In many parts of the country local authorities are suspending the collection of garden waste due to staff shortages. As the situation could go on for several more weeks it is important to know what to do with your garden waste. The answer is simple – MAKE COMPOST!
It need not cost you anything as you can make a compost heap in your garden. If you already have a compost bin, then clean it out and start afresh. In many parts of the country local councils are sponsoring the purchase of compost bins so check before you buy one.
If you live in Derbyshire see this page for more information on offers of compost bins and water butts.
Other local authorities have similar schemes so check before you buy.
If you don’t have a bin you can still make compost by finding a convenient corner of the garden to make a heap with a waterproof cover to keep out the rain
Whether you are making a heap or bin the steps are the same.
- Find a site for your bin or pile on grass or soil. It’s better to be out of full sun as it will dry out the contents. The heat in hot composting comes for the action of the bacteria as they breakdown the contents and not from the sun.
- Gather together the stuff you want to compost; it’s best to have enough materials to make a complete batch or bin full, if not, you can start with around half that. Aim for at least half a cubic metre.
- Only add material in batches and do not just throw stuff in when you find it but save it until you have enough.
- Sort it into two groups – browns and greens:
- Autumn leaves
- Pine needles
- Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark
- Straw or hay
- Paper, brown paper is best like that used in packing from Amazon etc.
- Plain cardboard, not printed, toilet roll inners, egg boxes tear up into small pieces and limit the amount you put in the bin. Use to balance the greens and browns and not as an alternative to recycling.
- Grass clippings
- Coffee grounds/tea bags (check the bags are fully compostable and do not include plastic)
- Vegetable and fruit peelings
- Trimmings from perennial and annual plants
- Weeds but do not include any with seeds if your bin/heap does not get hot
- Animal manures but not from dogs or cats
Not worth adding/be careful
- Egg shells – they will never break down because they are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystals. They cannot add calcium to the compost or to the soil.
- Food waste unless you know the bin will heat up. You can add it to the centre of a hot heap/pile but it is best composted in a separate container such as a HotBin.
- Getting the correct balance of greens and browns will help the compost to heat up. A good rule of thumb is to use two buckets of greens to one bucket of browns as you add material to your heap/bin.
- Be sure to mix the contents well as you add them especially grass clippings as they tend to stick together in lumps, break them up!
- The next step is to wet the mixture, not totally soaked, more like a wrung-out sponge.
- Cover an open pile with waterproof sheet or put the lid on you bin. After a few days the contents should heat up.
- After a while the contents will start to cool down and will have shrunk. You might see that material around the edges has not composted as well as that in the centre. Now is the time to turn the pile/contents of the bin. What this means is taking everything out and then putting it back in. It helps if you ‘fluff up the contents’ to add more air. You might also need to add some more water if it feels it is dry. Again, not a soaking but more like a wrung out sponge.
- After a few days the heap/bin should start to heat up again, but it may not get as hot as before. It will eventually start to cool down and you could try turning again or just leave it.
- Hot composting should be complete in 8-10 weeks and will take another couple of months to mature. It is ready to use on the garden when it looks like and smells like the forest floor.
If you would like more information about composting then please take a look at
our other pages.
If you need help with your composting please email us HERE
Please send us your photos, comments and short videos of your compost and we will share them here.
(Last update 08 Apr 2020)