Composting is a natural form of recycling garden and kitchen waste (for example, vegetable peelings), plants and leaves into a quality compost at virtually no cost to you. If you have a garden, you could turn this waste into compost rather than throwing it away.
What are the benefits of home composting?
- It saves you money as you do not need to buy soil improvers for your garden
- It protects the environment by reducing waste going to landfill, and replaces peat products which are dug from important wildlife sites
- Composting provides an excellent soil conditioner, adding organic matter and nutrients to improve poor soils
- It improves soil structure and water retention in both clay and sandy soils
- It helps maintain healthy plant growth, preventing some plant diseases and pests, and encouraging micro organisms and worms into the soil.
Compost bin offer
In a bid to encourage more people to recycle their garden waste, the council has teamed up with Straight plc to offer residents home compost bins. Straight plc offers a variety of different composters, wormeries and water butts to suit all your needs.
Compost is best made in a homemade or shop bought composter. This should be placed in the garden on bare soil, ideally in a warm place to speed up the composting process.
A composter can easily be made at home
A simple composter can be made of chicken wire. Measure a section of wire to meet the size of container you want. Wrap the wire around to make a cylinder and fasten with twist ties. To anchor the bin, staple to wood poles. Cover with an old carpet (preferably a natural pile), cardboard or plastic to keep the compost warm and prevent over soaking from rain.
Another simple compost bin is made of an old rubbish bin with a lid, with about 12 holes (around 12mm apart) drilled randomly in the bin for drainage. This is a very inexpensive and simple compost bin to make. Materials can be mixed by securing the lid and rolling the bin.
A third method is to use wooden pallets made of untreated timber, secured at the corners with wire or nails, covered as above with carpet, card or plastic.
• sawdust and wood ash (untreated wood only)
• shredded paper and torn cardboard, (for example, egg boxes)
• dead flowers
• hedge prunings
• fallen leaves
• raw fruit and vegetables
• used tea bags, leaves and coffee grounds
• soiled pet bedding (but not cat or dog faeces)
• egg shells
• grass cuttings
• stable manure and bedding
• weeds (avoid persistent weeds and weeds in seed)
Try equal amounts of browns and greens and avoid woody stems.
Do not use
• treated wood
• diseased plants
• meat, fish, bread and cheese
• cooked leftovers
• coal ash
• cat and dog faeces
• metals, glass or plastic
Air and water
Remember to turn the pile regularly through spring and summer and ensure your compost is moist but not wet. Add water if it appears too dry, cover, and add dry material if too wet.
Watch it rot!
Most compost piles built with a half and half ratio of greens and browns (be careful on the quantity of grass cuttings added), with enough water and air, will shrink down to half the original volume in a few days. To speed up the composting process, add soil, finished compost or a compost accelerator. Young nettles are an excellent natural accelerator!
Your compost is ready when it is dark in colour and has an earthy smell. This can take from six to 18 months, depending on the material used and the time of year.
Finished compost will appear at the bottom of the heap; remove this to use on your garden. Return any materials that haven’t finished composting to the composter and keep adding new materials to keep the process going.
Finished compost can be used almost anywhere on the garden (acid-loving plants don’t like compost), using a fork simply dig it into the top six inches of soils, or spread it to cover the soil. You can also use your compost to feed your lawn or to top up tubs, planters and baskets.
If you have too many leaves for your compost bin you can put the excess into a bin bag, make a few holes in it and leave in a secluded spot to rot down. It will be a great soil conditioner in a few months time.
Householders are reminded to read herbicide and weed killers product labels carefully before buying and using them, particularly bearing in mind the instructions on what to do with any garden plant wastes treated with the product. Any composting restrictions stated apply to home composting and the council’s brown bin collection scheme.
Herbicide and weed killer products licensed for domestic use commonly contain Clopyralid. Residents who use these products on their grass are encouraged not to dispose of grass clippings in their brown bin or home composter for at least the first four mowings after the product has been applied. The Association for Organics Recycling have suggested grass cuttings are left on the lawn, this practice is commonly known as ‘grasscycling’.
As part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign we are showing you how you can save money on food and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by creating a small African vegetable garden in your own backyard.
This simple organic gardening technique called ‘keyhole gardening’ is used in Africa to help people to produce enough vegetables to nourish their families without having to invest in costly technology, fuel, fertilizer or pesticides.
A keyhole garden, or small vegetable patch can provide plenty of vegetables for all the family and any peelings or vegetables not used can be added straight to the compost in the centre of the garden to help grown more, therefore there is no waste.
What is a keyhole garden?
This type of garden is a raised bed shaped like a keyhole and walled in by stone. In the centre, a basket made from sticks and straw holds manure and later, vegetable scraps and garden waste for compost. The garden is watered primarily through the basket in the centre, which distributes the nutrients from the compost to the plants.
The garden has several advantages:
- It is compact;
- Easy to care for;
- Incredibly productive.
The gardens are approximately two metres across, so it’s easy to get to the plants, and the raised beds mean that once they are established, you don’t need to bend down to tend them.
Keyhole gardens give African families the chance to be more self-sufficient and can do the same for families in North Lincolnshire. They are also a fun way for schools to inspire pupils about green living, healthy eating and global issues.
How to build a keyhole garden (by charity Send a Cow)
- Clear the ground of weeds and dig it over
- Mark out a circle on the soil using a piece of string and two sticks
- Hammer long sticks in a square in the centre of the circle
- Place large stones around the perimeter, and make a short pathway into the middle
- Add more sticks to the middle and wrap wire around them to form a “basket”
- Lay down broken pots to form a drainage layer
- Fill the basket with layers of cow manure and wood ash – compacting the manure at the sides of the basket as you fill it up. Place a lid on the basket to help keep the heat in – in Malawi some gardeners lay an old piece of carpet across the top
- Pile layers of manure, a little ash and soil onto the garden
- Add layers of soil from the centre outwards to create a slope and start planting
- Remember to top up the central basket with your fruit and vegetable peelings and, even better, green waste that has already been composted.
Bagging grass clippings produces waste that needs to be dealt with and is heavy to haul. Grasscycling can help reduce the mess and strain, and actually improves your lawn. Essentially, it is “mow and go,” where finely cut grass clippings are left on the lawn after mowing. This helps grass to naturally break down returning valuable nutrients and moisture to the soil. It also discourages weeds growing. According to research half an acre of lawn can generate as much as four and a half tons of grass cuttings a year – which can create nitrogen, potash and potassium – all great fertilising agents for grass.
To grass cycle your mower blades should be sharp, and mowing should be frequent.
One of the more important grasscycling tips is to remove no more than one third of each blade. The best length is two to two and a half inches (five to six centimetres.). Grasscycling information recommends mowing every five to seven days to produce clippings that compost into the lawn quickly.
Try to mow when grass blades are dry. This enhances your mower’s ability to chop the leaves, causes less stress to the grass, and prevents clumps. If it has been too wet to mow frequently, run over the long clippings an extra time and rake them into the root zone of the lawn.
The UK has the perfect climatic conditions for grass-cycling, and as a nation of keen gardeners it could be used far more widely than is currently the case.