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Four ways to better compost

Making your own compost is a great way of recycling green waste, and it saves you money, too. But it can be tricky to get exactly right. Many compost heaps are too wet, too dry or don't rot down quickly enough.

The size of your bin, the mix of ingredients and frequency of turning all help determine the quality of the end product. Here are four key tips that will set you on the road to perfect, crumbly compost.

Efficient heap

Make an efficient heap

Home-made compost heaps should be at least 1m x 1m, to promote decomposition. Use timber boards for the sides to help retain heat. Plastic compost bins can be of smaller dimensions as they retain moisture and heat well.

Mix of ingredients

Use a mix of ingredients

Combine a mixture of soft, leafy material, grass clippings and kitchen peelings with chopped up woody matter, cardboard and shredded paper. This will maintain both moisture and aeration in the heap or bin, both of which are required for good decomposition.

Kitchen peelings

Add kitchen peelings

Fruit and vegetable peel, and produce that is beyond use, are valuable additions to compost. Don't add meat or fish (cooked or raw) to a standard compost bin or heap as it will be become rancid, resulting in harmful bacteria and attracting vermin.

Turn compost

Turn compost regularly

Mixing the contents of your compost bin will help speed up decomposition. Turn material as frequently as possible, from the sides of the heap or bin into the centre, where the temperature builds up to kill off many of the harmful bacteria.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Four ways to better compost
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Welshmun 06/09/2014 at 11:48

1. Do you need to add lime and some soil, as I've read elsewhere?
2. My heap has many lice; does that matter?

Steve 309 06/09/2014 at 11:59

Certainly no need to add layers of soil as they used to advocate years ago - there'll be plenty on the roots of weeds and uprooted plants.  And for that matter, I think the modern idea is to mix rather than layer stuff, which makes more sense.

Lime, I have no idea - certainly compost ends up acidic, but that's useful for spuds, which get a lot of it.  I've never added it.

Lice?  Do you mean woodlice?  If so, no matter at all, in fact they're useful detritivores.  You won't have head/body lice in there, you may be pleased to know!

bekkie hughes 06/09/2014 at 12:13


As far as im aware, you only need to add lime to the ground when planting brassicas, i wouldnt worry too much for compost. A little garden soil is good as it contains all the bacteria etc needed, but as Steve says, you will probably have enough from what you chuck in

If its really slow to compost a little horse manure can help, but really decomposition is a natural process and will occur without much interference from us, everything organlc will compost given enough time

River Dodder Biodiversity 07/09/2014 at 12:22

You can also add an activator which speeds up the whole process.
Some to think of are -
Various types of manure
Blood meal
Bone meal
Soybean meal
Human urine
It is also very good to throw in a little hand full of soil from time to time as soil has plenty of beneficial microbes that help the break-down process.

Welshonion 07/09/2014 at 14:12

Male urine only I understand!

I make excellent compost and I have never added an accelerator. Just make sure you have a good mix of ingredients including shredded paper and cardboard (does not need to be shredded, can be added in sheets, the little muck worms love it).

If you have many woodlice your compost heap may be too dry.