Regular lashings of rich, nutritious compost really can transform your plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables from average to outstanding; and this is one case when home-made is definitely best. So no more excuses – why not start now ready for next season’s mulching? It’s easier than you think and all the ingredients are literally in your own back yard, especially now the trees are shedding their leaves.
Six Simple Steps
We’ve come up with the perfect recipe for making your own soil-enriching compost:
|Step 1 – Choose the right composter|
Step 2 – Build up layers
Good compost needs just two main ingredients: ‘brown’ and ‘green’. Heap on plenty of ‘brown’ materials (such as dead leaves and plants, straw or sawdust) and layer with ‘greens’ (grass mowings and any vegetable kitchen waste). Try to use more browns than greens as this will make your compost decompose better. This is a great way of recycling your food waste.
Step 3 – Make it moist
If the materials you use are fairly dry, water your compost heap from time to time to keep it ‘sponge-moist’. This helps the micro-organisms to sustain the decomposing process, but don’t over-wet or those valuable nutrients will be washed away.
Step 4 – Mix thoroughly
Air is important to the bio-degrading process. Like water, oxygen helps the bacteria to break down the waste. Oxygenate your compost by forking it over occasionally.
Don’t use diseased plants or tough weeds such as dandelions and couch grass; you’ll simply be spreading them back onto your garden later. Burn these, along with any twigs or large woody chunks that won’t decompose. Steer clear of anything containing chemicals, and don’t recycle meats or dairy products that could attract pests.
Step 6 – Ready to treat your garden
Your compost is complete when it looks dark and rich in colour, it should feel soft and crumbly in your hands and have a pleasant earthy smell. This normally takes around 6 months but if a few larger bits are left these will continue to decompose on your garden. Use your finished compost for beds, borders and shrubs as well as the kitchen garden (but be careful not to use unfinished compost for growing seedlings as the active micro-organisms will damage tender roots).
Improve your soil by forking in about a bucket of compost per square metre, digging to a depth of about 6“and being careful not to damage plant roots. Compost can also be used as mulch over the surface of the soil; protecting exposed plant roots from the sun, retaining moisture and releasing goodness deep into the soil