A compost heap not only enables you to produce your own compost, it also gives you somewhere to dispose of your garden and kitchen waste. Whether you buy a ready-made compost bin, make your own, or just create a heap in your garden, the rewards for both you and your garden will be great. Garden Planters provides a few tips on creating and using a successful compost heap.
How to pick the right spot for your compost heap
The site you choose should have good air circulation all around it; it should be out of direct sunlight, the wind and the worst of the rain. The base should be bare earth so that worms can penetrate the compost. In order to work effectively and kill off weed seeds the compost heap should be moist but not too wet and have good air circulation. An old carpet spread over the top will keep out too much rain and ventilation can be improved by adding air holes or making the compost bin out of slatted wood.
You can add a compost activator such as chicken manure which will speed up the process, but leaving it to do its own thing is also fine, it just takes a bit longer. Having more than one compost heap or bin helps as you can be filling up a second while the first one gets on with the process of decomposing the waste.
What can you put on the compost heap?
Any soft vegetable matter from your garden is ideal. However, try to avoid virulent perennial weeds as the seeds are often difficult to decompose and you will only spread them to the rest of your garden. Also, try to avoid hard woody matter such as rose or tree prunings as these also don't compost well.
Uncooked kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings and tea bags are also effective. Fresh coffee granules will act as an activator. Don't try and compost meat products though as you will only attract rats. Small amounts of grass cuttings can be added, but be careful, too much and you will turn it into a slimy mush. Fresh bonfire ash or sawdust can also be added.
Dung from herbivores such as horses and chickens is also good. And believe it or not, human urine is brilliant for compost - yes, peeing on your compost heap can actually speed up the process!
Remember never to add any diseased material to your compost, you will only spread the disease later.
Looking after your compost heap
Stuff on the outside of a compost heap rots much slower than the material in the hot centre of, so it is very important to turn your compost heap regularly. Start turning your compost a few weeks after you have finished adding material to it. If you have a large space, it might also be worth transferring the whole heap to another location, mixing and turning it as you go.
Good compost when ready can be put to many uses in the garden. Use as a mulch in early spring to keep down weeds and help with water retention during warm weather. You can also use your compost to fill outdoor planters when you are ready to plant up your spring and summer arrangements. Whatever uses you find for it, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have created an organic growing medium all your own and done your bit for recycling in the process.