UK gardening help and assistance Composting

Compost Guide

A guide to composting from

Is compost the super hero of the garden?

Compost is the fuel for a garden and makes all gardens extremely vigorous and really healthy. However compost is FREE so why do so many people buy compost instead of making their own?

This is most probably because people think compost is dirty and smells, but compost need not smell if all the right ingredients are added. Compost is just like making a cake if all the right ingredients are added it's nice, if you put too much of one thing in, the whole balance changes and the cake tastes horrible. This guide will help you make this 'finely baked cake' compost.

Making the compost

In nature plants, animals etc dies, decays and disintegrate into the earth, however this is not fully suitable for gardens and allotments so other methods are used.

When making compost for the garden you need to harvest this material and make it into compost where and when you want it. There are different methods of composting, the main way is using a mixed compost heap, in which a range of different ingredients are added.

A mixed compost heap

This is the usual way of making compost and is probably the easiest to start with. In this compost a mixed range of garden and kitchen vegetable waste are added in large quantities over a very short period of time including, uncooked kitchen waste, general garden waste such as clippings and dead flowers and other things such as autumn leaves. This compost is made in a very short period (as little as 12 weeks) and the heap will become very hot during this process.

Tips for making a mixed heap

  1. Gather a mixture of compostable materials, both green and brown.
  2. Chop tough and chunky materials using a shredder, secateurs, or a spade.
  3. Soak dry ingredients in water.
  4. Mix all the ingredients together.
  5. Fill the compost bin to the top and press the contents down.
  6. Keep the bin covered.

After all these steps have all been done the following three steps should happen or be done to get the heap going.

  1. After a few days the centre of the heap should start to warm up and may even steam, this shows that the microbes are working.
  2. After a few weeks the compost will stop steaming and will start to cool as the microbes run out and die, try turning the heap at this stage to get the heap going again.
  3. Turn the bin after 6 weeks and then leave.

Creatures in my compost

Please do not worry if you find creatures in your compost this is totally normal and you may find bugs like beetles, woodlice, toads, frogs, garden spiders, ants, worms and more. However there are millions of microscopic creatures in your compost and there are more microbes on a spoonful of compost than people on the planet.

Bins and heaps

Compost can easily be made by making a heap of compostable materials on the ground and covering with plastic. This process is not usually used as people prefer to use compost bins with a lid which is either home-made or bought from a garden centre or from your local council.

Why use a bin instead of a heap?

  • It looks better.
  • Keeps rain out.
  • Stops materials drying out in the sun.
  • Stops weed seeds blowing into the bin.
  • Helps prevent weeds growing.