Building a Good Compost Heap


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A beginner's guide to building a compost heap, with top tips, budget ideas, and a step by step process.

Composting is a great way to turn food scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich soil for your plants. It’s also an easy and inexpensive way to reduce your household waste and support a healthy garden. In this article, we’ll give you a guide to building a good compost heap, along with some top tips and the benefits of having one.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Compost Heap

  1. Choose a site: Select a well-draining, level area that’s easy for you to access. Avoid placing it too close to your house, as compost can produce unpleasant smells.
  2. Collect materials: Gather a mix of ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials. Browns include dead leaves, twigs, and newspaper. Greens include fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and fresh garden waste. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oils, as these can attract pests and stink your garden up.
  3. Build layers: Start with a layer of browns, followed by a layer of greens. Keep adding layers until the heap is about 3 feet high, if you have the space.
  4. Water: Water each layer as you go to keep it moist. The compost should be damp, but not soggy.
  5. Turn: After a few weeks, use a garden fork to turn the compost. This helps to mix the materials and allows air to circulate, which speeds up the decomposition process.
  6. Repeat: Keep adding layers of browns and greens and turning the heap every few weeks. Over time, the compost will break down into rich, crumbly soil.


Top Tips

  • Chop up large materials into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition.
  • Mix materials well to ensure good aeration and moisture.
  • Cover the heap with a tarp or lid to retain moisture and warmth, and prevent pests.
  • Add any worms you find to your compost.
  • Use a compost thermometer to monitor the temperature. The ideal temperature for composting is between 135-160°F.
  • Add a handful of soil to the compost to introduce beneficial microorganisms.


Benefits of Composting

Saves money: Composting can save you money on natural fertilisers, soil conditioners, and mulch.

Improves soil health: Compost adds nutrients to the soil, improves soil structure, and increases water-holding capacity.

Supports healthy plants: Compost helps to suppress diseases and pests, and promotes healthy plant growth.


How to Compost on a Budget

Composting doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some tips for composting on a budget:

  • Use free materials: Collect leaves, twigs, and other organic materials from your garden or local area. 
  • Build your own bin: You can build a compost bin out of pallets, wire mesh, or even old rubbish bins.
  • Start small: If you’re new to composting, start with a small heap or bin. As you gain experience, you can increase the size.
  • Use kitchen scraps: Instead of buying expensive compost activators, use kitchen scraps like coffee grounds, eggshells, and vegetable peelings to introduce microorganisms.


Next steps for the Compost

  1. Harvest the compost: After a few months, the compost should be ready to use. The finished compost will be dark, crumbly and smell earthy. To harvest the compost, simply remove the top layer and set it aside. Then, use a garden fork to remove the finished compost from the bottom of the pile.
  2. Use the compost: Compost is a valuable resource for any garden. It can be used to improve soil fertility, retain moisture, and suppress weeds. It’s also a great way to recycle food and yard waste and reduce landfill waste. Spread the compost on your garden beds or mix it with potting soil for container gardening. The possibilities are endless!


In conclusion, building a good compost heap is easy and rewarding. By following these simple steps and tips, you can create a rich source of nutrients for your garden and reduce your household waste. Give it a try and see the difference it makes in your garden!

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