In part 1 we started talking about the benefits of making your own compost, and touched on some of the composter options available – including our own brilliant composters. This time, we’re going to look in more detail at how to start producing compost, what you can add, and how to work with the composter. We’ll also suggest how you can use the fruits of your labour.

Starting your own bin

Good compost is a matter of balance. A general rule is to have an equal mix of brown and green material. Brown things like ripped up cardboard, loo rolls, scrunched paper, twigs, and pruning waste are all great. Mix with things like uncooked veg peelings, fruit, grass clippings and so on and you should start to see the magic happen.

What to put in

It might be easier to tell you what you can’t put in… don’t put in anything that is manmade. Don’t add things like glass, plastic, or metal as this will never break down. Also, don’t add anything cooked, nor dog or cat excrement. These can actually be composted but it’s best to leave this type of work to the serious professionals as a heated composter is required to make sure the parasites in the faeces are completely destroyed. Just to clarify, a bog-standard home composting system cannot cope with such matter. It’s also worth adding that rotting meat and dairy may well attract garden visitors you’d rather not contend with. Rats, and mice can be very difficult to get rid of once they are established.

Other than what not to put in, you can add all sorts of weird and wonderful things you may not have thought of. Hair (human and pet), vacuum dust (but not if you have synthetic carpet), weeds, fire ash, and even toilet roll tubes can all go in the composter.


Work with your composter

Your compost bin or heap should never smell bad. The trick to creating the perfect mini eco system is to have the right balance. You may need to experiment a bit with the mix until you have it right. You can just chuck all the stuff you want to compost in without paying much attention, but the process can take longer to work than adding balanced layers. Composters placed on soil in full sun work best and fastest but composters will work pretty much anywhere.

How to use your compost

You can use your own home grown compost anywhere you would have used store-bought. Although it might look a little different from its bagged and shop-ready counterparts, home-grown compost is just as brilliant for all your growing needs. Use it as a thick mulch in wintertime, spread it around the roots of shrubs and plants in the spring, use in conjunction with standard topsoil to grow potted plants, and mix with vermiculite to get your seeds going. Before you get your supply under control in terms of how much you can produce and how often, you might want to supplement with a store-bought option. Once you’ve become a composting pro, there will be no stopping you.