How to compost

Composting safely

Which Bin to  Choose?

Your compost ingredients

Emptying your bin

To turn or not to turn?

How long to compost?

Worms and Wormeries

Topical Composting

Kitchen Waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and Weeds

Too much grass

Leaves for Leafmould

Seasonal Tips


Advice sheets

Unwelcome Guests


Composting demonstrated

Avoid problems with a good mix of materials, balance is the key to success:
The garden provides soft sappy materials, like grass, vegetable leaves and annual weeds, which are all good for generating heat and supplying moisture. These are needed to balance woody, stalky materials, which in turn will absorb surplus liquids, and will benefit from the higher temperatures. Make sure to put both types of material in your bin. See Your Compost Ingredients

“My compost is lumpy”
Compost will be lumpy if large or rooty material is simply thrown on the heap, without any attempt to break it down with a spade or shredder.  You'll get better results if the material is broken down as the finer the particles the more readily they will turn into compost.
Woody, stalky material is best shredded or chopped up, you may be able to run a mower over smaller stuff. Breaking up this sort of hard material will speed up the composting process and make sure you are not picking sticks out of your finished compost.

 “My compost is soggy and wet”
A soggy mess often results when far too much grass is added at once, producing a dense, airless and sour pile. Don't add more than 15cm (6 inches) of grass in one layer and for each layer of grass add a layer of stalky materials or scrumpled paper.  If you have too much grass also see the advice sheet Grass 
Filling a bin with just kitchen waste and grass mowings may also spell disaster. Most bins are designed for a mix of kitchen and garden waste which should include stalky stuff and weeds.

 “My compost is very weedy”
Weedy compost is the result of a cold heap. Annual weed seeds, as well as many diseases can be destroyed if the temperature in the compost bin is high. In the summer, when you remove the lid, you should always be able to warm your hands, even if you can't bake a potato, as has been claimed.  If your heap is cold move it to a sunnier place, if you can, or add regular 15cm (6 inch) layers of grass mowing.  Turning the heap will also increase the heat.  See the advice sheet Keeping your bin working.

“Can I compost perennial weeds, like ground elder and docks?”
These weeds take longer to break down, at least 2 years.  Do not try to compost celandine and Japanese knotweed.  See the advice sheet on Perennial Weeds and Weeds.

“My sprout stalks don't seem to have broken down”
If you put sprout stalks straight into the heap, most of them will still be almost unchanged many months after unless you break them up a bit. And this applies to other tough specimens like woody herbs and raspberry canes. A shredder will do this job for you, but a variety of implements, including shears and a sharp spade will break them down.

“I tried to compost all my grass but it's turned soggy and smelly”
Look at our advice on composting grass.  It becomes smelly because there is no air for the bacteria to work.  Mixing in crumpled paper absorbs the moisture and creates lots of little air pockets.

“As I've got older, I've found it hard to turn my compost.”
The Compostabin or the Compost Converter are ideal for you as turning is not needed.  When harvesting your compost, you will need to fork back the material that isn't ready.  This is not arduous and introduces enough air. See To turn or not to turn?

“My compost in the bin is dry and hard”
In very dry summers, this can happen, or you may have added too much dry stalky material and not enough grass, kitchen waste or green weeds.  Too little moisture is as bad as too much.  Moisten with a watering can if necessary.

"Every time I open my bin, there are lots of flies everywhere"
These  fruit flies are a special  problem in the summer.  Cover your fresh compost with topsoil or fresh grass clippings to get rid of the flies.

“What do I do with woody prunings”
It's best to shred them and use them as a mulch. Alternatively make a dead hedge. See the advice sheet on Woody Prunings.

“Should I compost rhubarb leaves?”

“Should I compost blighty potato shaws [haulms]?”
Yes, provided your composter has a lid, like the Compostabin.

'I'm worried a compost bin may attract mice or rats'
For ways to prevent problems see Unwelcome Guests