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How to Make Perfect Compost

Updated on January 17, 2014
Compost
Compost | Source

It is amazing just how many gardeners struggle to make good compost, after all, you would think that you just dump all your old green lawn mowings/clippings and potato peelings in a big heap and hey presto, in six months time you shovel the perfectly rotted remains on to your garden beds and everything grows better...... wrong! The reality is that to make good compost there are a number of important things to remember and I hope to share my tips on how to ensure you end up with quality compost that looks like dark brown sugar and smells sweet enough to eat.

Sieved compost
Sieved compost | Source

Do

DO add vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, rotting fruit, grass clippings, old bedding plants, sawdust, wood shavings,eggshells, hair, newspaper, rabbit and guinea-pig bedding, wood ash, soot and the leafy tops of perennials, (not the roots though).

DO chop up larger stems or hedge clippings to facilitate them rotting down quicker.

DO make sure the contents of your compost bin or compost heap do not become too wet or they will start to smell. They way to achieve this is to add one handful of dry "brown" matter to every handful of wet "green" matter. Dry matter includes items such as torn up newspapers, egg boxes and cardboard.

DO try to turn the contents of your compost heap fortnightly with a garden fork to allow some air into it. This ensures you have a "hot heap" and everything rots down much faster. If you are using a compost bin you can periodically empty it out and mix it up with a garden fork before shovelling it back into the bin.

DO buy more than one compost bin and then whilst the full bin is maturing nicely you can fill the others up. If you have three (as I do), you can have one that is available for immediate use as the contents have fully rotted, one that is full and in the process of rotting and the third as the one you are actively filling up day to day.

DO use compost accelerators as they will provide the right bacteria to ensure rapid decomposition of your material. Either use your own urine as the accelerator, or if you just can't quite bring yourself to pee on your compost heap you can buy products from garden centres that will work just as well.


Raw food waste composting
Raw food waste composting | Source

Don't

DON'T add cooked foods, plastic wrappers, polystyrene, cat litter, nappies, coal or coke ash, fish bones, meat, cat or dog excrement - these may attract rats.

DON'T add perennial weeds as they will re-sprout. Discard these either on your bonfire or with your other household waste for the bin men to take to the local tip or incinerator.

DON'T hide your compost bin in a shady area of the garden. The sun on it warms up the contents and they rot down much faster.

DON'T be alarmed if you see insects, slugs and snails in your compost. They will help to break down your compost and for once in a way a slug is a gardener's friend. You might also see clouds of fruit flies which is fine, but may mean your compost is too wet. To be on the safe side add some dry "brown" matter such as shredded newspaper or cardboard. If you see ants in your compost they are not a problem, but this may indicate your heap is too dry. Add a watering can of water just in case and they should vanish.

DON'T dump all your lawn clippings in all at once. They will quickly turn into a slimy goo. Instead, alternate 4 - 6cm layers of grass mowings with the same thickness of dry "brown" material.

DON'T add loads of autumn leaves. These take over a year to rot down fully. Far better to place these loosely in bin sacks, tie the top of the sack stab the sacks a few times with a garden fork to allow air in, and then place these somewhere out of sight so that the contents can rot down and become leaf mould.

DON'T add potato or tomato stems and leaves unless you turn your compost heap on a regular basis so that it gets very hot. Blight can survive the composting process and you then risk transferring the blight back to your following season's plants. Any diseased plants should always be burnt or sent to the local tip.

DON'T be surprised that your fully rotted compost does not resemble the stuff you buy from the local garden centre. It may well be a bit twiggy, lumpy, sticky and show signs of broken eggshells, but it will be fantastic for your plants and will smell wonderful.

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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      :) Thanks Marina7, glad to have been a help. I would hope my advice is sound :)

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 

      4 years ago from Clarksville TN

      I am glad that I got great advice from you and I now do composting the proper way. Okay I will ask again and I am glad to know you, :-)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Good luck Marina7, if you need any further advice let me know as growing stuff (especially vegetables) is my main interest in life and I do well in local shows/competitions with them. :)

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 

      4 years ago from Clarksville TN

      Thank you that is great advice and I will look into getting a compost bin. Thank you.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Marina7, a compost bin will not attract mice if it is not full of cooked food or meats. Raw vegetable or plant scraps are of no interest to mice (especially if the moisture levels are correct which will not make it a good place for the mice to nest either). Equally compost does not smell at all (unless you are putting cooked food into it, which again is a big 'don't'. If you put fresh vegetation/ non-rotten composting materials under plants in your yard/garden it will rob the soil of nitrogen as it rots down, therefore robbing your plants of the nitrogen they need too. Plastic buckets would not work as they are too small and no heat can build up to rot the stuff inside them, plus they would need to not only be fairly large, but would need drainage holes in the bottom to allow worms etc into them to help break down the contents. A compost bin is often offered free of charge or for a nominal fee (here £10) by local councils or authorities to encourage recycling.

      I hope this helps you understand better the composting process :)

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 

      4 years ago from Clarksville TN

      I don't use a compost bin. I take the stuff to my garden or under plants in the yard and put it underneath the leaves to let it rot that way. I do use newspapers to cover it too. I use all the paper and cardboard packaging to cover the compost with. I used to collect it in plastic buckets but it made it too smelly so now I put it right on the ground. I am sure your way works well if you have a compost bin but I don't have one. I could make one but we don't have much land and my husband don't want it to smell. Plus it might attract mice if we have one. We already get an occasional skunk because we can smell that. We do live in a mobile home park so we are limited and you can add my hints to your hub if you want.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks tammyfrost, glad you enjoyed it :)

    • tammyfrost profile image

      Tammy Frost 

      4 years ago from Oregon

      Helpful article!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Added a link to your article here too Jodah as I read it and thought it was very relevant.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      ok thanks.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      That would be great Jodah, please feel free to :) Thanks

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Do you mind if I put a link to this on my hub 'In Search Of self-Sufficiency'?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Jodah, hope you can find this info useful :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very good and clear instructions for making good compost. thanks for writing this informative hub. Voted up.

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