How to Make Perfect Compost
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.
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.
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.
- In Search of Self-sufficiency
A simple guide to help you become more self-sufficient, Earth conscious, and in your attempts to rely less on items produced in today's throw away society.