Make Compost (Step-By-Step Guide)

How to make compost

Find out how to make great garden compost in this practical guide.

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Do To do in January

Do To do in February

Do To do in March

Do To do in April

Do To do in May

Do To do in June

Do To do in July

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Do To do in September

Do To do in October

Do To do in November

Do To do in December

Homemade compost is invaluable in the garden – it’s a great soil improver, mulch and growing medium.

To make good compost, you need a 50:50 mix of materials that are rich in nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen comes from lush, green material such as grass clippings. Carbon comes from brown material, such as woody stems and cardboard.

For every bucket load of green material, you need to add the same volume of brown. Shred woody stems before adding them so that they break down more easily. Scrumple paper and leave egg boxes or loo rolls intact – these help to keep the compost aerated.

Most compost bins have too much nitrogen, especially if the main source is from grass cuttings – the result is smelly sludge. If you have too much carbon in your bin, the composting process will be very slow.

More on making compost:

Here are three steps to creating great compost.

To make good compost, you need a 50:50 mix of materials that are rich in nitrogen and carbon.
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You Will Need

  • A sunny corner of the garden
  • An equal mix of nitrogen and carbon rich waste
  • Compost bin

Step 1

Stand your compost bin directly on the soil – worms and other micro-organisms will speed up the composting process. Find out which compost bin is best for you. Chicken wire at the base will keep rodents out. Add an equal mix of green and brown materials (see our guide below).

Green and brown material to be composted
Green and brown material to be composted

Step 2

Speed up the process by turning your heap occasionally with a garden fork to aerate it, mixing the outside ingredients to the inside. Cover your bin to keep the rain out. Watch Monty’s video guide to turning compost.

Turning the compost heap with a garden fork
Turning the compost heap with a garden fork

Step 3

When the mixture turns brown and crumbly and slightly sweet smelling, the process is complete. This will take around six months if the heap has been turned regularly, but can take much longer.

Compost ready to use in the garden
Compost ready to use in the garden
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Kate Bradbury says

Compost heaps are so beneficial to wildlife that you risk disturbing some creature or other whenever you turn or move it. Anything from bumblebees to hedgehogs can be found nesting and hibernating in the heap, so the ideal time to move or turn it is in April. At this time, most species will have emerged from hibernation but not yet started nesting.

Kate Bradbury

What to add to your compost bin – and what to leave out

Nitrogen-rich waste (green):

  • Grass clippings
  • Annual weeds
  • Fruit and veg peelings
  • Nettle leaves
  • Teabags

Carbon-rich waste (brown):

  • Prunings
  • Hedgetrimmings
  • Paper or newspaper (loosely scrunched up is best)
  • Cardboard
  • Straw
  • Sawdust
  • Pet bedding
  • Paper towels
  • Paper bags

Also add:

  • Eggshells, natural fibres (wool or cotton), wood ash (not too much)

Don’t add:

  • Diseased plants
  • Perennial weeds
  • Cooked food
  • Citrus (slow to rot and very acidic, which reduces worm activity)
  • Raw meat
  • Dairy products
  • Gloss or colour-printed paper
  • Ash from coal fires
  • Cat or dog faeces
  • Autumn leaves – these are best used to make leaf mould

Should I line my compost bin?

Transcript

Openings in compost bins are important to let air get in, but if the contents get too dry this can slow down the composting process. Instead of lining your bin, collect rainwater and add it regularly. You could also increase the proportion of green material that you add and avoid adding too much dry, brown material.