Composting Essentials

Composting conveniently disposes of your garden cuttings and trimmings while also creating a wonderful soil improver. It can be as simple as throwing all your waste into a pile, but you'll get better results if you follow a few guidelines.
Compost Bin in Small Garden

Compost Bin in Small Garden

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

From: DK Books - How to Grow
Similar Topics:

Choosing a Bin

Standard plastic compost bins (Image 1) are functional rather than attractive, but they do hold lots of garden and kitchen waste. They are also the most inexpensive, and can often be bought at a discounted price through your local supplier. If you are concerned about how your compost bin fits in with the rest of your garden, there are more attractive options, including wooden bins designed to look like beehives that can be stained to suit your garden design (Image 2). These are a good choice for smaller gardens where the bin would be on view. Impatient gardeners may prefer "tumbler" bins (Images 3-5). These allow you to make small batches of compost in weeks, not months, by turning the bin to increase airflow, which naturally speeds up the composting process.

Filling Your Bin

To produce good compost it is important to have the right mix of ingredients. If you add too much soft, green material, such as grass clippings, the heap may turn into a slimy, smelly sludge. Put in too much dry, woody material, and it will rot down slowly, if at all. Ideally, aim for a ratio of about 50:50. During most of the year, it is likely that you will be producing more green than dry material, so you will need to look around for dry waste to add. Woody prunings are best, but brown cardboard, crumpled newspaper, and even the insides of used toilet paper rolls all make suitable alternatives.

Top of the Heap

Top of the Heap

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Quickening the Pace

Air is essential to the composting process, so the contents must be turned regularly to ensure good airflow throughout your bin or heap. Turning also allows you to check how things are going, to wet the mix if it is too dry, or to add dry material if it is too wet. This task is easier if you have two bins, but if you only have one, simply empty it out onto a tarpaulin, mix the contents well, then refill the bin.

Air is Essential to Composting Process

Air is Essential to Composting Process

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tip: Bokashi Composting

Cooked foods, meat and fish should never be composted in an ordinary bin because they attract rats and harmful bacteria. Instead, compost this type of waste using the Japanese bokashi system. This involves using a special sealed bin that you fill in layers, each one sprinkled with bran dust, inoculated with microorganisms. The content of the bin then effectively pickles, and after about two weeks, it can be emptied out and buried in the garden or added to the compost heap. This method also produces a liquor that can be diluted and used as a liquid feed.

Bokashi Bin Composting System Uses Cooked Food

Bokashi Bin Composting System Uses Cooked Food

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Next Up

Making Compost

This crumbly, soil-like material improves soil texture by increasing the drainage of heavy clay soils and the water and nutrient retention of light, sandy soils.

Make a Composting Bin

A homemade composting bin is just as good as a bought one, and you can make it whatever size and shape best suits your garden and the quantity of material you want to compost.

Create Compost With a Wormery

Inside a wormery, worms break down kitchen waste and turn it into rich compost. They can even cope with scraps, such as cooked food. Wormeries are available from specialist suppliers.

How to Make a Garden Compost

Save money and the environment with these simple steps for creating a natural fertilizer.

How to Brew Compost Tea

Follow these simple step-by-step instructions to brew your own compost tea, ideal for nourishing plants.

How to Compost Kitchen Waste

Although it's becoming easier to recycle food and beverage packaging, most of our domestic waste still goes into the trash. Reduce the amount of garbage you throw away by composting your kitchen food waste.

How to Make Compost

With the right technique, making organic compost can be an easy, eco-friendly way to nourish plants.

How to Compost Indoors

Even in the middle of winter, you can still collect compostable materials.

How to Clear and Compost Leaves

Learn how to clear unwanted leaves from your lawn and turn them into a rich compost for use as a soil conditioner or adding to potting soil.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.