It’s National Compost Week, an annual celebration of compost and everything it has to offer. Home-made compost has some amazing properties that will help your garden grow and wildlife flourish - think of it as a soil improver to mix with your existing soil or shop-bought compost. It will boost fertility and help plants to build up resistance to disease and insect attacks, reducing the need to use chemical controls.
By composting your garden and kitchen waste, you reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill and provide a habitat for a range of minibeasts. The community of invertebrates that live among the waste help the decaying process and in turn, they are a delicious food source for hedgehogs and other animals.
The best part is that all you need for a successful compost heap is waste, air and water! A simple heap covered with old carpet or plastic is just as effective as a bin. The only advantages of a container are that it looks tidier and can be easier to manage. Try to pick a shady spot to keep the compost heap moist, and water any dry ingredients you add.
What to put in your compost:
- Grass cuttings and dead leaves.
- Fruit and vegetable scraps and peel.
- Plain cardboard (not the glossy cereal box kind).
- Old cut flowers and bedding plants.
- Prunings and dead plants.
- Coffee grounds.
- Plastic-free tea bags.
- Pet droppings from any healthy veg-eating pets, including gerbils, rabbits, hamsters and birds, along with any bedding made from natural material or newspaper.
- Eggshells – these help to keep the heap from smelling.
- Newspapers – shredded paper can help to soak up excess moisture in a heap.
Top tips for composting:
- Composting works best if you add a fair quantity of material at a time, so it is best to save up your kitchen scraps and add them to the heap along with some prunings or old bedding plants.
- It is important to mix the contents of the heap every now and again to aerate it, but wait at least three months to turn the heap with a gardening fork.
- Remember to take care when you turn or fork your compost, especially in winter, as there may be animals hiding or hibernating in there – anything from smooth newts to hedgehogs!
- Your compost is ready to use when it becomes dark and crumbly.