How Can I Make Compost?

Composting is an entirely natural way of recycling your garden and kitchen waste, transforming it into a nutrient rich material that your plants will love. Martyn Loach shows how easy and cheap it is to replicate nature and create the ideal conditions in which your flowers and shrubs will thrive.

Created by Martyn Loach on Friday, 4th of May, 2018.

Rowlinson Budget Composter

Every garden should have a regular source of good compost. It has everything that your plants need and is excellent for improving soil structure to promote healthy root growth. 

What Can I Add To My Compost Bin?

When you are adding material to compost bins remember that the process is free and demands little effort as bacteria and worms do all the work for you.

The list of what you can add is long and varied, from carrot peelings to cotton shirts, what is most important is that there should be a good mixture of different materials. This is to prevent the heap turning into a solid airless mass which prevents bacteria from doing their magic.

Nearly everything can be composted but there are exceptions:

  • Diseased or pest infested material 
  • Woody plants (these take too long to break down) 
  • The roots of pernicious weeds 
  • The foliage of main crop potatoes 
  • Cooked kitchen waste 
  • Any weeds that still have seeds

Other items worth avoiding are glossy magazines that don't rot easily, potato peelings that might develop into plants and dry straw. Anything large should be cut down to size so that decomposition is made easier.

garden and kitchen waste inside compost bin

Build up the heap with a mixture of garden cuttings and other organic material starting with some wet straw or prunings to aid drainage. About every 12ins add some manure to add nitrogen or a branded compost activator. Continue this process, also adding a dusting of lime now and again to reduce acidity.

You should only need to add water in very hot weather, especially if you have incorporated grass cuttings. Indeed, during the winter you might cover the heap to prevent it from becoming too damp, a cover will also help retain the heat that bacteria love.

After about six months, depending on the time of year and the materials used, you should be able to harvest the rich brown compost packed full of nitrogen, phosphates, potash and other essential elements that will greatly enrich your garden soil.

Is It Easy To Build A Compost Bin?

There's no single way of constructing a compost bin and they can be made from many different materials. Whatever the design, building a compost bin is a fairly simple job. Mine consists of wooden slats (the same width as floor boards) nailed to four posts about 3ft - 4ft high to make up a frame. Make sure there is a gap of about two inches between the boards so that air can circulate. On the fourth side the slats are removable for easy access.

You could also use brick with wooden slats on one side to enable access or from wire mesh supported by posts. It is recommended to have two, three or maybe more compost bins, so that the compost in each one is at a different stage of decomposition and, if you move the compost between bins, it will benefit from the extra aeration.

Can I Buy Compost Bins Online?

Compost Bins are available online and from garden centres in various designs. Bins made from tough plastic are very hardwearing while timber has a more traditional look, attractively designed and manufactured with pressure treated softwood.

Forest Garden slot down extended compost bins in garden

Wooden slatted compost bins are produced by all the well known brands such as Grange, Rowlinson and Zest 4 Leisure. Forest offer a versatile Slot Down Kit that can be extended as required to form double and triple heaps. 

Again made from timber, beehive style compost bins from Rowlinson and Forest have an attractive appearance with lifting lids. The very pleasing appearance of these composters is equalled by the quality of compost they produce.

Other extremely durable bins that are rat and rodent resistant are made from tough plastic and resin.

ECO King have a 600 Litre Composting Bin while Ward offer two different bins, a familiar design that is seen in many gardens or the Oakwood Effect Compost Bin that resembles a wooden beer or whisky barrel.

The Suncast Tumbling Composter is fitted to a galvanized steel frame and is said to accelerate the composting process. This is also a claim made by the Thermo Quick Composter which is wholly made from recycled plastic.

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