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Easy Steps to Composting

by: Fran Barnwell

It is becoming more and more obvious these days that we need to recycle as much as we can, and anyone with a garden has a head start and can make a great contribution. To many novice gardeners, including myself, this subject can be somewhat difficult to grasp; but in fact it is really straightforward - there are just a few very simple rules:

You need a compost bin, and the type you decide on rather depends on the size of your garden, but there are a couple of options:

A purpose built plastic bin purchased from a garden centre, not too expensive; and you just fill up from the top and a few months later, you can take compost from a small hatch at the base.
Alternatively, if you can wield a saw and some nails, you can make a wooden slatted enclosure, one metre square - or you can buy them ready made - and cover it with a piece of old carpet to keep the worst of the weather off.

What you can compost:

- all uncooked vegetable and fruit peelings
- teabags, tea leaves and coffee grounds
- egg shells
- dead flowers from the house
- and from the garden, soft prunings spent bedding plants, dead leaves, lawn mowings
- spent compost from hanging baskets or containers
- some dryer materials such as shredded paper, rabbit and guinea pig bedding.

The only thing you have to be careful about is to mix different types of material; if you have too many grass clippings in a big mass, they will turn soggy and slimy, or if there is too much paper and prunings, it will be too dry. So keep an eye on it, especially if you are using the wooden enclosure, and mix it with a fork occasionally.

What NOT to compost:

- all meat products and bones; bread, cooked food - these will attract vermin
- dog or cat waste
- woody material - which takes too long to compost
- weeds - these can 'infect' your compost with their seeds
- anything that is non-biodegradable, such as plastic.

And because you won't always feel like taking a trip to the compost heap when it's wet or cold or every time you peel vegetables why not keep a lidded container by the back door which you can fill up and then make the trip to the compost bin every one or two days?

Over a period of time - 3 months to 1 year, depending on conditions - all this matter will have broken down into lovely dark brown crumbly compost, which you can fork into your beds and borders. It makes an excellent soil conditioner and can be used as surface mulch, helping conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

You can also convert fallen leaves into wonderful compost. Rake up any leaves from your lawn - you may have to do this several times over the autumn - and collect them from the borders. Put them all into a black waste sack, sprinkle with water, put a few holes around the sack with a fork, tie the top, and leave it in a corner for about a year. What you end up with is known as leaf-mould.
Fran Barnwell

About the author:
If you want step-by-step tips and advice to start gardening, why not sign up for my free ezine, or order my eBook 'The Ultimate Guide to Gardening for Beginners' at www.NewToGardening.com