similar, about once a week.  This is important because the heap needs air for the materials to break down and composting to occur.  It should also help to avoid compaction and help you to assess if you need to add more moisture to the pile.  If you have bought a compost tumbler then you won't need to do this as they rotate.

And finally...

Where should I put my compost bin?

Place it in a spot that gets some sun and also has good drainage.  For the process to happen you need warmth and moisture but not too much or you will end up with slime!  It is wise to put it away from a seating area also in case it smells a little.

How long will it take for my compost to be ready?

It can take around 6 months and sometimes even 2 years for decomposition to happen, depending on the weather and temperature.  You will know the compost is at a mature state when it is rich, brown, crumbly with an earthy smell.  Any matter that hasn't yet composted can be added to your next heap.

Remember! Be careful when you turn or fork your compost, especially in winter, as there may be animals hiding or hibernating in there – everything from smooth newts to hedgehogs!

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We hope you enjoyed this blog post and happy composting!

P.S. We love hearing about our customers success stories.  If you would like to feature in one of our blogs please email info@topsoiluk.com