Garden And Gardener

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Compost hints

by Diane - April 4th, 2024.
Filed under: Composting.

Composting: The process of turning organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, into nutrient-rich soil through decomposition.

Recycling: The practice of processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful resources.

Organic materials: Substances that are derived from living organisms and are biodegradable, such as leaves, fruit and vegetable peels, and coffee grounds.


How can you get good compost?

1. **Start with the Right Ingredients**: Begin your compost heap with a balanced mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials. Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds, while brown materials include dry leaves, straw, and shredded cardboard.

Some people stockpile materials separately until they have enough to make a good pile. A well built pile will generate heat more quickly, but if you’re going to be waiting a long time to get lots of materials then just pile things in as you go. In the middle of summer you can add grass cuttings regularly along with other materials from the browns pile. Too much grass at a time goes slimey!

2. **Layering Technique**: Alternate layers of green and brown materials to create a well-balanced compost pile. Aim for a ratio of roughly 3 parts brown to 1 part green.

3. **Aeration is Key**: Ensure good airflow within the compost heap by turning it regularly. This aerates the pile and helps accelerate the decomposition process. Use a pitchfork or compost aerator to turn the pile every couple of weeks.

4. **Moisture Control**: Keep the compost heap moist, like a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, decomposition slows down, and if it’s too wet, it can become anaerobic and smelly. Water the pile occasionally, especially during dry spells, but avoid overwatering.

5. **Size Matters**: Aim for a compost heap that’s at least 3 feet tall and wide. A larger pile retains heat better, which speeds up decomposition. However, make sure it’s manageable and doesn’t become too large to turn.

6. **Addition of Activators**: Consider adding compost activators like manure, compost starter, or finished compost from a previous batch. These introduce beneficial microorganisms that speed up decomposition.

Geoff Hamilton used to swear by homemade compost accelerator delivered directly to the heap.

7. **Patience is a Virtue**: Composting is a natural process that takes time. Depending on various factors such as temperature, moisture, and the mix of materials, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year for compost to mature. Be patient and consistent with maintenance.

8. **Covering the Pile**: Covering the compost heap with a tarp or a layer of straw helps retain moisture and heat, especially during colder months. This encourages microbial activity and speeds up decomposition.

9. **Avoid Certain Materials**: Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oily foods to your compost heap, as they can attract pests and create unpleasant odors. Similarly, avoid adding diseased plants or weeds that have gone to seed to prevent spreading pests and diseases.

10. **Use Compost Wisely**: Once your compost is ready, use it to enrich the soil in your allotment. Mix it into planting beds or use it as mulch around plants to improve soil structure, fertility, and moisture retention.
If your compost is not really fine then it will still make a wonderful mulch! The worms will thank you for it!


Find out more about composting here