Composting at Home
of the information in this section was kindly provided by David Riggle
of Stirling Council
at home is easy. Here is the recipe:
a generous amount of organic waste from your kitchen and/or garden
handful of earthworms (not essential but may be useful)
generous amount of air and moisture
smidgeon of goodwill
with insects, bacteria and fungi.
are various methods that you can use for composting. Choose the most
suitable one for your garden. Here are some of the options:
or pile: this is exactly what it sounds like - a heap of organic
waste in the garden. A heap is most suitable for larger gardens.
The size can be made to suit the individual, how large or small
they want to make it. Large piles are the fastest form of composting,
if regularly turned. Large piles,(1 cubic metre), can generate enough
heat to kill off some weed seeds and some plant diseases. The pile
can be covered with an old carpet to keep the rain out and the heat
or tumbler: plastic compost bins are available from most garden
centres and several Councils provide them at a discount price. A
tumbler is a similar bin, but is set on a metal frame so that you
can rotate the bin to aerate the compost. Both help keep the garden
tidy and clean. Plastic composters are best suited outdoor. The
tumbler is great if you are worried about vermin, pets or kids getting
into the compost.
Zealand Box: this type of composter is, again, available from most
garden centres and some councils provide them at a discount price.
are various kinds of composters that you can make at home. There
are plenty of good sites that tell you how to make and use your
own composter. Have a look www.dmoz.org/Home/Gardens/Soil_and_Additives/Compost/
for more information on how to build and use your own composter.
those who dare, click
here for a site that tells you how to build your own composting
methods of composting could involve the use of:
digesters: these reduce the quantity of food waste, but do not produce
good soil conditioner, so they have to be periodically emptied into
the dustbin or taken to the local civic amenity site.
these can look like other composting bins, but they use worms to break
down the waste, and produce high-quality fertiliser very quickly,
depending on the amount of worms and the size of the composter. These
need more maintenance than the other methods, so they are more suitable
if you have time to spare. For more information on composting with
worms, check out Vermicomposting.
Find a place to keep your composter.
all your suitable kitchen and garden waste - peelings, egg-shells, teabags
and leftovers from the kitchen and cuttings and leaves from the garden
are the best (see the table below for items suitable for composting).
and vegetable scraps
bags, coffee grounds
skins, orange peels
and Chip Papers
cuttings, grass, leaves
(shredded or torn and balled)
boxes, packaging (torn and balled)
coal or wood (in small amounts)
gone to seed
or large prunings (unless shredded or chipped)
newspaper or card
will know when the compost is ready when it becomes dark and crumbly.
Depending on the type of composting, 'hot composting' or 'cold' and
'high fibre composting', it can take anywhere up to a year. You can
then use it in your garden or add it to planters and pots for shiny
more information on composting in Scotland, visit the Scottish branch
of the composting
temperatures kill off weeds and plant pathogens.
difficult to maintain
- 3 months
all materials are required at the start
longer to compost
seed and plant pathogens can live
least 9 months to a year
is the easiest to maintain
nonrecyclable paper and cardboard
longer than hot composting
seed and plant pathogens can live
least a year possibly even more
"brown" (e.g. leaves, straw, small twigs etc) and "green"
(grass clippings and vegetable trimmings) materials, as well as cardboard, to make a pile.
the majority of material has been chopped or shredded.
up the heap or fill the box with 15cm (6 inches) of well watered "browns"
and 15cm of "greens" and mix the first two layers together.
Make sure material is moist but not sodden.
adding alternate levels until desired height is achieved or composter
from heavy rain and the compost should begin to heat up within hours.
With regular turning, you should have the finished product in 4 - 8
a 6 - 12 inch base of "browns" then add plenty layers of "greens".
materials as they arise then mix with a fork or stir with a broom handle
to increase air circulation.
make sure equal quantities of "browns" and "greens"
are added. This prevents slimy of odorous compost.
covered in heavy rain. If it gets too wet, add dry "browns"
and leave uncovered to encourage drying. Similarly if it is too dry,
may be produced if grass trimmings are added, but it won't stay for
long. Be prepared for worms and other decomposing insects to be present
in the compost. The finished product will be at the bottom in around
9 - 12 months.
same instruction as for 'cold' composting, although materials such as
balled or scrunched cardboard can be added..
pile must be kept moist but not soaking.
will start forming at the bottom of the composter after 12 months. Use
as required or keep adding materials to continue composting.
best conditions for composting are:
- 60% moisture
temperature of 30 - 60 degrees Centigrade or 90 - 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1 by weight.
other words, there are three basic elements that are required to be successful
to achieve optimum results add a mixture of tough materials (hedge trimmings,
straw) with softer materials (grass clipping, fruit and vegetable peelings).
It is vital that the moisture content is correct as if it is too wet
is becomes slimy and if it is too dry it will stop altogether.
Air is required by all the tiny organisms that make the compost, so
please stir the compost allowing air to circulate to keep the organisms
two most common problems that occur when people try to compost are that
the process is too slow/doesn't work at all and that it's smelly or slimy.
Either of these will be due to one or more of the above conditions not
enough moisture means that the microbes can't break down the waste, so
the composting will be slow, or may stop altogether. Too much moisture
also slows down the process and makes the compost smelly.
enough air means that the aerobic
composting organisms get suffocated and die while other organisms that
thrive in the absence of oxygen, anaerobic
bacteria, taken over. This produces ammonia, which is very smelly indeed
(like concentrated cow poo).
low a temperature slows down the composting process, which is why it is
always slower in the winter. Eventually, the microorganisms will make
heat as a natural by-product of the process, but insulated bins are available.
enough nitrogen in the compost heap will slow down the composting. If
there is too much, there will be smelly ammonia produced.
is another common question that people ask. For hot composting, it is
absolutely vital that you turn the compost to let in more air for the
microbes to use to break down the waste. If you do not, then the mixture
will get cold, and the process will be slower or become anaerobic. For
cold composting, it is not neccessary to turn the compost as often, but
it's still a good idea to do it once in a while, especially during the
spring and summer.
you have a heap, it's simple - just get in there with a pitchfork.
you are using a bottomless bin or box, then you've got to lift the container
so that all the material falls out of the bottom, and then give a good
mixing with the pitchfork and put it all back. An easier method is to
poke holes in it, the compost with a bit of plastic tubing or something.
you can buy a turning tool from garden centre. Original Organic and Blackwalls
make them. Some people swear by them, and they have the added bonus of
being temperature-sensitive so they will tell you if your compost is at
the right temperature.