Saturday 3 December 2016

Diarmuid Gavin's top tips on making compost for your garden

Do your garden and the environment a favour by turning organic waste into beautiful rich compost this autumn

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Garden compost
Garden compost

Autumn and winter are times of decay in our gardens. The summer borders become a memory, flowers fade, leaves fall and our jobs involve tidying up and cutting back growth. As a result, we generate a lot of garden waste - mostly organic waste matter.

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For many, especially in suburban plots, this waste is bagged or placed in the brown bin and shipped out to landfill sites. That's unfortunate, as much of our seasonal garden debris can easily be turned into beautiful rich, crumbly compost.

This material can feed our soil and garden plants, whereas if it goes to landfill sites (which are quickly filling up), it decays, producing tons of methane gas which leaks into the atmosphere causing great harm. So, by making compost at home, you reduce domestic material going into landfill by up to 30pc - and do your garden some good.

The compost we can produce from our garden - and some of our kitchen - waste makes exceptionally good soil conditioner. As the organic material breaks down, it forms a rich humus material, suited for use in beds and borders, pots and containers.

The easiest way to help turn the organic material into garden food is to make a compost heap. These come in all shapes and sizes - and you can buy ready-made containers - but the principles of making them are the same. Start by picking an appropriate site in the garden, out of sight but easily accessible. Then, create a simple construction of wooden pallets on three sides with a piece of old carpet on top.

To start the composting process, place a layer of small branches, twigs and leaves on the bottom of your new structure. Then, build up, layer after layer of green waste (vegetable peelings from the kitchen are super, along with the flowers which you've dead-headed). Every couple of layers, add a spread of garden soil which will already be infused with tiny organisms, ready to eat through the pile. Layers of light twigs and branches can be followed by another layer of garden topsoil - the trick is never to use too much of any organic waste matter in any layer.

Never use diseased leaves, flowers or wood. This type of material should be removed from the garden or burnt. The same goes for the roots of perennial weeds, such as couch grass or bindweed. They would love a fertile home in the new heap, but you would end up infecting the rest of the garden when you spread the new compost. Excellent materials to use include fruit, plant prunings, layers of lawn clippings, egg shells and old newspapers. Never introduce cooked food, especially meat or pet waste.

So, this autumn, as you tidy the garden you can multi-task by preparing some home-made feed for next year's planting.

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