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The Ultimate Guide to Composting

Composting

Image source: Natalie Maynor © (Licence)

Composting is a great way to achieve an environmentally-friendly, naturally balanced garden by recycling waste from your kitchen, or even the garden itself, back into the environment. This removes the need for landfill as well as making your plants more resistant to disease.

By composting you are providing your garden with highly beneficial nutrients, with the added benefit of knowing exactly where they came from. Consequently, this promotes healthy ecology through reducing, recycling and returning natural, biodegradable products to the earth.

Benefits of composting:

  • It is completely natural and safe
  • Improves soil structure, texture, drainage and fertility
  • Provides a healthier base for plants and supports root growth
  • Hard clay soil become more airy

How to compost:

Before you can begin the composting process, you first need to choose a suitable composter. These can range from enclosed bins and rolling bins to advanced tumblers and even worm bins. Mantis UK offers a wide range of composters suitable for gardens of all sizes, as well as a bevy of useful garden equipment.

Once you have chosen your bin or tumbler, you should follow a few helpful tips to ensure that you reap the best possible compost. For instance, it is advantageous to begin the composting process during the spring and this time of year produces a wealth of highly beneficial natural materials. You should also ensure that your waste ingredients contain high levels of carbon (dry, brown materials) and nitrogen (soft, green materials) in approximately equal amounts.

It is also important to note that any large, dense materials (for example wood) should be placed nearer the bottom of the compost heap, as this encourages better air circulation. Furthermore, some very large items may need to be cut or shredded into smaller parts so that they decompose more easily. Keep adding to the pile until the composter is full, remembering to add water if it becomes noticeably dry. Once full, the heap will begin to heat up, signalling the start of the composting process.

The compost should then be turned with a spade or fork after a couple of weeks when it has cooled. This ensures that the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and encourages more efficient decomposition. Again, if you notice the heap becoming too dry, add water as required. Subsequently, if turned regularly in warm conditions, the compost should be ready to use within approximately three months.

Things that are good to compost:

  • Rotted fruit and vegetables
  • Grass cuttings
  • Tea bags and coffee grounds
  • Old flowers
  • Newspapers
  • Paper bags and shredded paper
  • Saw dust

Things that should not be composted:

  • Dairy products
  • Cooked food
  • Diseased plats
  • Meat and fish
  • Cat and dog litter
  • Perennial weeds

Faster composting:

If you want to achieve compost faster than the usual three month timeframe, it is helpful to include a lot of nitrogen ingredients (grass cuttings, fruit and vegetables etc.) as well as keeping the pile moist. This encourages more heat, which, when combined with regular turning, serves to speed up the composting process. Once the heap has cooled down, add more undecomposed ingredients to the centre, thus heating the pile. This process should therefore generate full compost within one month. Additionally, using a compost tumbler is ideal for fast composting, as daily turning as allows heat to be displaced so that decomposition is quicker – during spring and summer results can be seen within 14 – 21 days.

Troubleshooting:

If you are experiencing problems with your compost heap such as a wet, slimy heap, this will have been caused by an excess of one material (usually green ingredients). Resolve this issue by removing the unwanted layer before adding dry, carbon materials such as newspapers or shredded cardboard. The heap should then be turned regularly to ensure optimum airflow.



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