RHS says autumn is the ideal time to check compost heaps

October 12th, 2012 by Royal Horticultural Society

Four pallets make the walls of a compost pile (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Advisory Service is encouraging gardeners to check their compost before winter.

Lush growth this summer means there are now heaps of grass and hedge cuttings that, if prepared properly, could be made into useful garden compost.

“Autumn is the ideal time to check compost heaps,” Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor, said.

“Some gardeners will have just dumped their grass cuttings in a corner, which potentially will now be a smelly, slimy pile. But if mixed with the straw-like material produced in gardens at the end of summer these cuttings can become a useful soil conditioner next year.”

This is also a good opportunity to turn over existing material in compost bins, swapping the inside material with the outside material before hedgehogs begin to hibernate. Both like compost bins because of the warmth the composting material produces, so care is needed to avoid disturbing them.

Gardeners can use either open heaps or closed compost bins. However, bins retain some warmth and moisture and therefore make better compost more quickly; but even an open heap (not enclosed in a bin) will compost eventually.

Worms accelerate the decomposition of food waste and shredded paper (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Any of the compost bins on the market should produce compost as long as they exclude rain, retain some warmth, allow drainage and let in air.

Bins less than 1 cubic metre (1.3 cubic yard) in size are much less effective than larger ones.

An earth base is ideal as it allows drainage and access to soil organisms, although if you are composting food waste, rats may be attracted, and tunnel through the soil into the compost.

If composting has to be carried out on a hard surface, then it is useful to add an initial spadeful of soil to the open-bottomed compost bin, and sit the compost bin on sheets of paper from several newspapers.

The RHS provides useful advice on home composting.

 

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