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How to make nutrient-rich compost

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Composting is an inexpensive process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into free nutrient-rich food for your garden. It is easy to maintain and helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Organic waste that is sent to landfill will release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere when it starts to decompose. This is because oxygen can’t get to it to help the breakdown process. But, when we put this same waste into our composter, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically. And, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden.

Alternatives to a compost bin

You can make a composter out of a few old pallets or planks of wood cut to size. Using mesh wire and four stakes will also make a great solid container for compost. You will also need a sheet of plastic to keep the rain and unwelcome visitors out.

The best place for your DIY composter or compost bin is on an open soil base so that air, moisture, worms, insects and microbes can help with the decomposition process. A good mix of worms is a sign you have a healthy composter.

Try and position your composter so that it gets some shade in the summer months as this will prevent it from drying out. According to the council website, they recommend adding layers of scrunched up cardboard to create air pockets. But, it is also important to get the balance right of what goes into your composter.

What can you compost?

You need more or less an equal combination of ‘browns’ (high carbon) and ‘greens’ (high nitrogen)

  • Browns: bits of cardboard, scrunched up paper, dried leaves, wood shavings
  • Greens: uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings, garden waste (grass cuttings, green leaves, and soft prunings) as well as tea bags and coffee grounds.

If the mixture gets too dry, add water and if it is too wet, add some more browns such as egg cartons or cardboard. Turning your compost will help speed up the decomposition process but is not essential.

The following must not be added

  • cooked food
  • fish and meat including bones
  • perennial weeds
  • diseased plants
  • cat and dog faeces

Tips for composting

If you have more grass clippings than other material to put in, add a layer of rolled up newspaper balls which will help add carbon into the mix.

To help speed-up decomposition, chop up stems from shrubs and perennials into small pieces, before putting them in
and turn the compost every 2 or 3 months.

Compost will be ready when it is dark brown and gives off a nice earthy smell,. It also needs to be slightly moist with a crumbly texture. Homemade compost is fantastic for adding as a mulch to your garden beds and borders as it helps retain moisture in the soil, improves the structure of sandy or clay soil and adds nutrients. It also encourages worms, micro-organisms and beneficial bacteria (which are vital for a balanced ecosystem) to keep your garden healthy.

You can also add your compost to potted plants. Just remove the top 5cm of soil and replace with the same amount of compost to give plants an extra boost. When potting new young plants it is best to mix compost with equal parts of soil.

If you are planting in a sunny area of your garden, give plants the best chance by digging your well matured compost into the soil before planting. The organic matter will help the soil retain moisture.

The Grumpy Gardener has the perfect garden hand tool for scooping the well matured compost out of your bin and for digging compost into potted plants, flowerbeds and around trees.

The Digamathing hand trowel is made from durable and tough stainless steel to tackle multiple gardening chores. It has sharp, serrated edges for easy cutting of fibrous roots and tubers. This hand trowel a range of soil textures with ease.

Happy composting – your garden will love it and the environment will appreciate your efforts at reducing landfill – as well as opting for a peat-free solution to a healthy garden.

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