Martyn Loach says that a compost heap, or preferably two, is an essential part of every garden, replicating nature by returning nutrients to the soil.
Compost also improves soil structure and drainage, so ensuring ideal conditions in which your plants and shrubs will thrive.
Ready Made Compost Bins
There's a large choice of self or ready assembled composting bins.
Eco-King comes in two sizes and a choice of colours, it offers convenient composting and is rot and rodent proof. Assembly is easy and it will blend into any garden. Other extremely durable bins are available made from tough plastic that look great in the garden and are brilliant for the environment.
A beehive shaped wooden composter from Rowlinson or Forest offers a more 'traditional' look. They are attractively designed with lifting lids and manufactured with pressure treated softwood. The very pleasing look and shape of this composter is equalled by the quality of the compost it produces.
An alternative wooden container is a 'slot down' bin from Forest that has proven versatility for the serious gardener. It can be extended as required as there is an kit for double and triple heaps. Other timber composters of various sizes are offered by Grange.
Finally, the Envirocycle Composter / Composteamaker will produce two excellent natural fertilisers – solid compost and and 'compost tea' a rich organic liquid that can be used for in the garden and for house plants.
Constructing A Compost Bin
If you want to construct your own bin it is a fairly simple job involving wooden slats (the same width as floor boards) nailed to three posts about 3 - 4ft high to make up a frame. Make sure there is a gap of about 2 - 3 inches between the boards so that air can circulate. On the fourth side the slats should be removable for easy access. The base should be level soil.
Making A Compost Heap
Build up the heap with a mixture of garden cuttings and other organic material starting with some straw or prunings to aid drainage. About every 6 ins add some more manure or a branded compost activator. Continue this process adding a dusting of lime to reduce acidity before covering the top.
Nearly everything can be composted from banana skins to old cotton shirts 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
Depending on the time of year and the materials used, after about six months, you should be able to harvest the rich brown compost that is packed full of nitrogen, phosphates, potash and other essential elements. If you have two bins, one can be maturing while you use the other.