UK gardening help and assistance

Home composting

What is composting?

Composting is a natural process which converts organic rubbish into an earthlike mass by means of bacteria and micro-organisms. The composting process is also supported by larvae, wood lice, beetles, worms and other such creatures.

Moisture and Oxygen are the other important factors in the composting process.

Heat is generated during the composting process. As a result, the temperature in the composter may rise to around 50 degrees C. Micro-organisms flourish at this temperature, helping to speed up the composting process.

Why compost at home?

Composting at home is one of the easiest, most effective and environmentally-friendly ways of recycling green (organic) rubbish.

What are the benefits of home composting?

  • Compost can help your garden.
  • Compost can improve the environment.
  • Compost can save you money.
  • Compost provides a free soil conditioner.
  • Compost helps soil retain moisture - reducing water consumption.
  • Composting converts rubbish into a valuable resource.
  • Making compost reduces reliance on land filling of rubbish.
  • By composting, nutrients are recycled back into the soil not into a landfill site.
  • Using compost improves plant health and growth - and can increase yields of fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
  • Using compost can increase nutritional quality of home grown foods.
  • Using compost may reduce reliance on toxic chemicals and pesticides.

How do I make compost?

The simplest and tidiest way to make compost at home is by using a home compost bin. The composting process is caused by the combination of four key elements:

  • brown organic materials - such as leaves
  • green organic materials - such as grass
  • air
  • water
  • by mixing all four together, carbon is produced.

Adding air from the atmosphere, and moisture from the material itself will start the composting process. Composting will happen whatever, so don't be too concerned about getting the mix exactly right.

If you are going to compost at home only put the following materials into your compost bin:

  • raw vegetable peelings and fruit
  • shredded paper / soft card
  • straw or hay - chopped if possible (helps speed the process up)
  • egg shells - crushed if possible
  • grass cuttings (remember to mix different materials with grass cuttings)
  • plant trimmings and flowers
  • tea bags / coffee granules
  • small amounts of leaves
  • animal bedding (from vegetarian pets only)

Do NOT add the following to a compost bin:

  • meat or fish (cooked or raw)
  • coal ash
  • dog or cat mess
  • nappies and used tissues
  • persistent weeds
  • dairy products
  • cooked or baked foods
  • coloured and shiny paper
  • plastic, glass or metal

Hints and tips

  • Place your compost bin in the sun this will increase the temperature inside the unit, and will help speed up the composting process.
  • Ensure a good circulation of air in the compost bin, by layering twigs, cut flowers or remains of house plants at the bottom of the unit.
  • Layers of fruit, vegetable and garden waste can then be added, mixed if possible.
  • Try not to over fill the compost bin, make sure you can close the lid.

As the material composts in the bin it will become increasingly moist, and will begin to condense, this reduces the amount of air inside the bin.

Ensure a good circulation of air by poking the compost with a stick or garden fork to create air channels in the compost. This will help the composting process and stop it from turning into a smelly soup-like consistency.