Our gardens and especially vegetable plots, respond beautifully to the addition of organic matter, so we thought we’d share some tips on how to start home composting. With our green waste disposal collection suspended for the moment, we have an opportunity to see the potential of our garden waste, as it can be a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to keep your garden in great shape.

You may opt to buy a plastic or wooden compost bin, but this is not at all necessary, as many creative gardeners make home-made wire cages or fashion reclaimed wood pallets into bins to store their compost. Ideally you would have three compost bins, allowing one to be a work in progress, with layers of organic matter steadily accruing, one complete bin, which will be maturing into a lovely grade of compost, and the third for dispensing the matured compost ready to be scattered around the garden.

Rather than simply tipping the grass clippings into the bin and waiting a few weeks, there is a little bit more required to achieve the most effective compost. Too much of any single ingredient can cause complications, so it is probably best we start with some basic rules:
1) Layer up – try to alternate green waste like grass clippings with brown waste, such as hedge trimmings (preferably shredded), straw, scrunched up paper or cardboard. Avoid putting any meat and dairy products in, as well as nappies, cat litter and dog poo
2) Cover up – heat is an important part of the decomposition cycle, so a plastic sheet, piece of old carpet or anything else insulating on the top of your compost heap will help the magic occur. If your heap doesn’t heat up to a high enough temperature, some weed seeds and plant diseases can survive the process so keep poorly plant material and the seedy end of weeds out
3) Breathing space – plenty of air within the heap allows the bacteria and fungi to work overtime in breaking down your waste. When your first bin is full, ‘turn’ the compost by transferring it to the next of your three bins

Good composting ingredients include highly nutritious weeds, such as nettles, dandelion leaves and comfrey, which provides plenty of nutrients and accelerates the breakdown of other ingredients. If your heap is slow to decompose or consists of a little too much green waste relative to brown waste, consider adding a compost accelerator. There are both liquid and pelleted versions available, with well-known brands including Garotta and Maxi-crop.

Top tip
If your compost heap is smelly then something is not quite right, so you need to turn it over more frequently to increase the amount of airflow, shifting the balance away from anaerobic bacteria doing the digestion and encourage non-smelly aerobic breakdown.