Celebrating National Compost Week

The benefits of composting, learn about it during Compost Week.

This week (14th-20th March) is national Compost Week in the UK. This is all about celebrating the benefits of composting for both your household and the environment. So, we’ve put together some information about composting and what it can do for you.

Normally when we use the word ‘decompose’, it doesn’t tend to have very positive connotations. But in this context, it is actually a very good thing. Composting is simply the very natural process of using your decomposed garden and household waste to help give your soil a little something extra to grow. It can act both as a soil conditioner that gives your plants essential nutrients and retain moisture and is also a great way of recycling waste and looking after the environment. Statistically speaking, composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste out of general waste and away from landfill sites.

What can you use to make compost?

Quite a lot actually! To make good compost, it is recommended that you use a 50:50 mix of materials that contain lots of nitrogen and carbon. Things like grass clippings, weeds, teabags, and fruit and veg peelings are rich in nitrogen, so are great to use for compost. Carbon, in contrast, can be found in brown materials like cardboard and woody stems – so you can use household items like egg boxes, loo rolls, loosely scrunched newspaper, paper towels and bags. As well as more natural materials like prunings, hedge trimmings, eggshells, natural fibres like wool or cotton, straw and sawdust.

Things to remember when composting

When composting, it is important to remember that you need to have a proper balance of materials for everything to decompose properly. Therefore, when composting freshly cut grass clippings, you need to make sure that your compost bin includes the likes of dry leaves – which you will have removed from your lawn during the autumn months. Alternatively, if you have allowed your grass clippings to dry out completely before you add them to your compost bin then there is less importance on including leaves. This is because dry cuttings are classed as brown waste, and it is the balance of the green and brown waste that makes for good compost.

When composting residential lawn clippings, the weed killer applied to the lawn may affect the capacity to compost the clippings, which can be for an extended period, so you need to follow the instructions on the product label. A failure to do so will significantly increase the chances of contamination of the compost bin. It is this contamination that will pose a threat to plants that receive the compost, impacting the ability of seeds to germinate and plants to grow healthily.

Other items to steer clear of include:

  • Cooked food
  • Pet waste
  • Raw meat
  • Dairy products
  • Citrus

How to compost

You know what needs to go into your compost, but how do you make it?

First thing is to start your compost pile. You want to do this outside on bare earth, as this will better allow worms and other organisms to naturally carry out the process of aerating the compost. Next, you’ll want to add a layer of twigs or straw to further facilitate aeration and drainage.

Add your compost materials in layers. You’ll want to alternate between moist and dry here. Moist ingredients are your food scraps and tea bags etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, and sawdust. Then it’s time to add your nitrogen source. This is your grass trimmings, weeds and plant-based waste.

Make sure you’re keeping your compost moist. As it’s the UK, for most of the year the rain will do the job nicely. But as we are now entering springtime and warmer and dryer weather is on the horizon, just make sure you give it a watering occasionally.

To avoid overwatering from rain, you should be keeping your compost covered. So, if you’re not keeping your compost in a composting bin, now is the time to cover it. You can use anything from wood to plastic sheeting, or even carpet scraps. Covering your compost helps it retain both moisture and heat, which are two essentials for healthy compost. As a rule of thumb, the compost should be moist, not sodden.

With that, you’re done! Remember to give the pile a quick turn every few weeks or so with a pitchfork or shovel to aerate it. This adds oxygen, which is required for the composting to work. When it comes to adding new materials, add by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers to help with the aeration.

Composting is a great way of helping the planet and giving your garden an extra boost. To give your lawn and garden the best possible treatment year-round, find your nearest TruGreen business to start your very own professional lawn care programme today.