Benefits of composting
Composting is beneficial to you, the council, and the environment:
- Saves you money on buying compost
- Reduces plastic packaging and car miles when purchasing compost
- Protects the planet by reducing waste sent for disposal
- Limits the amount of peat used, a natural resource in decline
- Provides a habitat for minibeasts and worms and creates a food resource for hedgehogs and birds
- It is good for the garden as it feeds plants and helps control diseases
- It helps maintain healthy plant growth. Composts are soil-enriching and provide essential nutrients
- Improves soil structure and health
How home composting works
Compost is easy to make and use. You want to aim for a good mix of both ‘green’ and ‘brown’ material.
- Green materials include plant cuttings, weeds, grass cuttings, hedge clippings, cut flowers, animal manure with straw, fruit and vegetable peelings
- Brown materials include autumn leaves, cardboard, egg boxes, eggshells, paper bags, wool, straw, and used kitchen roll
Avoid putting dog poo, cat litter, cooked food, bones, plastic packaging, and coal ash in your compost bin.
The success of your compost will also be dependent on the environment you provide for the microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and worms) that help these brown and green materials rot down.
A good composting environment needs four things:
- Air: oxygen for aerobic decomposition
- Water: essential to live
- Shelter: protection from the elements and provide a home
- Warmth: the warmer microorganisms are, the more they will feed and reproduce
It will take around a year for your compost to be ready to use. It will be dark brown, slightly moist with a crumbly texture and smell earthy. Expect it to have twigs and bits of eggshell in it. It may not look like shop bought compost, but it is good to use. When the materials are added gradually, it is known as cold composting as the temperatures reached in the compost bin are lower.
Larger bits can be sifted out and returned to your compost bin if they need a bit longer to break down.
Compost bins for small spaces
A wormery is a small container housing a colony of special worms, which digest cooked food scraps and small amounts of garden waste. Wormeries produce a small amount of compost and a liquid, which forms a concentrated plant food. They are self-contained and require no access to the soil. You can buy these online at Get Composting or make your own.
Wormeries can be used to compost cooked and uncooked food waste and are a practical alternative to compost bins, especially if you have limited space and only produce small amounts of waste.
Other types of composting
Hot composting is traditionally done where there is more space and larger volumes of materials available for composting. For hot composting to work, enough green and brown materials should be gathered to fill the composting bin or bay in one go.
Equal volumes of green, nitrogen-rich materials must be layered with brown, carbon-dense materials. The moisture level is very important. Add a little water as you layer up the materials.
After this, the heap should be covered. Within a few days the temperature will increase. Typically, the temperature will remain hot for one to two weeks before cooling. When the temperature drops, turn the materials to introduce oxygen. This should cause the temperature to rise again. Repeat this process a couple of times.
Leave the finished compost to mature for 1-3 months. Due to the consistently high temperatures, this process forms compost much quicker than cold composting.
Community composting sites often use hot composting. This is where residents within a defined area take their garden waste to be composted on a specific, designated local site. Visit our community composting page for information on how to set up your own project.