Compost is great for the garden – it helps to improve soil quality, lock in moisture, and keep those pesky weeds at bay. Although you can buy compost, making it in the garden is the most environmentally friendly way to deal with kitchen and garden waste. What’s more, composting is easy-peasy once you know how.

Here at Somerlap, we’re passionate about helping your garden thrive – and there’s no better way to keep it looking healthy than by making your own compost. Read on for our top tips on how to get started.

1. Choose a compost bin

To get started, you will need a compost bin. Look for one that retains moisture and warmth, but also allows airflow and has good drainage. You also need a way to get the compost out of the bin once it is ready, so choose a bin with a removable front, gate or hatch.

If you have pets, it’s also very important to choose an enclosed compost bin that they won’t be able to get into, as composting material can be highly toxic to animals.

We stock wooden compost bins that are built to order and can be made to any size – so, if you’re working with a specific space in mind, we can help you get the compost bin to fit.

2. Decide where to put your compost bin

Depending on the size of your garden, you might have a very specific spot in mind for your brand new compost bin, or so many options you’re not sure which way to go. A few helpful pointers when deciding on a home for your compost bin:

  • Choose a spot somewhere that’s level, with soil that has good drainage.
  • An area that’s slightly shaded and sheltered is ideal, as then your compost shouldn’t get too hot or wet.
  • If possible, choose somewhere that you can easily access from your home – that way, you’ll be more inclined to take a trip to the garden with your kitchen waste.

3. Gather materials for your compost

Composts work best with an equal mix of soft green materials (like kitchen waste and grass clippings) and woody brown materials (such as cardboard and straw). Green materials are moist and rich in nitrogen, which breaks down quickly. Dry brown materials are slower to rot, but contain carbon and create air pockets – essential for creating compost.

For the best results, try to keep the mix between these two types of materials roughly the same at any one time.

Soft green material (rich in nitrogen)

Start by collecting food scraps in a kitchen caddy. You can get a small, brown food recycling bin from your local council, or simply purchase your own. Good green materials to collect for composting include:

  • Grass clippings
  • Weeds (only annual weeds)
  • Fruit and vegetable kitchen waste
  • Used teabags and coffee grounds

Dry, brown woody material (rich in carbon)

When bin day comes around again, not all your recycling and garden waste has to go up the road – some of it can be used for compost. All these brown materials should be broken into relatively small pieces and added to your compost heap, including:

  • Cardboard (egg boxes, toilet rolls, cereal boxes, etc.)
  • Paper (newspapers, paper bags, non-glossy magazines, etc.)
  • Wood chippings
  • Cotton and natural fibres
  • Straw
  • Garden waste and hedge trimmings (shred first if it’s in large pieces)

What not to compost

There are some things you should avoid putting in your compost bin, such as:

  • Meat, fish and bones (as the smell will attract pests)
  • Fats and oils
  • Dairy
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Woody vegetables (such as stalks on Brussel sprouts)
  • Treated wood or sawdust

4. Start making compost

Once you’ve gathered enough materials, it’s time to start making your very own sustainable, homemade, nutrient-rich compost.

  1. Start by putting a layer of hay or straw in the bottom of your compost bin for drainage, then pile on your food waste – ideally, aim to make a 6-inch layer.

  2. Add water if the waste is a little dry, but be careful not to drown the micro-organisms that are going to help break down your waste efficiently.

  3. Next, add a layer of soil or manure to help introduce the heat that is needed to speed up the process. Then cover your waste pile with tarpaulin or plastic sheet.

  4. After 3 months, uncover and mix up the compost with a garden fork. This will introduce oxygen and speed up the process. Ideally this should be done every week, but it can be left for longer without harm.

  5. After another 3 months, your compost should be ready to use. You will know when it is ready as the material at the bottom will be dark brown, crumbly and soil-like, with an earthy, woodland smell.

  6. Remove the fresh compost – this is ready for use in your garden – and leave any non-composted material to continue decomposing in your compost bin.

5. Maintain your compost

Compost heaps require little maintenance, aside from keeping the composting materials topped up at regular intervals. After the first 3 months, it’s recommended to turn the heap periodically to aerate it. Use a garden fork to do this roughly every week, until the heap stops heating up and levels out at a regular temperature.

Your compost pile should be moist – not too wet and not too dry. If it is compacted and slimy, add more scrunched up woody material to create air gaps. If it is very dry, add more green materials, or mist it lightly with water when you turn it.

For composting and more, Somerlap has what you need

We stock high quality, sustainably sourced timber products – so whether you’re looking for your new compost bin or some other pieces to furnish your garden with, we can help. Contact us today to find out more, or visit us at our site in Mark, Somerset.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 8.00am – 4.30pm | Saturday: 8.00am – 12.30pm | Closed all bank holidays