The joy of compost

Posted: Friday 30 August 2013
by Kate Bradbury

I love Monty’s enthusiasm for compost – it comes across as a genuine, heartfelt passion for all things rotting.


I really enjoyed the recent Gardeners’ World wildlife gardens special on BBC Two, particularly Monty’s piece on compost. I love Monty’s enthusiasm for compost – it comes across as a genuine, heartfelt passion for all things rotting. I’m rather fond of compost too, and can only dream of having four bays (including an ‘assembly bay’) in which to transform kitchen and garden waste into my own crumbly, sweet smelling mulch.

Unlike Monty, I have just one wooden compost bin, with no separate areas for turning or assembling. No matter - if the bin is full, I keep waste in a bucket in the shed until some space becomes available. Rather than aerating the waste by emptying it out of one bay into another, I simply empty the bin and then refill it. I take what’s ready and replace the rest, adding fresh material to the mix and watering it to help it break down quicker. It’s a messy job, but I love it.

The RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign encourages gardeners to think more about the habitats we create for wildlife in our gardens. Many of us compost our waste, but how much do we know about the life this process supports? To paraphrase Monty on Gardeners’ World, the size of the heap isn’t important -  it’s what you do with it that counts. The key to success is adding the right mix of brown and green waste, avoiding cooked food, meat and fat, and keeping the heap moist.

Larger heaps such as Monty’s will provide home and a feeding ground for wildlife such as hedgehogs, slow worms and grass snakes, but smaller heaps provide a home for wildlife too. As well as the thousands of bacteria and fungi that we can’t see, my heap is alive with rove beetles, spiders, woodlice and brandling worms. These critters all aid the decomposition process and are food for each other and larger animals, including field mice and frogs, which I occasionally find while ‘turning’ the compost. My heap is, therefore, a central hub for wildlife in my garden. Without it, my garden would be much less 'alive'.

The Gardeners’ World wildlife gardens special can be viewed on iPlayer until Friday 15 November, 2013.

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oldchippy 30/08/2013 at 14:54

Halo Kate,to get my hand back into working order I must go and turn out my compost bins and put any that is ready on the garden,then start to refill,I have bags of leaves from last winter to go in the bottom and maybe I can start pruning. Oldchippy.

Notjustgreenfingers blog 02/09/2013 at 08:15

Hi there. I am afraid I am a really lazy composter! I put things into my black dalek compost bins and leave them alone until they are ready and then I use them. It doesn't make compost quickly like Montys does, but it saves a lot of time ...and as a busy mother with four plots, I haven't got much time lol

Big Jim 18/01/2014 at 15:49

I started a compost bin off in Nov 2013, mainly using fallen leaves, some shredded paper, dead flowers and kitchen waste, I have since added on daily basis banana skins, tea bags,orange peel, kitchen waste and fallen leaves. will this be okay?