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Getting started with composting

Many people think making compost at home is difficult, but all you need to do is provide the right ingredients and let nature work it's magic. You breakdown composting at home into four steps,

  • What can I compost?
  • Where to put your compost heap or bin?
  • How to make compost?
  • How to use it?

What can I compost?

You can comost a surprising amount of household waste. For best results, use a mixture of ingredients. The right balance is something you learn by experience, but a rough guide is to use equal amounts by volume of greens and browns (see below).


  • Grass cuttings
  • Uncooked fruit & vegetable peelings
  • Cuttings & punings
  • Young weeds
  • Teabags and coffee grounds
  • Cardboard such as cereal packets & toilet roll tubes
  • Woody prunings
  • Paper such as junk mail & bags
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Straw or vegetarian pet bedding

Some things, like grass mowings and soft young weeds, rot quickly. They work as 'activators', getting the composting started, but on their own will decay to a smelly mess.

Older and tougher plant material is slower to rot but gives body to the finished compost - and usually makes up the bulk of a compost heap. Woody items decay very slowly; they are best chopped or shredded first, where appropriate.

You can also compost wood ash in small amounts, egg shells, natural fibres like wool, cotton or hair.

Meat, dairy and cooked food can attract vermin and should not be home-composted. The same goes for cat litter, dog poo or nappies.

Where to put my compost heap or bin?

You don't have to have a compost bin to get started, you could have a compost heap with a cardboard or plastic cover. Bins are much neater and often easier to manage however. You can build your own bin, Garden Organic have a great guide, or you could buy one making the most of local discounts on a variety of different compost bins here. You could also grab a bargain on Freegle or similar sharing websites.

Whatever you go for, remember these top tips. Make sure your bin is:

  • easy to access
  • has a lid or cover, and
  • has no big gaps in the sides
  • put in a sunny or semi-shaded place
  • is on turf or soil

How do I make compost?

There are lots of ways to make compost and it will depend on the type of waste you will be putting in it. The simplest way is to just keep adding your waste as and when you feel like it. As long as you have a good mix of greens and browns it will compost eventually.

A 'cool' compost method is a simple way of creating compost by adding layers of material and leaving the bin to work it's magic. A 'hot' compost method will produce compost much quicker, but does require extra work. Garden Organic have a great breakdown of how to do both.

How do I use it?

It can take as much as a year or as little at 6 weeks to make compost, the more effort you put in the less time it takes.

When it's ready to use it should all be a darh brown colour, with a mild earthy smell. It should be moist like a damp sponge, you can add water if it is too dry, or more dry material it it's too wet.

You can either store it, as it will get better with age, or use it straight away. It's a great soil improve dug into your beds or pots and it is a great mulch to spread around plants to hold in moisture.

The RHS have a great website if you hit any problems

Remember there are fantastc discounts for Buckinghamshire residents on new compost bins & caddy liners.