31/03/2014

How to make a compost heap

Making your own compost is a great way to fertilise your garden for free. It can be made of almost anything and requires no technical skill. Ideally you should make your compost pile in the spring however you can make one at other times.

To begin 

Before you start, you need to select a suitable location for your compost heap. The ideal location is somewhere that is; 

• Sunny or partially shaded
• Grassy
• And dry 

Once you have selected the ideal spot for your compost heap, you need to decide what container you plan to use. Compost bins can be bought cheaply from most good garden centres; alternatively you can create your own using wooden planks and plastic sheeting. 

How to build a compost pile

To start off you need a mixture of green and brown organic material. 

Green material is considered to be nitrogen rich. This includes items like grass clipping from when you have recently cut your lawn, vegetable peel and other plant based material that you would usually throw away in your bin. 

Brown material is considered to be carbon rich and includes items like fallen leaves, dead flowers and paper. If you plan on adding paper to your compost heap, you should ensure that it is non-glossy and is shredded to allow the paper to break down. When adding tree branches or hard wood you should cut them up/chip them to speed up the compost process. The smaller the pieces the quicker they will break down. A garden shedder like the Flymo Pac a Shredder is ideal for this type of garden task.

The key to creating a good compost heap is to layer the waste, and ensure an equal mix of green and brown material. 

Begin making your compost heap by adding a pile of coarse material like straw, twigs etc. This will help create some drainage if your compost heap gets too wet. If the material is dry add a little water, then add a layer of green material followed by some soil and brown material. Continue in this pattern until the bin is full. The soil will add bacteria to the pile which is required for the material to break down into compost. 

Once you have finished adding all the material to the compost bin, close the lid and leave to rest. In a few days, the bin will start to become hot. This is an indication that the organic material is beginning to break down into compost. 

After a few weeks the compost bin will become cool again. This indicates the composting process is beginning to slow. You should open the lid and turn the material with a garden fork. This will add oxygen to the pile and restart the compost process. Add a little water to the compost heap to moisten the material, however be careful not to soak the pile. If too much water is added the pile will rot, instead of composting. 

You should repeat this process every few weeks for the best results. After 3 months or so, your compost will be ready to add to your lawn or flowers. 

What not to add to your compost heap

All organic material will decay and turn into compost, however there are a few things you should avoid as they can attract pests and vermin into your garden. 

These include; 

• Meat or bones
• Dog or cat waste
• Dairy products

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