Transform your garden and food waste into compost that will make your flowers bloom.
Composting is a great way of diverting your organic food and garden waste from the waste stream. There are many ways you can compost, depending on the size of your bin and how much work you want to put in, but whether you use a standard bin, a wormery or a food waste digester, you will end up with free compost that you can use on borders and tubs.
Worcestershire residents can take advantage of subsidised compost bins. They are available in 220 or 330 litre capacity and in green or black. There is a range of other bins to buy, some at subsidised prices, including wormeries, HOTBINs, Green Cones, Green Johanna's and various accessories. For the full range of items visit Get Composting.
Here is a selection of products that may help you to compost:
By using a composting caddy (container) you won't have to visit your compost bin every time you have some kitchen peelings.
You may find it easy and convenient to keep a caddy next to your waste bin or in one of your kitchen cupboards, such as under the sink.
Place vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, teabags and cardboard into the caddy, keeping the lid sealed shut. At your convenience take the contents of the caddy to your compost bin.
Caddies are available at some garden centres and widely available on the internet. The Council's suppliers of compost bins also sells them. Visit Get composting to buy them.
Alternatively you could make your own caddy by reusing an old ice cream tub or bucket.
Compost caddy liner
Although not essential, caddy liners are available to line your caddy and keep it clean. Alternatively line it with a couple of sheets from an old newspaper. The newspaper can be scrunched up afterwards and thrown into the compost bin too.
There are times when some of your woody composting material refuses to be broken down completely. Sieving helps remove some of the larger pieces of material from your compost. This is particularly useful when using compost as a potting mix or lawn dressing.
Using a fork to mix the up the contents of your compost bin will help introduce more air, which can speed up the composting process.
Making and using compost
What ingredients can go in?
You can plant flowers directly into your compost
The key to a good compost lies in getting the mix right, you need a good balance of "greens" and "browns" and keep certain items out! If your compost is too wet add more browns, if it is to dry add more greens. Air is also essential to the process so give it a good stir to create air pockets.
Greens (high in nitrogen)
- grass cuttings
- tea bags
- vegetable peelings
- salad leaves
- fruit scraps
- old flowers
- coffee grounds & filter paper
- old bedding plants
- horse manure
Browns (high in carbon)
- crushed egg shells
- egg boxes
- corrugated cardboard
- garden prunings
- twigs and hedge clippings
- straw and hay
- shredded paper
- ash from wood, paper and lumpwood charcoal
Keep these out
- cooked vegetables
- dairy products
- diseased plants
- dog poo or cat litter or baby's nappies
Using your compost
The composting process can take up to 18 months until the compost is ready to use in your garden.
Your lovely fresh compost will be full of nutrients that will help improve your soil structure, maintain moisture levels and manage your soil's PH balance. It also includes nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to help your plants and flowers.
On flower beds
Dig a layer of compost into the soil before planting or spread thinly around the base of existing plants. Nutrients will work their way down to the roots and your plants will enjoy the benefits.
Spread a layer of compost over existing soil and worms will quickly get to work mixing it in for you.
To create mulch use compost that isn't quite finished, mix it with normal soil and then scatter over flowerbeds and around shrubs. This will help prevent soil erosion and replenish nutrients, a thin layer should do the trick.
Spreading 5cm around tree roots can help provide important nutrients and protect against drought and disease. Avoid the base of the tree and do not spread too close to the trunk.
In pots and containers
A few centimetres of compost will give your plants a boost
Growing herbs & vegetables
Compost is excellent for growing herbs such as chives, parsley and mint. Your vegetables will also benefit from compost added to the soil, particularly potatoes and carrots.
On your lawn
Remove any large twigs or egg shells from the compost, mix the compost with some sharp sand to help it spread and then sprinkle a layer on to your lawn. Mature lawns will hugely benefit from this, but be aware that newly seeded lawns or turfed lawns could suffer.
Benefits for your garden
Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It's easy to make and use.
Your compost will help improve soil structure, maintain moisture levels, and keep your soil's pH balance in check while helping to suppress plant disease. It will have everything your plants need including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and it will help buffer soils that are very acidic or alkaline. Compost improves your soil's condition and your plants and flowers will love it!
As more companies become aware of the damage that waste is having on the environment, they are promoting their products as “compostable” or “biodegradable”. Supermarkets are providing compostable bags as an alternative to plastic bags as well, but it is not as simple as they try to make you believe.
Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials, as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. While biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions.
In theory, bags labelled as 'compostable' are made from vegetable matter like potato or corn starch which fully break down. However, the conditions must be right for them to break down and it often it isn't hot enough in a home compost situation. It more than likely needs industrial composting facilities, such as In-Vessel Composting (IVC) where the compost is guaranteed to reach high temperatures.
Look for the logos:
This product can be put into a home compost bin:
This product needs to go into an industrial composting facility such as In-Vessel Composting (IVC) or Anaerobic Digestion (AD). It will not rot down in a home compost bin
You cannot put the following into your home compost bin:
- “Compostable” carrier bags such as those given out by the Co-Op & Waitrose
- “Compostable” magazine wrappers like those now being used by National Trust
- “Compostable” coffee cups
- Vegware – a brand of compostable food containers, but need to go into IVC
- “Compostable” straws, unless they are made of paper
Please do not put any sort of compostable or biodegradable packaging into your brown garden waste bin or the garden waste skips at the Household Recycling Centres as this causes problems with the composting process.
Please do not put any sort of compostable packaging into your green recycling bin – it cannot be recycled and will cause problems at the sorting plant.
If in doubt…. please leave it out.
How to rescue bad compost
Composting works best when there is a good balance of 'green' and 'brown' material, there is a good volume of material, there is plenty of air in the mix and it is kept warm. Sometimes, especially in winter, these conditions can't be met. What you end up with is a soggy, slimy, smelly mess compacted in the bottom of the compost bin.
Rescuing your compost is easy, but it does take a little time and effort.
This is good compost. It is soft, crumbly, brown, moist but not wet, and smells sweetly of earth. It will probably have a few twigs in it and perhaps a few worms. You'd be happy to grab a handful and use it in the garden.
This is bad compost. It is a thick, matted, wet, slimy mess, often black in colour and usually very smelly... the kind of thing you most definitely would not want to touch with gloves on, let alone grab a handful of - you need a rescue plan!
The main problems will probably be:
- A lack of 'brown' high carbon material to balance out the 'green' high nitrogen content.
- Compacted material that excludes air, leading to 'anaerobic' conditions that cause the nasty smells.
- Very wet material again leading to a lack of air.
- Cold conditions that slow down any composting action.
- The wrong type of microbes and animals are present.
So you need to encourage a good ecosystem with lots of air and a good balance of material:
- Empty the bin (or lift it up off the compost) and relocate it in a warm sunny spot if possible.
- Give the existing compost a really good mix with a garden fork to break it up. This is likely to be hard work and really smelly.
- Gather a load of 'brown' material such as corrugated card, scrunched up or shredded paper, animal bedding, ripped up egg boxes or dried leaves from under hedges.
- Start to refill the bin and add equal amounts of the 'brown stuff' to the old compost.
- Make sure you DO NOT compact the compost when you fill the bin, you need to keep it aired.
- Add some 'compost accelerator' powder, horse manure or good compost from another source if you want to as this will speed up the composting process.
- Every few days, take a couple of fork-fulls of material from the bottom of the bin and put it back in the top, mixing it and keeping it 'light and airy' as you go. If its still wet and soggy, add some more dry 'browns' at the same time.
In a few days you should notice a significant rise in temperature - this shows you the composting process has restarted and is quite normal. In fact, the warmer it is, the quicker your compost will be made. You might also find a worm population explosion! This is also beneficial, but as the temperature rises, the worms will start to move out of the compost, usually to the sides and top, often colonising the lid in their hundreds. This is also fine! They will move to areas that are not too warm, where they can happily munch on your compost.
As the composting process takes hold, lots of microbes, fungi and moulds will thrive. Please be careful when you open the lid - do NOT breathe in the spores that come from the compost. In very rare cases they can lead to lung problems.
Did you know that fallen leaves can be used to improve your garden?
They can become a pleasant dark brown crumbly soil improver, lawn conditioner and mulch with very little effort.
How to make Leafmould:
- during autumn gather up fallen leaves
- if they are dry, water them to help the rotting process
- pack them into a black plastic sack
- make a few holes in sack with a fork and tie the top loosely
- place bag somewhere out of the way (perhaps behind the shed) for a year or two
- return 1 to 2 years later and discover lovely Leafmould
After a year or so, Leafmould will be crumbly in the hand and can be used as mulch around shrubs, dug in to improve soil or for dressing lawns in autumn.
After 2 years the Leafmould, should be a dark brown crumbly material which can also be used as a sowing mix or part of a potting compost.
Different types of composting:
Bokashi is a composting system that you can do right inside your kitchen with two buckets. The term Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning "fermented organic matter".
Bokashi bins work by using a fermentation process, a system designed to work in pairs of buckets. Add food scraps to the first bucket with a sprinkling of Bokashi active bran, push the material down and seal the lid. Keep doing this until the bucket is full and then use the second bucket.
The fermentation process will take approximately 2-3 weeks, after which you will have a liquid collected in the bottom bin, which can be diluted and used as a fertilizer for your plants.
Either bury the contents, which rapidly breaks down in your soil and makes great organic fertiliser or add to your compost heap to accelerate the composting process. Every so often you will need to buy more Bokashi active bran.
Step-by-step guide to using Bokashi, with Paul Konig of Hereford
Paul has been successfully using a Bokashi composting system for four years to compost all his food waste, which includes meat (but not the bones). Bokashi is a two part process that uses both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria combining 5 types of micro-organisms.
- Two specially designed 18L air tight buckets.
- Bokashi active bran.
- Collect food scraps, all types including both meat and veg, but no bones. Small amounts of dairy and cooking fats are permissible.
- Carefully chop scraps up first to increase the surface area and speed up the process. Note that chopping is not essential, but helps.
- Add a 3 cm layer to your first Bokashi bucket (which is already in use).
- Press the recently chopped materials to squeeze out the air.
- Sprinkle a handful of Bokashi active bran over the new material.
- Close lid to create air tight seal.
- Continue to add new material to repeat the process until full. Leave the sealed containers for 14 – 21 days to allow bran to fully penetrate the bucket's contents. During this time start off your second bin using the same process.
- During the process, remember to open the tap every two days to drain the liquid. This liquid is very rich in micro organisms and when diluted 1 to 30 parts water (preferably rain water) acts as a bug deterrent for plants, plant feed and as a drain cleaner that is safe to use in septic tanks.
- Your end product is a great organic fertilizer which you can dig into your soil or add to your compost bin. Adding completed Bokashi to your compost bin can speed up the process by 25%.
- To use the end product in your soil, dig it into the ground at a depth of about 20cm ensuring good contact with soil and air. Leave for 2 weeks for micro-organisms to be active and return soil to a neutral pH, before planting. In winter you may need to leave for another week or so.
The Bokashi system doesn't actually compost the food, but infuses the waste with Effective Microbes (Ems).
Ems are a mixture of bacteria and fungi which when mixed with the other ingredients (bran and molasses) and scattered over your food waste, will ferment it.
There are no rules about storage temperature, but generally the hotter the better.
It's important to drain off the liquid to avoid smells and to prevent contents from becoming soggy.
In the first part of the process in the bucket, the micro-organisms work anaerobically (without air) and in the second part when you add the mix to your soil or compost bin it works aerobically (with air).
Because the buckets are airtight, they don't smell and don't attract flies or vermin.
Bokashi systems are available at:
A compost bin is the simplest way to create and store compost, which is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. Composting also reduces the amount of waste that you send to landfill.
For the best results find an easily accessible, sunny spot on soil in your garden to place your bin. Place a container in your kitchen to fill with material such as banana skins, tea bags, potato peelings, toilet roll tubes, cereal boxes, etc. Put these in your compost bin and mix with grass cuttings and twiggy garden waste. Wait for a while and your compost will be ready to use. Lift your bin slightly or open the hatch and scoop out your compost. Don’t worry if your compost is a bit twiggy or has egg shells in, this is perfectly normal. Use the compost to enrich borders and vegetable patches, plant up patio containers or feed the lawn.
Special Offer - Buy a compost bin
If you are a resident of Worcestershire you can buy a 220 litre or a 330 litre compost bin. Both come in a choice of green or black and are made of recycled materials.
Buy two compost bins and get the second half price.
In order to reduce kitchen waste, residents can also buy a range of food waste digesters including Wormeries, HOTBINs, Green Cones, Green Johanna's and Bokashi. Please click on the links in the menu for more information.
To order your compost bin, visit Get Composting.
This service is provided by Straight PLC and subsidies are provided by Worcestershire County Council.
Compost bins should be delivered within 28 days.
Designed for use by an average family of up to four people, the Green Cone is a sealed unit which creates a rodent proof environment to decompose cooked and uncooked kitchen waste. This includes fish, meat, poultry, bones and cooked food scraps.
You do not get any compost from a digester. Instead, the material is broken down into a rich soil conditioner that is absorbed into the surrounding ground. As a small amount of residue is left, the Green Cone has to be moved every few years.
To start using your Green Cone:
Step 1: Select a convenient, sunny location for the Green Cone, with well-drained soil.
Step 2: Dig a hole the size of the black basket base, keeping the soil for later.
Step 3: Place the black basket in the hole ensuring the top of the black basket is below ground level. Mix the saved soil with some gravel or potting compost. This will help start the composting process.
Step 4: Place the Green Cone on top of the basket and securely fix them together.
Step 5: Backfill the gap with the soil / gravel / compost mixture until the bottom of the Green Cone is fully covered.
Step 6: The Green Cone works best if it is filled little but often. Ideally food scraps should be emptied into the Green Cone on a daily basis.
Suitable for use all year round, the Green Johanna reduces your garden and food (cooked and uncooked) waste into a rich compost. It accepts a wide range of material including food scraps, meat, fish, bones and dairy products together with plants, leaves and grass cuttings.
Designed to sit in a shady position in the garden, the Green Johanna’s unique ventilation system enables the contents to reach significantly higher temperatures than traditional garden composters, breaking down material faster.
The cone-shaped design – ensures compost sinks towards the centre of the unit and not to its sides for optimum air circulation and oxygenation.
The lid – controls ventilation by turning.
The base plate – enables optimum ventilation and space for ingress of worms. The plate’s holes are kept to a diameter of 4.5mm, preventing vermin from getting in.
Sliding doors – enables easy removal of compost at the front and rear.
If you want to reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill overnight and produce rich organic compost in 30-90 days, why not try a HOTBIN compost bin.
What Is It?
The HOTBIN is a compost bin which allows you to compost all of your food and garden waste in just 30-90 days. Reaching a high internal temperature of between 40-60°c, the HOTBIN provides the necessary environment, unlike traditional cold composting heaps, to break down a wider variety of waste more rapidly.
So, What Goes In?
In addition to general garden waste and grass clippings, you can also put in cooked left-over food waste, egg shells, mouldy bread, fish, meat, chicken bones as well as chicken waste, dog waste and cat litter and much more.
How Quick Is The Composting?
Many compost bins are unable to reach the high temperatures of the HOTBIN, which means you end up composting less at a slower rate. With the HOTBIN you can expect mulching compost in 30 days and rich organic compost in just 90 days. To put that into perspective, what would normally take 12-24 months to compost in a cold heap will take 12-24 days in a hot one such as the HOTBIN.
Unlike other compost bins, no turning or tumbling is required and there is a bio-filter in the lid to help reduce compost odours which attract flies and rats.
Why Use It?
HOTBIN is a compact compost bin which is suitable for both small and large gardens. It is wheelie bin sized and has a capacity of around 200 litres.
HOTBIN has been successfully tested by Garden Organic and was voted “Product Innovation of the Year” by Grow Your Own magazine readers.
Made in the UK from expanded polypropylene, the HOTBIN is 100% recyclable and has excellent insulation properties helping to maintain high internal temperatures keeping you composting all year round.
For more information please visit HOTBIN Composting
A wormery is a form of composter in which worms break down kitchen waste and produce a very fine compost and nutrient rich liquid to feed your plants.
Anyone can keep a wormery, but they are particularly useful to those with only a small garden or limited amounts of garden waste. Worms can also give your compost a boost.
Items to put into a wormery:
- fruit and vegetable peelings
- cooked vegetable, pasta and rice leftovers
- coffee grounds
- scrunched up newspaper
- shredded paper
- egg boxes and cardboard
- occasional small amounts of meat
Items to keep out of a wormery:
- citrus fruits
- dairy products
- large amounts of meat
- only feed worms small amounts at a time, otherwise they can get too hot.
- be patient it can take a while for your worms to get up to full speed, sometime up to six months when they should be able to work their way through a fair amount of food per month.
- drain off the liquid fertilizer produced and dilute with ten parts water before using on your garden.
Make you own wormery:
Visit the Wiggly Wigglers website for details on how to make your own wormery.
Wormeries are available at:
or local suppliers such as:
- Wiggly Wigglers
- Lower Blakemere Farm, Blakemere, Herefordshire HR2 9PX
- Bubble House Worms
- Bubble House Worms, Chapel Lane, Bransford, Worcestershire WR6 5JG