Making a compost heap

With the price of waste disposal going up all the time, now is probably as good a time as any to think about starting your own compost heap. The art of making good garden compost is a 100% environmentally friendly process that turns organic kitchen and garden waste into a useful, nutritional, soil like product that can be used all around the garden for mulching and soil improvement.
   Traditionally compost heaps were square containers made up of old planks of wood but if you find that these are unsuitable for your garden or if your garden only produces a small amount of waste then there are smaller plastic bins available which work just as well. To make good garden compost organic material should be build up the in the heap in roughly six inch layers. These layers should then be dampened and covered with a few shovels of soil to help to promote useful bacteria. The layers of organic waste should continue to be built up in this way up until the pile reaches about a meter high at which point it should be covered with a two inch layer of soil and left to mature for about six months. When the six months has passed the compost in the heap should be dark brown, crumbly, soil-like and ready for use in the garden.
   One of the most common questions asked in relation to compost making is, what materials can I add to my compost heap? The answer to this is pretty much any organic waste that is generated by the garden or kitchen. Like most things in life, the key to making good garden compost is finding the right balance. In an ideal world your compost heap should contain a good mixture of garden prunings such as leaves, twigs and light branches along with softer nitrogen based materials such as grass clippings and kitchen waste. While it is not a good idea to allow one material to dominate the heap it is generally OK to add whatever garden waste is available at a particular time of year.

The ingredients of a good compost heap
Do Add Don't Add
  • Lawn Clippings (Shouldn't make up more than half the heap)
  • Uncooked kitchen waste (Tea bags, eggshells, fruit and veg peelings)
  • Dead leaves
  • Hedge clippings
  • Shredded paper
  • Annual weeds
  • Old bedding plants
  • Cooked food waste
  • Diseased plants
  • weeds with roots or seed heads
  • Dog or cat waste
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.