Composting for Beginners

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A compost heap is an essential part of any gardener’s outdoor space. Not only does it help the environment by recycling biodegradable and organic materials, it also helps your wallet by providing free food for your plants. Using compost in your garden provides a better quality of soil for your plants thanks to its naturally broken down and nutritionally-charged elements. All you need to start creating your own compost is time, a dedicated space for it to mature, and a range of natural and food waste such as vegetable peelings, tea bags, and grass cuttings. Our guide below will turn you from a novice into a seasoned composting pro.

Create your compost enclosure or bin

Your first step is to establish where you want your compost heap to be located and how you want it to be contained. There are various compost specific bins and containers that you can purchase for your garden or, if you’re feeling creative, you could make your own. No longer than 6ft wide and ideally in direct contact with the ground, your heap needs to be sufficiently aerated so that it can decompose and turn into compost.


What can I put in my compost heap?

There are two categories of materials that you can put into your compost; green materials and brown materials. Your green materials will be grass and kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings. These will provide moisture to the compost heap which help to turn it into the soil-like finished product that you’d buy from a gardening centre. The brown materials include cardboard, newspapers, and mulchy leaves, all of which prevent your compost becoming too soggy. A good ratio of brown and green materials is necessary to creating the perfect compost heap; if it’s too dry or wet, it will inhibit the composting process and prevent the pile from turning into useable compost. Items that you should never put in your compost heap include meat, animal products, and faeces. These will cause a very unpleasant smell, attract unwanted pests, and can deteriorate the quality of your compost.

Apples in compost

Air circulation is essential

Sufficient aeration of your compost will be the difference between a pile of plant nutrition and a pile of dirt. Regular turning of the mixture with a garden fork will prevent it from getting too soggy or dry. It will also allow air to reach all parts of the heap and keep it from becoming too compact.

Aerating the compost

Check in on it

Aside from adding in the appropriate materials and turning the mixture, the heap should generally look after itself. Just check it every now and then to make sure it’s not becoming too moist or dry as this can fluctuate due to weather changes and the ratio of materials used. Adding more green materials can combat an overly dry composition whilst incorporating more brown materials will help to counteract too much moisture.

Checking compost


Your compost heap won’t be useable for a little while so you’ll have to wait for nature to work its magic. It can take a few weeks for the transformation into compost can occur, however, due to variants such as weather and amount of material used, don’t be surprised if this process takes a couple of months. You’ll know when it’s ready to use as it will look like soil and should feel moist but crumbly.

Planting using compost

Once your composting process is complete, all you need to do is keep adding to it and turning it. You’ll have free compost for as long as you keep it up and, because you’ve done it yourself and know what’s been added in, you can be confident that it’ll be good quality and nutritional. Your garden and your plants will be forever grateful to you for their food!

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