How to make compost at home

May 7, 2020

During the coronavirus pandemic our local authority stopped the household food waste collections and residents were asked to revert to their old habit of putting food waste in the general household bin.

This was closely followed by a county council funded offer to have a free compost bin for each home. Stocks were limited and, as you can imagine, flew off the metaphorical shelves.

Which made me think.

With so many people enjoying a new found love of gardening, maybe a blog about how to make compost at home would be useful.

But before we start, let's understand....

What is compost?

Compost is a cheap and environmentally friendly way to dispose of kitchen and garden waste. Composting creates a dark, rich, nutrient dense soil improver for use around your garden and in pots.

What's more, because you do it yourself at home, you're reducing the environmental impact of your household by not using council rubbish truck collections.

So, if you fancy giving it a go, here are my top tips to making your own amazing compost at home.

Where to put your compost bin

Ideally you need a shady, or at least semi shady spot to protect the compost from heat fluctuations.

Don't site your composter on a hard surface as you need to allow drainage as well as access to organisms present in the soil. These will aide the composting process.

You can use a compost bin, or build your own container. There are lots of resources online to show you how, like this one from the RHS, or this one by the Eden Project.

What can you put in your composter?

You need a good mix of green waste (i.e. food and kitchen waste, weeds, grass clippings) and woody based waste (i.e. paper, cardboard, wood chippings and dead leaves). Too much green waste will lead to a slimy mess that doesn't smell very pleasant!

If possible, you need slightly more wood-based matter than green waste. Definitely no more than 50% should come from food waste, weeds and grass clippings.

If green waste is in short supply you can add a nitrogen rich accelerator* product. Conversely, if you lack brown waste look for a carbon-rich activator*.

*Neither are vital if you have a good balance of waste.

Take care if you are adding tea bags to the compost as many tea bags contain a surprisingly high level of plastic which won't rot down.

What not to put in your composter

NEVER add meat or dairy products, including bones or animal carcasses, pet waste, nappies or diseased plants that you've pulled out of the garden.

You may also choose to avoid composting weeds like dandelions or any weeds with seed heads.

Let some air in

In order for the enzymes to break the waste down, you need to let the air in. This also helps prevent the waste getting too compacted which stops it breaking down.

You need to turn the heap about once a month. When doing so, check the moisture levels as you don't want it to completely dry out.

Give it time

Depending on the waste used and whether or not you add accelerator, you can expect it to take between 6 to 24 months before you have a nice layer of dark, crumbly compost ready to use.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour

Adding the compost to your beds and pots will enrich the soil and help reduce the weeds - with no need for chemicals!

So what do you think? Will you give it a go?