How to create your own compost? This blog outlines, how to create your own compost from scratch and gives you the top tips for success. Compost is one of the most beneficial resources for any garden.
It is even better if you can produce this compost yourself and use it in your own garden.
In episode no17 of Master My Garden podcast Dr.Brian Murphy of Enrich Environmental who are the largest manufacturer of peat free compost in Ireland, outlines the best practice for creating your own compost. He also tells us of the benefits of compost in the garden the link to the episode should you prefer to listen is at the bottom of this blog.
Garden compost in the correct sense (rather than peat growing media which has become known as compost) has huge benefits in the garden.
When starting in a garden, in order to have quality soil that can grow a healthy garden, mulching with quality organic matter should be high on your priority list. The benefits are significant and long term so lets look at some of these benefits.
As you can see the benefits are vast so it really is worth the effort of creating you own compost. So let’s look at what we need to do to create our own compost.
Start with your chosen compost bin.
Compost bins are found in almost every Garden centre and hardware store.The standard size is 220/250 ltr and it looks like a bin with no base, it has a lid and a hatch at the front to eventually allow you to take away compost. One of this size 220/250 ltr is generally sufficient for a small/medium garden and a household of 3-5 people. Lots of other types are available in different shapes and sizes including rotary one which while more expensive they can be useful to create compost quicker and with more ease.
The key benefit of any of these purchased models is that because they are self contained the can retain heat. Which is needed to create quality compost.
While two compost bins may be needed eventually, (while one is full and composting you can be filling the other. This will allow you to have a more constant supply. My advice is to start with one and get a second when you are a compost master!!
How to create your own compost heaps at home from pallets or slatted wood walls.
Please see the image on the right for reference.
The compost heap is closed in on three sides with fixed walls. The front should be made with removable boards so that when ready, it is easy to get the compost out and use.
The advantage of compost heaps is that you can make these to any size and so are more suitable for larger garden where more garden waste is available.
The downside here is that because the sides are slatted the heat in the compost heap generally concentrates in the middle, for this reason you must turn this compost heap regularly to ensure the compost is even. During periods of heavy rain or in the winter time compost heaps should be covered so compost doesn’t get excessively wet. Again once you have mastered one you can add a second for a continuous supply of compost.
So once you have chosen your preferred method of composting whether compost bin or compost heap. The next thing to consider is where to put the compost bin.
It is important that the compost bin is in a convenient location to allow adding kitchen waste to be easy and hassle free. Another consideration with compost heaps especially, is to ensure that you can get close to it with your lawn mower so adding the grass is again trouble free.
It should be placed on bare soil or grass as this will allow earthworms to enter because they are vital in the composting process, by moving up through the compost and allowing air to enter which speeds up the composting.
Some purchased bins may come with a base if using a base don’t place directly on the soil as the holes will become blocked and the worms and air can’t pass into the compost. Raising the base 15-20mm of the ground will ensure the holes remain clear.
It is best in a sunny location which will increase the temperature in the compost and speed up the composting process. Avoid waterlogged ground. There is little air in the ground, worms are unlikely to be present and liquids can’t soak away.
Now that you have chosen you preferred option whether bin or heap and have located it in the optimum location.
A general idea is that anything that was once living can be composted. However some things are best not added to your compost bin. The most regular question is can dog waste or cat litter be added to my compost bin ? The answer is that it is best not to, because domestic compost bins do not get hot enough to kill all pathogens. Do not add compostable coffee cups to domestic compost bins as Brian Murphy highlights in our interview because the domestic compost bin do not get hot enough to break down compostable cups. Make sure not to include left over meats or fish. This may attract vermin or pests.
The chart below of what can be added to your compost bin. The chart is broken into green and brown ingredients and these need to be mixed at a ratio of 50/50 in order to be really successful.
All materials should be added in layers of 50-75mm at a time. Regularly people add big layers of grass in one go and the compost turns into a pile of sludge, to avoid this follow the 50/50 green to brown rule strictly. Green materials act as an activator to get the composting process started. Compost activators, will start the composting process for you. If the compost gets to dry at any stage add in some water because if it’s too dry it won’t activate, so add a little water but don’t saturate it.
Grass cuttings and green leaves
Tree prunings and woody material
Fruit and vegetable peeling,skins, cores, roots,etc. This can be raw or cooked
Shrub and flower clippings ideally shredded
Tea either leaves or bags and coffee grounds
Sawdust and wood shavings
Weeds that you have weeded from your garden. Avoid perennial weeds with tap roots or ones that have seeded.
Fire ash but only from wood or peat fire. Avoid coal ash.
Unused rice, pasta, potato or bread
Kitchen paper, news papers and light cardboard ideally shredded or in small pieces.
Waste from garden pond cleaning.
Pet hair after clipping
Manure from vegetarian animals. Such as cattle, horses, rabbits etc.
Dead leaves from autumn fall. these are best shredded as they can take longer to break down. Also if too many available you may be better to create leaf mould from tham seperately.
It will generally take 6-8 months to make quality compost from the time the bin or heap is full, however you can make it faster if the temperature gets really high in the compost bin or compost heap and its turned regularly. Rotary composters also tend to make compost faster because they can reach high temperatures and can be easily and regularly turned.
When the compost is ready, remove it from the compost bin and use in your garden. Then you will get all of the great benefits of using compost. Ultimately improving your soil in your garden and giving long term benefits that greatly outweighs the effort as well as impacting positively on the environment.
So that is my top tips on how to create your own compost.
Best of luck with making your own compost.
If you would like to listen to the podcast episode please hit the link below!