How to manage your compost

So you’ve got your compost container sorted and are all ready to start adding your composting material, but aren’t sure what to do next. Well, here are our tips for a happy compost heap that ‘cooks’ as quickly as possible:

  • Put some of your last batch of compost on your new heap; it should contain lots of microorganisms to get the decomposition off to a good start. Alternatively add some farmyard manure or a proprietary compost starter additive.
  • Add some water when you add material to the heap to keep it moist.
  • Check the pH of your compost (or judge it based on the materials you’ve added) and add lime to the heap if it is too acidic (too much acidity might slow the work of the microorganisms). However, if you’ve added a good variety of materials (eg not too much acidic conifer clippings) then this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Turning the heap will allow more air to enter and mix up the contents (although it will cool it slightly in the process) and should increase the decomposition process. You should aim to do this once a month for best (and quicker) composting results.
  • Your compost heap shouldn’t smell bad. If your heap starts to smell of rotten eggs then it lacks air; turn it and slightly loosen the coverings. If it starts to smell of ammonia then it’s too rich in nitrogen; add some carbon rich materials and mix in well.
  • If you have predominantly carbon rich or nitrogen rich materials in the heap, additives are available to balance this out. These additives either contain nitrogen to balance out a carbon rich heap (eg Garotta) or contain carbon to help break down nitrogen rich materials.

Depending on the size of your heap, what you put in it and how you manage it, the compost should be ready in between 3 and 24 months. It’s ready to use when it’s dark brown and crumbly, and you can no longer recognise any of the materials within it.