A Beginner’s Guide to Composting

Any gardener will tell you that in order to have a beautiful outdoor space full of healthy plants, you will need to enrich your soil with a compost. Doing so will introduce essential nutrients to the earth which will aid the growth and development of your plants. You should decide whether to go out and buy compost, or to make your contribution to saving the planet by producing your own.

You may be surprised to learn that composting isn’t very difficult at all, and will generally take care of itself. First though, you should learn the basic rules of composting to prepare yourself for producing rich, effective compost. Doing so is not only more environmentally friendly than buying it from a shop, but it will also save you a lot of money in the long-run.

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How does composting work?

Compost is produced when organic materials break down to form an enriching agent. This can be made using household and garden waste items, but only a mixture of well-balanced organic items will produce an effective compost.

Items such as rotted fruits and vegetables, grass cuttings, flowers, newspapers, tea bags and coffee grounds are great to use for composting, and you should be sure to get the chemical balance right for an optimum, consistent temperature. That being said, you should refrain from adding plants or organic materials that are diseased in any way, as well as dairy products, cooked food, meats, and domestic animal waste. You should dispose of these things either by regular means or by purchasing a garden incinerator, which you can purchase from Argos with a same-day click and collect service.

In your compost you are looking to have a balance of nitrogen and carbon. Dry, brown materials include carbon, while soft, green materials contain nitrogen. These should be added in equal amounts to ensure this chemical balance.

A compost bin

While some choose to start a compost heap out in the open or in a wooden enclosure, this can be ineffective if there is heavy rainfall or wind. The best way to make compost is in a specially designed compost bin, so the mixture is not exposed to the elements and can be left to decompose without interference.

You shouldn’t merely leave your compost to decompose however, as the heap will require mixing at regular intervals. The ComposTumbler from Mantis comes in a cylindrical bin that uses the ‘hot’ composting method and can easily be spun on its axis, ensuring that the material is never left to settle.  This means that the centre of the compost can reach temperatures of between 50-80° C/120-70°F inside the drum as the microorganisms process the material within it. You will receive a free thermometer for tracking the temperature during the decomposition process.

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You can have lovely, earthy compost in 14 days as Mantis ComposTumblers have turning handles on them so that the drum can be turned every day for five rotations once it is full.  This distributes the heat generated by the composting process throughout the contents, speeding the process up.  Compost heaps and static drums do not allow this re-distributing of heat — so the process takes much longer.

You can use home-made compost with virtually all garden plants and flowers — environmental experts RecycleNow have some great tips for using your compost, including using it to enrich your lawn.

The best time to start the composting process is in the spring, this gives the mixture plenty of time to break down into compost before summer (the process usually takes at least 2-3 months). When summer comes and others are queuing up for inflated-price compost at gardening centres, you can enjoy your home-made stash that you’ve been nurturing for several months, and for a much lower cost.

Have you ever done much composting? As sad as it sounds, I really want to get into it!

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