Garden Oasis’ Definitive Guide to Composting

Autumn is a bittersweet season for us gardeners. As work winds down, the leaves begin to fall, and we witness a year’s worth of relentless effort and care, fade into a pile of wet leaves.

But it’s not all bad… Admittedly, we could probably do with the break, and the fallen autumn leaves are a spectacular sight. Besides, work isn’t completely over yet. If used correctly, these beautifully rusty leaves (and other garden waste) have the power to enrich your garden and you can reap the benefits from as early as next spring.

So all you do is collect your waste and add it to your compost bin, right? Almost. That’s the basis, although we’ve seen some questionable heaps in our time. Follow this guide to guarantee successful composting, which is jam-packed with nutrients and minerals.

                1.    When and where?

Although you can make compost all year round, the peak time for compost production is late summer to early winter. This is due to the amount of rich composting materials available in the garden.

Your compost bin shouldn’t be exposed to extreme temperatures or excessive moisture. Bacteria and fungi – the microorganisms that convert the garden waste to compost – perform better in consistent environments. 

It is advised to choose a well-covered area of your garden, but if this isn’t possible, choose an area with at least light shading.
                2.    What compost bin should I use?

The most important feature of any compost bin is that it retains warmth and a little moisture. They need to provide shelter from extreme weathering, whilst still allowing drainage and ventilation. The compost bin shouldn’t be less than 1 cubic m in size, as it will be much less effective.

If this is your first batch of compost, check out our range of compost bins here.
                3.    Materials and conditions

The ideal ratio to make a successful batch of compost is around 1 part soft green manure to 3 parts of woody brown material. Depending on the richness and moistness of your green material, it might be closer to half and half.

It’s the green manure that feeds the microorganisms, which can come in the form of grass clippings, leafy plants and vegetables. The brown materials can either be a collection of hedge trimmings, wood chipping, straw or even paper.

We’ve already mentioned some of the ideal conditions for microorganisms to thrive, but we want to give you a complete picture. Your compost bin should be a consistent temperature, slightly moist, warm, well ventilated, sheltered from heavy downpours, and the optimum balance of green to brown waste.  


                4.    What does ‘turning the heap’ mean?

It simply means moving the compost heap around in order to add air to your mixture. 

Turning the mixture provides a good opportunity to check the moisture levels of your heap. If it’s too wet the composting process will take much longer and it could also lead to compaction. Similarly, if you’ve experienced a prolonged period of dry weather, make sure you check for dry compost too.

For an average size compost bin, we suggest turning your compost heap around once a month.

                5.    When will my compost be ready?

It’s difficult to give you an exact time, but generally composting takes anywhere between six months and two years. 

Mature and ready to use compost will transform into a dark brown material, similar in texture and appearance to regular soil.

Common Problems & Solutions

                ·      My pile of leaves wont break down

Simple solution = add more nitrogen in the form of green manure. Slow rotting compost is usually caused by a lack of moisture. If you want to speed up the process because you’re already behind, try using an activator or accelerator.

Another thing to help ensure a successful compost heap is to grind or shred your leaves. It’s a bit like defrosting your dinner before you heat it; you’re just giving it a helping hand and speeding up the process. Check our leaf shredders here.

                ·      My compost is too wet and strong-smelling

Often the cause of slimy compost is too little air and too much moisture but luckily it should be pretty simple to correct. Just ensure that the heap is fully covered from the rain and add more dry, ‘brown’ waste, such as, straw, paper or a woody material.
We hope you’ve found our guide to composting helpful, and we are sure if you follow this guide you’ll have success, even for all you beginners! If you start the process now, there is a good chance it’ll be ready for spring!