Garden, Home and Garden

How to Make Compost

how to compost

Let’s talk about how to make compost today. Why not try making your own peat-free compost.  It’s really easy – here’s everything you could ever want to know to get started!

Did you know that we Brits throw an estimated 4.5 million tonnes of food and drink in the bin each year?  A staggering amount, I’m sure you’ll agree. This is a huge problem as when food is sent to landfill, as it decomposes without any oxygen, it releases a greenhouse gas called methane. Methane produces 21 times as much warming to our atmosphere as carbon dioxide, driving climate change at a much faster rate. It’s therefore vitally important to avoid sending food to landfill as much as possible.

Undoubtedly the best way to reduce food waste is to plan your food shopping carefully and freezing leftover. However, composting also has a vital role in reducing the amount of food sent to landfill.  

how to make compost

Composting kitchen waste isn’t hard to do and, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t a smelly job if done correctly.  So I thought I’d show you how to make compost at home, odour free!

And if you don’t have a garden, check out this guide on how to compost in a flat.

Start in the Kitchen 

It can be hard knowing where to start, but I think the easiest place is to start in the kitchen. By gathering the supplies you need, and getting your indoor setup together gives you good momentum for moving on to the next stage.

First of all, you need a lidded kitchen caddy to hold your kitchen waste. I have one like this* that I sit on my countertop. However, if you have a tiny kitchen then you can even get a caddy that hooks onto the wall or inside a cupboard*.  

Next, think about you would prefer to use your caddy. Some people like to line their caddy with a compostable bag*. It does add additional cost, but it does mean you don’t have to wash your caddy every time you empty it.

A low impact and low-cost alternative is to make your own bags out of old newspaper. Sounds complicated? It’s really not! Here’s a 30-second video showing you how to do it.

Other people eschew the bag and go bagless. If you don’t mind washing your caddy every time you empty it then go for it!

What Can Go In Your Kitchen Caddy?

You can place all sorts of kitchen scraps and waste in your kitchen caddy for home composting:

  • fruit and vegetable peelings (citrus skins don’t compost well)
  • fruit and vegetable scraps,
  • salad leaves
  • tea leaves and bags – not PLA based teabags or teabags made from polypropylene. Confused? Check out my guide to plastic-free teabags to see if your preferred tea brand is compostable or not
  • coffee grounds and filter papers,
  • crushed eggshells
  • nutshells
  • hair and pet fur

Onions should be added sparingly, as worms are not keen on onions.

What Shouldn’t Go In Your Caddy

Conversely, if you are composting at home then there are a few things that you don’t want to put in your caddy. Avoid the following items helps stop odour problems and rodents:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs (crushed eggshells are ok)
  • Poultry scraps
  • Dairy products
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils

It’s also not a good idea to put some products labelled as compostable in your caddy, such as compostable cups. Read here for why you can’t compost compostable cups at home.

garden composter compost bin

Next, Consider Your Garden Setup

Now you’ve got your kitchen set up, it’s time to think about your garden.  

The Compost Bin

A garden composter is invaluable.  You can make your own, like the one pictured above. Here’s a guide on how to make your own compost bin from pallets.

Alternatively, you can buy a compost bin. We have a standard plastic one*, which we find is good for trapping heat and helping our food waste break down quickly.  However, there are many different types of bins available, such as the Hotbin*, which can create organic compost 32 times quicker than a standard bin. Or the Green Johanna*, which also speeds up the composting processes.

Where to Site Your Compost Bin

Once you’ve picked your bin, you need to consider where to put it. The best place to site your compost bin is in a sunny spot on bare soil.  The sun increases the temperature in your bin, making your waste break down faster. Meanwhile, bare soil allows for worms to enter your bin, which is essential for composting.

If you don’t have any bare soil and need to place your bin on slabs or tarmac then don’t worry. Just make sure you place a layer of paper and twigs at the bottom of the bin before you start emptying your waste into the composter.  This helps creatures such as worms to be able to colonise your composter.

How to Make Compost

Now you’re all set up you can start composting your kitchen waste.  Here’s how to make compost.

Compost Your Food Waste

vegetable scraps

For most of the year, you probably won’t have to empty the caddy every day – just when it gets full.  In our household (of three) we find we empty our caddy into the composter every two to three days, and our kitchen is odour free.  If you live by yourself you may want to empty it before it gets full to avoid odours, as you will likely be generating less waste.

In summer, fruit flies can be a problem, so I empty the caddy every day. See here for more tips on how to get rid of fruit flies naturally if you find that they become a problem.

Don’t Forget Your Garden Waste

When making compost, it’s vital to add a mix of different materiasl to your bin. Things you can add include:

  • flowers
  • spent plants from your garden
  • nettles
  • rhubarb leaves
  • grass cuttings
  • fallen leaves
  • twigs
  • garden trimmings
  • hay and straw

I would avoid composting the following garden items:

  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants as diseases or insects might spread
  • Invasive plant species
  • Anything from the garden treated with pesticides as it may kill vital organisms

And Don’t Forget The Other Items You Can Compost

When making compost, I would aim for a balance between green waste – this is your kitchen scraps as well as your grass clippings and weeds – and brown waste. This brown waste includes dried leaves and twigs from your garden, however it should also include:

  • cardboard (torn up)
  • egg boxes (torn up)
  • scrunched up paper
  • toilet roll tubes (torn up)

These types of material are slower to rot, and add carbon (essential for providing energy for the worms and other creatures in your composter) and create air pockets.  These pockets provide vital oxygen to your compost, and help stop your composter from smelling.  It’s particularly important to do this if you’ve added grass cuttings to help promote the flow of oxygen.

Composting No-Nos

As well as the items already listed, there are a few more composting no no’s:

real compost

How Long Does It Take to Make Compost?

In your composter, your kitchen and garden waste can take anywhere between 3 and 12 months to produce garden-ready compost.

The good news is your compost will be fantastically nutrient rich. It will be great in borders, vegetable and flower beds, for potting plants in, and for feeding shrubs and trees.  Your compost may have twiggy bits in it – you can sieve these out if you are particularly pernickity about your compost!

How you’ve found this guide on how to make compost useful!  If you have any other questions on how to compost then do feel free to ask in the comments below!

Garden, Home and Garden

Gardening for Renters – Easy Ways to Spruce Your Space

gardening for renters

Are you wondering how do you garden when you are renting? I’ve got some great tips for you on gardening for renters, so do read on.

I talk a lot about gardening and growing your own here on Moral Fibres. But what if you’re one of a growing number of renters, and have caught the green-fingered bug?  Never fear, I’ve got some great tips on gardening for renters!

gardening tips for renters

Having lived in my fair share of rented properties (14! What can I say, I moved around a lot as a student/young adult…!), I’ve lived in the entire spectrum of flats.  From inner-city flats with no gardens, flats with a concrete yard, to flats with balconies, and flats/houses with gardens large and teeny tiny.

I’ve also experienced the entire landlord spectrum.  From the landlords who don’t mind what you do to the flat or the garden, as long as it’s clean and tidy when you move out (my personal favourite). To the landlords who won’t let you do as much as hang a picture on your wall, and every other type of landlord in between.

Gardening for Renters

Whatever your flat and landlord situation is, then there are lots of options for gardening for renters, and for growing your own to suit.

I’ve written from my own experience and I’ve asked gardening pro, Lyndsey Haskell, for some advice on gardening for renters too. However, if we’ve missed any key advice then do add it in the comments below:

Be Patient

If you have moved into a flat/house with a garden and an easy-going landlord who doesn’t mind what you do to your garden, then Lyndsey wisely suggests waiting. She says “it really pays to be patient and try to wait a year to see what is in the garden before you dig everything over. There may be some fabulous perennial plants ready to pop up at different times of the year.”

Keep Things Portable

Lyndsey also says “it’s a lot of work to dig over a garden. And you never know when you’ll move out and want to take your plants with you. So to avoid planting things in the soil, it’s worth building a small raised bed or getting some containers or gro-bags which you can easily transport when you move. These solutions are really handy as you can better control the soil you are using too and it gives you a blank canvas for growing what you would like“.

balcony gardening for renters

Containers, tubs, and gro-bags are highly recommended by me too for gardening when you are a renter.  One rented flat I lived in a few years ago had a balcony no bigger than the one pictured above.  We filled it with pots, plastic tubs, a washbasin, old pots, etc. This allowed us to be self-sufficient in lettuce, nasturtiums, chillies, herbs, and strawberries for the whole summer.  

It’s a cheap and easy non-permanent gardening for renters solution. And you can take your tubs with you when you move.  It’s also great for gardens where the landlord won’t allow you to make any changes.  For growing larger items, large plastic trugs make handy portable planters. Although do remember it might require a few people to help lift it when you do move again.

What If You Have No Outdoor Space?

Container gardening is also a good option for renters. Particularly if you have a concrete yard, or if your only outdoor space is a doorstep.  While the old classic, window boxes, are great for growing herbs and lettuce in if you have absolutely no outdoor space whatsoever.

Image from Weekday Carnival

If you move into a rented flat with no outdoor space, but want to garden, then Lyndsey suggests some space-saving techniques. She says “the best things to grow indoors are some herbs and salad that don’t take up too much space. Pick ones that you use a lot in your cooking, such as rosemary basil, parsley, and lettuce. And to maximise plant growing space think about suspending your pots on different levels using macrame or even invest in a fancy sky planter“.

Here’s a handy tutorial to make a trendy (yes, trendy, it’s true!) macrame plant pot holder if you’re feeling inspired.  Otherwise, window ledges make great plant growing spots.  If there’s a radiator under the window just remember you’ll have to water your plants more frequently as they tend to dry out faster.

Share A Garden

what vegetable seeds to grow in March in the UK

Lyndsey’s final word of advice on gardening for renters is about sharing. She says “alternatively, share your gardening space with other people. This might mean helping out a neighbour in their garden or sharing an allotment with friends. Or in some cases, joining in with a community garden. If you’re short on space or time, it takes the pressure off. It also means you get to share the work with other people and benefit from their wisdom“.

If this is for you then there are lots of garden share schemes popping up around the country. You can sign up for an allotment via your local council.  You can also find local community garden schemes here that you can take part in to get growing.   

And, as always, please add your advice and suggestions on gardening for renters in the comments below!