How to make Compost

Ideally, really good compost is supposedly brown and crumbly with the sweetest of smells, like woods in the autumn. In fact, it very rarely is. If you have a very big compost heap with only the very best organic material to build it with, then you can achieve this in spring and summer. Most of us, however build our compost heaps with whatever organic material available and the compost is very variable with a lot of semi-rotted fibrous matterial. That doesn’t matter. It will still improve the soil and will certainly do no harm, it will just take longer for it to becomeĀ  “humus”.

Getting good quality compost takes care. Each material needs different treatment. There are some materials which are especially useful.Straw is one of them, whilst others, such as grass clippings need to be mixed with other materials to achieve good results. If you make a heap of grass cuttings alone, it will just become slimy and smelly. Mix grass with larger weeds, shredded paper or straw. However, straw and paper is very dry and should be soaked in water before adding to the compost heap. Never use glossy paper in compost – it does not rot well and contains too much lead. Always shred paper, never put wads of it in your compost heap – it takes too long to rot.

There are some things you should be careful of putting on your heap. Some root systems will survive being put onto the compost heap and will grow again once spread over your garden. Never put roots from bindweed, stinging nettles or dandelions on your heap. Burn them, then you can either add the ash to your compost heap or spread it on your garden.

The ideal compost is made thus: start off with a 6 in layer of course material such as horse manure, straw or large weeds. This will give you a free flow of air. Then add materials such as grass cuttings, leaves and weeds from the garden until you have another 6 ins. Sprinkle some compost activator or nitrogen fertilizer 0ver this layer or add horse manure at this point (the nitrogen in it will act as a compost activator). Next add another 6 in layer of garden materal. Add a dusting of lime. Next add leaves and grass cuttings, then lime. When you have finished building your compost heap, cover it with carpet. This will keep the heat in and keep it dry. The compost heap will rot down and shrink in the first week, so you can add an extra layer at this time should you want to. The amount of compost you can make depends upon the amount of material you have, the way you build your heap and the weather. In a hot year, you should get two good binfuls in the summer, one in the autumn and if you are lucky, one in the spring.


#1 gerry on 02.06.10 at 9:05 am

can you use old used fertiliser on a compost heap?
if not what can i do with it.
kind regards
G Richards.

#2 Jenni on 02.06.10 at 10:33 am

I assume you mean spent compost when you refer to used fertiliser. So, yes, Gerry, you can use this on the compost heap. However, there are other equally good uses for it. If it is not too full of roots,why not use it as a mulch. (That just means spread it over the ground ). It will suppress weeds and will also feed your plants at the same time.

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