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  • Guide to composting at home

    Composting is the entirely natural process by which nature returns nutrients back to the soil. Organisms such as bacteria, insects, worms and fungi break down the material into a crumbly soil-like material called compost. By composting at home, you can harness this process, reducing waste and producing an excellent soil improver.

    Why should I compost at home?

    Up to 40% of household waste is kitchen and garden waste, ideal for composting. Making your own compost reduces the need to buy soil improvers and mulches. Applying homemade compost to your soil improves its quality and helps it to conserve moisture. Composting at home also reduces waste and so helps the environment.

    Siting your compost bin.

    It should be placed directly on to the soil or grass. You will notice that the bin does not have a base, this is to enable the worms to get in and to let moisture drain harmlessly away. It does not need to be placed in a sunny spot, it is more important to place it where you can get to it easily.

    Maintaining your compost bin.

    Air is very important to the composting process, particularly in summer when the composting organisms are at their most active. Air can be introduced quite simply by agitating (not turning!) the bin contents every few weeks to provide air channels. Moisture is added every time you add fresh grass or kitchen waste. The mixture should always look wet, if you think it is drying out, you can always water your bin to return it to its ‘wet’ state.

    Once your bin is sited, you are ready to start adding materials. The majority of your kitchen and garden waste can be composted, but there are a few which you should exclude.

    What can I put in my compost bin?

    Fruit and vegetable peelings, tea bags, grass clippings, egg shells, dead plants, hedge trimmings, woody prunings, rabbit and guinea pig bedding, leaves, newspaper and cardboard.

    What shouldn’t go in my compost bin?

    Cooked food, meat, fish, bones, dairy products, dog & cat faeces, diseased plants, glossy or coloured paper/card.

    Composting Tips

    Composting works best with a good mix of dry, tough materials with wet, sappy materials. Throughout the summer months, the majority of your composting material will be sappy garden waste and moist kitchen waste. This material needs to be joined by drier types such as newspaper or hedge clippings.

    If, for example, you intend to compost your grass clippings, tear a newspaper into strips and add a layer before putting your grass into the bin. As a guide, adding one newspaper to every 4 boxes of clippings will prevent the mixture the becoming slimy.

    FAQ – Frequently asked questions

    How long does it take?

    Composting basically happens during the summer months when nature is at its most active. As a guide, it is best to use your bin a year before harvesting your compost. The compost you harvest will generally be the remains of the material you added during the first six months or so. Any materials that are still recognisable can be put back into the bin to continue composting.

    Do I need chemical accelerators?

    No. Composting is an entirely natural process performed by living things. Provided you keep on feeding them they will happily chomp away without the need for other additives.

    Will it smell?

    Composting should produce only a rich earthy smell. If a sharp ammonia smell is produced it is usually due to too much grass and not enough paper. Add some shredded paper and mix in to get it smelling sweet again.

    My bin attracts lots of small flies.

    These are Fruit flies (NOT Whitefly) and are harmless. To discourage them, add a layer of soil to cover the bin contents. When the material is covered they will disappear in a day or so. There is no need to add soil every time you add material, just do it when the Fruit flies appear.

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