Coronavirus At Home

Tips to home compost with garden waste

24 APR 20 | 6 minute read

Coronavirus is affecting many of Scotland’s waste and recycling services, and garden waste is one of the most heavily impacted collections alongside the temporary closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC). You can find out what services are impacted in your local area here.

Of course, we’re now entering that time of year when we’re out in the garden more often, doing essential maintenance and generating more garden waste in the process. One way to reduce your garden waste, save some money and do your bit for the environment all at the same time is to start home-composting.

Please do not burn your garden waste by starting bonfires, as the smoke can pose a risk to people’s health - particularly the vulnerable and those with respiratory problems who are required to stay at home at this time.  By not burning, everyone will be able to enjoy their garden during periods of nicer weather at this time.

What do I need to start home composting?

To start off you’ll need a closed composting bin - these can be bought online, and some DIY stores are currently offering a safe click and collect or delivery service.

We would always recommend using a compost bin, but if you can’t buy a compost bin, you can create an open compost pile for garden waste only. Remember not to add food waste to an open compost pile as this can attract vermin and avoid using paper or card as they can become a litter problem.

Did you know…
When garden waste goes to landfill it breaks down and produces a harmful greenhouse gas called methane, which contributes to global warming.

Step by Step to Home Composting

To make the best compost when using a bin, aim for a 50/50 mix of both green and brown materials. Green materials contain lots of nitrogen. They break down quickly and help keep the compost moist. Green materials include:

  • Cut flowers
  • Fruit scraps and vegetable peelings
  • Garden and house plants
  • Grass cuttings
  • Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
  • Young annual weeds

Brown materials contain lots of carbon. They break down more slowly and add structure to your compost. They also create air pockets which are important for air circulation. Brown materials include:

  • Paper items which can include scrunched up cardboard, egg boxes, toilet roll tubes, shredded letters, envelopes with the windows taken out
  • Straw and hay
  • Egg shells
  • The contents of your vacuum cleaner
  • Hedge and woody trimmings such as roses

What can’t I compost?

Please do not put the following materials in your compost bin:

  • Cooked food
  • Raw meat and fish (including bones)
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and bakery products
  • Diseased plants
  • Coal or coke ash (a small amount of wood ash is ok)
  • Cat or dog waste
  • Nappies, glass, plastic, or metal

It is important only the right materials go into your compost bin. Keep using your general waste bin and any recycling services available to you for all other waste.

Setting up your compost bin

Closed compost bins are popular, as they keep everything neat and tidy. Find a bin that’s about waist height - too small and you might find that the composting process doesn’t work as well.

Pick your site – ideally a sunny spot on bare soil, however not too sunny so it doesn’t get too warm and dry out. If you must put your compost bin on concrete or slabs then add a layer of paper, twigs and existing compost on the bottom to help attract worms and other helpful organisms. Once you’ve started filling your compost bin it won’t be so easy to move so you’ll also want to make sure you choose a place where you can easily add ingredients to the bin and get the compost out.

It’s a waiting game

It will usually take over a year for your compost to become ready for use, so now all you need to do is wait and let nature do all the hard work. Keep on adding greens and browns to top up your compost and stir the pile now and again to help aerate the compost, helping it to ‘cook’ faster and stop it from becoming matted down. Don’t worry if you can’t stir the pile - it will just take a little longer but will get there eventually.

Ready to feed your garden

Once your compost has turned into a crumbly, dark material, resembling thick, moist soil and gives off an earthy, fresh aroma, it's ready to use. Lift the bin slightly or open the hatch at the bottom and scoop out the fresh compost with a garden fork, spade or trowel.

Don't worry if your compost turns out a little lumpy with twigs and bits of eggshell, it’s perfectly normal for it not to look like the compost you buy in the shops – it is homemade after all. Any larger bits can be sifted out and returned to your compost bin for next time.

Your fresh compost is nutrient-rich food for your garden and will help improve soil structure, maintain moisture levels and feed your plants. It has everything your plants need, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and much needed carbon. Compost improves your soil's condition and your plants and flowers will love it!

Using your compost

Use in flower beds to help your new plants and flowers bloom by digging a 10cm layer of compost into the soil before planting. If your flowers have already been planted, just spread a thin layer of compost-enriched soil around the base of the plants. Nutrients will work their way down to the roots and your plants will enjoy a healthy boost.

You can mix home compost with regular soil or leaf mould to create your own potting mixture for patio containers. About a third of the mix should be compost, slightly less when you are planting seeds - homemade compost is too strong to use on its own for planting into directly.

Dressing your lawn with compost helps young grass take root and can make your garden healthier and greener. First, you'll need to sieve the compost and remove any large twigs or any other items that have not broken down. Next, mix it with an even amount of sharp sand to compost as this will allow it to spread more easily. You will need a thin layer spread evenly over the lawn.

Mature lawns can really benefit from this little extra kick of nutrients but be aware that newly seeded or turfed lawns can be scorched by it.

That’s it. Easy, rewarding, good for the environment and the pocket.

What next?

If you have any questions, hopefully we’ll have the answers on our FAQs page. We’ve got some useful tips and guidance below to help you manage your waste. And thank you for doing your bit in a really difficult time.

Did you find this useful?

Give it a thumbs up and help spread the word by sharing.