How do I start composting?

The first thing to do when starting out, is to find a place in your garden for your compost bin. It should sit on bare soil to allow adequate drainage, and the best place is in a warm and sheltered spot,  but this is not critical. Remember to leave sufficient space around the bin for your wheelbarrow if you use one.

What can I put in my bin?

Most organic waste can be composted, including; lawn clippings, leaves, vegetable scraps, tea leaves, fruit peelings, coffee grounds, vacuum dust and crushed eggshells. Chopping and shredding larger items speeds up the composting. This can easily be done by running the lawn mower over leaves and other soft garden waste. The more uniform in size the ingredients are, the quicker the decomposition process.

How do I fill by bin?

When filling your bin, you must include a mixture - both tough, fibrous ingredients (browns), to give the end product some body, and soft, sappy materials (greens) to give the bugs the energy to start the composting process. Too many 'browns' and the heap will take years to compost. Too many 'greens' will result in a slimy, smelly heap. The more you can add to your bin at once, the more likely it is to heat up, which will speed up the process. Gather together a good supply of weeds, lawn mowings, kitchen waste and any other materials that are available over a few days. Mix all of them together and put them in your bin. Don't squash the materials down to make more space - this will use up air which the creatures need. Keep adding material to your bin as and when it becomes available, trying to add as much as possible in one go.

How do I care for my bin?

There are two more ingredients essential to the composting creatures - air and water. Both are incorporated into the bin as it is filled, but it's a good idea to check them every so often.

What do I do when my bin is full?

It's surprising how much you can fit into compost bins, because the volume of material reduces as it break down into compost, creating more spaces. However, you may reach a point where you can't fit any more into the bin. You may find that some of the material at the bottom of the bin has already composted, so this can be removed and used on the garden. If not, leave the bin for a couple of weeks and you should have more space. If you've got so much material that you fill the bin in 2 or 3 weeks, your best bet is to get a second bin!

When is my compost ready?

Compost can be used when it has turned a dark color and the original ingredients are no longer recognizable. It may be rather stringy or lumpy but this doesn't matter. If a finer product is required, the compost will either need to be left longer, or put through a garden sieve.Compost can be ready to use in as little as a couple of months, or it may take a year or more. The time taken depends on a whole range of factors including air temperature, the mixture of ingredients, how finely the material was chopped, and how quickly the bin was filled. There are no set rules and whether it takes 3 or 12 months to produce compost, you are still actively helping to improve your garden and the wider environment.

How do I use my compost?

Compost can be used on all soils to improve structure - it helps light soils to hold more water and heavy soils to drain more freely. It also provides plant foods.