How to Compost

Improve soil quality in your garden by applying these composting basics, and learn how to make a compost bin with materials from around the house.

| February 2013

  • Composting
    Composting adds to soil quality.
    Photo Courtesy DK
  • How to Grow Practically Everything
    “How to Grow Practically Everything” employs a user-friendly "recipe" formula free from intimidating jargon, covers different areas and types of gardens — from patios and terraces to beds and borders — and explores all the gardening basics, from identifying your soil to planting tips and pruning.
    Cover Courtesy DK

  • Composting
  • How to Grow Practically Everything

Packed with hundreds of gardening projects, from planting herbs in pots to creating a vegetable garden to feed the family, How to Grow Practically Everything (DK, 2010) gives complete beginners the confidence and know-how to grow almost anything. Each project is a complete package, with step-by-step photographic details and sumptuous end shots to ensure great results. Composting — a great way to improve your soil — is one of the many topics addressed; learn how to compost in the following excerpt. 

You can buy this book from the GRIT store: How to Grow Practically Everything. 

More from How to Grow Practically Everything

How to Plant a Tree
How to Take Care of Your Lawn 
How to Grow French Beans 

How to Compost

Composting conveniently disposes of your garden cuttings and trimmings, while at the same time creating a free, and wonderful, soil improver. It can be as simple as throwing all your waste into a pile and forgetting about it, but you will get better results if you follow a few simple guidelines.  

Choosing a Composting Bin

Bog standard plastic compost bins are functional, rather than attractive, but do hold lots of garden and kitchen waste. They are also the most inexpensive, and can often be bought at a discounted price through your local council. If you are concerned about how your compost bin fits in with the rest of the gardens, there are more attractive options, including wooden bins designed to look like bee hives that can be stained to suit your garden design. These are a good choice for smaller gardens where the bin would be on view. Impatient gardeners may prefer “tumbler” bins. These allow you to make small batches of compost in weeks, not months, by turning the bin to increase airflow, which naturally speeds up the composting process.

Composting Ingredients

To produce good compost it is important to have the right mix of ingredients. If you add to much soft, green material, such as grass clippings, the heap may turn into a slimy, smelly sludge. Put in too much dry, woody materials, and it will rot down slowly, if at all. Ideally aim for a ratio of about 50:50. During most of the year, it is likely that you will be producing more green than dry material, so you will need to search around for dry waste to add. Woody prunnings are best, but brown cardboard, crumpled newspaper and even the insides of used toilet rolls all make suitable alternatives.

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