By following a few simple rules your kitchen and garden waste can be turned into earthy, sweet-smelling, moist, fibrous and pleasant compost-perfect for use in the rest of the garden.
The key to success is to keep the heap aerated and with a good mix of waste, to encourage aerobic bacteria, worms and other creepy crawlies to break down the material thoroughly. There are three basic ways of containing a compost heap:-
- Build a pen from wooden slats. Leave a gap of at least 4" between each slat to allow air to circulate. Cover with old carpet or a sheet of polythene to keep the rain out.
- Compost bins can be purchased at most garden centres.
- Use wire netting staked with posts.
- Stand the container on a soil base to allow drainage.
Any large volumes of grass clippings (or other single type of waste) will compact and exclude all air, resulting in anaerobic conditions and a slimy, smelly mess. To avoid this add thin layers of mixed waste (grass , leaves and vegetable peelings), with regular limy additions (crushed eggshells are ideal, or 1oz lime powder per layer), plus some garden soil which contains naturally occurring aerobic bacteria and the odd worm.
When green material is in short supply, the soil layers can be sprinkled with additional nitrogen or organic fertilizer to encourage bacterial breakdown. However do not use nitrogen on the same layers as lime, as the two counteract each other. Turning your heap every three months or so will speed up decomposition.
The compost should be ready to use after about six months, depending on the time of year and the nature of the material in the heap. A heap completed in October should be ready for use in April of the following year.
Do not add any meat or fish scraps, as they will attract vermin and smell dreadful as they rot.
You can find out more about home composting, and other recycling tips on the Recycle for Scotland website