With National Compost Week and the Spring Equinox coinciding this year, there has never been a better time to get into composting! Peak time for compost breakdown is late summer, so it is never too early to get your heap going ready for the sowing season next year.

What is composting?

The process of composting involves decomposing plant and food waste, to produce a mixture rich in nutrition, helpful bacteria, and organisms. Composting at home is very different to industrial scale food waste disposal, and should be encouraged! An estimated 20% of waste in landfills is made up of compostable material but will not break down as quickly as it would in home compost heaps.

Who said composting had to be a messy, smelly affair? We stock a range of beautiful, and extremely functional, ceramic caddies that are perfect for collecting waste before transporting to your outdoor compost heap. Each can be used with or without compostable food waste bags, but if you prefer to use them these bags will also break down in your heap!

What are the benefits of home composting?

Ideal for areas where the local council does not offer food collection services, home composting is a perfect way to encourage natural growth of your plants. Not only does it produce high quality biodiverse compost, which is fantastic for your garden, but it is also made for free! Making use of products that are literally ‘waste’ and could not be used in any other way.

Food waste in home compost heaps decomposes much quicker than in industrial food waste sites, and it can help you consider the amount of food waste you are producing. You can also avoid chemical-based fertilizers, as the plants will thrive without – and the nature in your area will thank you for it!

Using compost around your garden can improve the drainage of your soil, ensuring your plants do not become water-logged and rot, but also actually do absorb the necessary water. This can save you money on your water bill as you will not need to excessively water your garden.

Check out this blog for more benefits and tips!

How to make compost

Starting a compost heap is a simple process! If you follow a few easy rules, you will have rich, nutrient packed compost for your garden.

The first step for composting at home is of course, to select the right bin. Consider the space you have available, the amount of compost you want to produce and where the bin will be located, whether on grass or concrete.

There are benefits to each type of composting bin, for example:

  • Plastic – Good for small spaces, should be placed on grass or earth
  • Wooden – Produces most amount of compost and can be segmented for different stages of composting
  • Hot Compost Bin – Produces finer compost quickly, should be stood on hard surface
  • Kitchen Composter - Suitable for more urban areas, this Organko Composter produces a strong Bokashi fertilizer liquid within four weeks (this liquid needs to be diluted before use on plants).

You must also decide where you will be placing the compost bin. Ideally, it needs to be placed in an area that is not too damp, hot or cold – that excludes rain and lets in air.

Once you have begun the composting process, it is vital to turn the compost using an aerator – to encourage decomposition and reduce the release of greenhouse gases. A ‘compost activator’ can also be used to boost the formation of the highly beneficial ‘Colloidal Humus’ portion of the compost. Typical levels are around  4% - activator can increase this to 10-40%.

What can you compost?

The secret to a good compost heap is predominantly in what you feed it. It’s so important to balance equal parts ‘Green’ and ‘Brown’ waste to prevent smells, slow or no breakdown, and pests. Green waste includes grass cuttings, vegetable waste and coffee grounds, whereas brown waste is generally made up of dead leaves, twigs and newspaper.

Any of the following can help to produce a nutrient-rich, ‘full of life’ compost to use in your garden:

  • Vegetable/fruit peelings
  • Teabags
  • Plant/grass trimmings
  • Scrunched paper/shredded egg boxes
  • Fallen leaves
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Vegetarian animal waste e.g. horses, rabbits or hamsters

Avoid putting any meat or dairy products, dog waste, cat litter, diseased plants, or perennial weeds into your compost heap. Adding these not only encourage pests such as rats and flies but can also upset the balance of your heap and make the compost unusable.

Keep an eye on your tea bags! Your compost heap can often be caught out by plastic tea bags being thrown in – which won’t break down! Try and shop sustainably and opt for brands that clearly advertise their eco-friendly products – such as Clipper, PG Tips & Teapigs.

Alternatively, loose tea and a reusable tea strainer is a sure way to avoid the risk – and used loose tea is a fantastic, nitrogen rich addition to any compost heap.

Why is my compost heap not breaking down?

If your compost heap is not breaking down correctly or is smelling funky – then something is definitely off!

If you are struggling with pests, then it is important to keep the heap covered, and to not add any cooked food to it. If the heap seems really ‘wet’ and starts to get bad smells, then the problem is likely too much ‘green’ waste, and not enough dry waste such as shredded cardboard and dead leaves.

Alternatively, if you find that foods are not breaking down, or breaking down very slowly, then add water to the heap or more ‘green’ waste such as lawn clippings. Doing so will encourage nitrogen and heat in the heap – forcing even the most stubborn citrus peelings to decompose!

Composting at home is fantastic for anyone who has an interest in gardening, and your vegetables will grow happy with the nutrient-packed compost provided. Not only this, but composting can help you to reduce the food waste your household is producing, as it will no longer be ‘out of sight, out of mind’!