start a compost heap
Our green-fingered guru, Craig Roman of Dobbies Garden Centres, explains how…
Put your kitchen waste to good use
1GET A BIN Compost bins start at around £20. Plastic bins usually have a door at the front so compost can be removed without disturbing the whole heap. Wooden bins are more suited to large plots and decorative bins are ideal if you have a small garden and your compost heap will be on show. You could always make your own container from old pallets – just make sure it’s rainproof, lets air in and allows drainage.
2 PUT IT IN POSITION Your site should be level, well-drained and ideally on bare soil to give easy access to worms, who helpfully break down the contents. Make sure it’s sheltered – you need the compost to retain warmth for the contents to rot down well. Don't position it in full sun, as this will dry out the compost.
3 BUILD IT UP Veg peelings, fruit scraps, prunings, grass clippings, coffee grounds and teabags are ‘greens’, which rot quickly and provide moisture. Collect kitchen scraps in a caddy lined with a biodegradable bag you can pop into the composter whole. You’ll also need ‘browns’, such as crushed egg shells (great for deterring slugs and snails), paper and card, and straw; these provide fibre and allow air pockets to form. You’ll need to keep your ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ balanced. The Royal Horticultural Society suggests 25–50% green materials. If your compost is too wet you need more ‘browns’, and vice versa, to stop the compost becoming too dry or too soggy.
4 DON'T BUNG EVERYTHING ON IT Cooked food, meat and fish will attract rats, so don’t put them in the compost. Never add pet waste, ashes or non-biodegradeable materials. Also, don’t add diseased plants. Use a garden fork or shovel to turn your compost once a month, to mix up the matter and add air.
5 BE PATIENT Compost takes between six months and two years to reach maturity. It’s ready once it’s dark and crumbly with a strong earthy smell.
‘use the compost to enrich your vegetable plot, plant up patio containers or feed your grass’
A beehive-style compost bin is perfect for the bottom of the garden 'composting is a cheap and eco-friendly way to turn household waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden'