Composting throughout the seasons

Composting happens all year round so find out what you can do this month to make the most out of it

Winter - keeping your compost going

You may be spending less time in the garden during the winter, but there are plenty of things which can still be added to your compost bin all year round. You may find that you have extra fruit and vegetable peelings and things like nut shells, left from Christmas, which make great compost.

Plus, if you bought a real Christmas tree, you can cut it up into small pieces and add this to your compost bin. If you used natural materials for decorations, like holly or pine cones, don’t forget to add these too!

The warmer your compost bin, the faster the material all breaks down. Although completely optional, you could wrap a piece of old carpet around the bin to keep it insulated throughout the frostier months.

 

August - reducing your carbon footprint with composting

Composting at home for just one year can save enough global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 produced by your kettle annually. That's a lot of cups of tea! Or to put it another way, you could power your washing machine for 3 months. If you think about it, disposing of your food and garden waste at home and using the end result (of compost) in your own garden means a lot less waste needs to be transported away, processed and re-distributed.

Making compost at home is also a fantastic way to reduce our reliance on peat in our gardens. Peat is mainly sourced from lowland raised bogs which is a very rare, important habitat and a store for huge amounts of carbon. In fact, losing just 5% of UK peatland would be the same as the UK's annual greenhouse gas emissions. As peatlands act like a sponge they also reduce flood risk and improve water quality. Even though peat takes thousands of years to form, growing just 1mm a year, commercial extraction can remove 500 years of growth in one year and almost 70% of peat is used for gardens.

Full of nutrients, capable of fighting plant diseases and holding more water, home-made compost is ideal for our gardens. Homemade compost is also able to lock carbon into the ground once added to the soil. So if you think your compost looks ready (looks dark brown, crumbly and smells earthy) this must be an added motivation to make the most out of it.

  

June - a compost wildlife sanctuary

There's a hidden benefit to composting at home. It's a fantastic habitat for wildlife!

Many species of invertebrates from worms to centipedes and ants call it home. They are all part of the natural process in breaking down food and garden waste to create the nutrient-rich compost. This is why having an open base is best. Without these busy workers, it would take longer for compost to form. 

Of course, the invertebrates are also a great source of food for your garden birds which is vital at this time of year when they are busy finding food for their young. You might even find a hedgehog can benefit from the extra grubs. So when you next use the compost round your garden, you're sharing a brilliant food source as well as a soil conditioner. Placing an equal amount of 'green' materials like raw food waste, with 'brown' materials like twigs will make your compost perfect for bio-diversity, whilst keeping out the unwanted visitors like rats. You might also find toads and slow worms in a compost heap (if there's space for them to fit in) as they like the invertebrates and the warm, moist environment.

So next time you pop something into your compost bin, take a peak and see what wildlife are making the most of your sanctuary and let us know what you find on Facebook (Smartliving - Hampshire).

Spring composting

You probably already know that compost is good for the environment - find out how composting can help your garden thrive.

Flowerbed

What should I do with the compost?

Potted plants  Even if you don’t have a large garden, compost is great for use in potted plants in or outdoors. Simply add a layer of compost to provide a boost of nutrients like nitrogen and iron. Make sure that a gap is left around the stem if possible. If you are growing from seed, it’s a good idea to mix about a quarter compost with three quarters regular soil as home-grown compost on its own can be too strong.
Mulch  If you have compost that has not completely broken down (has a few leaves or twigs left in it) this ‘rough’ compost can be usefully applied as a mulch around trees and shrubs. This can help prevent soil erosion and keep moisture in the soil, particularly useful for these warmer summers.
Flowerbed If you are making a new border/bed dig a 10cm layer of compost into the soil. If flowers are already established, simply add a layer to the top and the worms will get to work to mix the compost in. Did you know that home-made compost can help prevent disease in your plants?