Making compost to enrich your garden soil is a really easy thing to do, and your home-grown vegetables and flowers will reward you with bigger crops, healthier foliage and blooms.

Adding well-rotted compost to the soil in your garden is beneficial for your plants. Not only does it enrich the soil with nutrients needed for healthy plant growth, but it also improves the soil structure, adding loam which means the soil will retain moisture for longer during periods of dry weather. Healthier plants will also be more resilient against pests and disease.

What can I use to make compost?

  • Vegetable peelings and uncooked vegetable waste - but not carrot as this will attract Carrot Fly
  • Fruit peelings
  • Lawn clippings can be used, but if you've got a lot of clippings try adding some shreds of newspaper. Doesn't have to be neat, just torn will do, it keeps the natural compost process sweet and stops it stagnating
  • spent potting compost
  • General weeds, but avoid adding the seed, or roots of things like Dandelion, Doc, Nettles, Bindweed, Etc. as these will all regrow and then appear wherever you use the compost!
  • Old plants - but nothing woody as this will take too long to rot down.

Making the compost bin

If you don't have the time, or are not happy with the DIY approach, obviously you can buy a compost bin from a garden Centre, hardware store or online. However Making a composter can be easy and relatively cheap. I made my compost bin, a double bay affair, using left over wooden planks from a decking project. I left a 5mm gap between the planks on the sides and back (the compost process will stagnate and smell if not allowed to breathe) which are fixed sides, the front planks are able to slide down the channels so they can be removed when it's time to turn or use the compost. 

Wooden Compost Bin
Credit: Alex Mckay

To make this you will need 4 uprights about a metre high, the front uprights should have slots so that the boards can be removed so the compost can easily be dug out. You could use decking boards or gravel boards screwed to the sides and back, the front ones slide down the slotted posts.

I throw in my kitchen veg and fruit scraps, lawn clippings from both my lawns, old cardboard eggboxes, weeds Etc. throughout the year, and in the spring I skim off the top unrotted material to reveal the lovely well-rotted compost below. I fill a trench of it for my Runner Beans, dig it in to my veg patch, mulch my flower beds, and make my tomato beds up in the greenhouse with it. The unrotted material I skimmed off, gets put back in the bottom of the composter ready to be the start of next years compost.

It works best if it is located on bare soil, so the worms and good bacteria from the soil can get in to help the process. There are 'accelerator' products that can be bought to add to the mix to speed up the process but my personal view is that it's best to let it age naturally. A happy compost system doesn't smell obnoxious, there should be little  or no smell unless disturbed and even then it should be mildly earthy and sweet. If it is smelly then add some ripped up newspaper or shredded cardboard boxes or eggboxes, and during summer it can help to add some water to stop it drying out! Other than that it is a really simple process, needing little effort - only to remember to save your kitchen peelings to add to it, and when your plants feel the benefit you will reap the rewards!