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How to make compost

PUBLISHED: 16:46 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:59 20 February 2013

The finished product

The finished product

This month we're celebrating Compost Awareness Week from 3-9th May. If you don't already compost your kitchen peelings and garden waste, now is a great time to make a start.

There are so many reasons for composting - it's easy, it's cheap, it's fun especially if you get the whole family involved. There's something quite magical about putting potato peelings, lawn cuttings and waste paper in the top of a compost bin and a few months later finding it's turned into rich, dark compost teeming with nutrients that will feed and enrich your garden.



Home composting is certainly cheaper than buying compost from a garden centre, which is a major consideration at a time of recession. But also it makes a significant difference to wildlife and the environment, because everyone who composts is helping divert tons of waste from going to landfill, where it can't rot down properly and produces damaging greenhouse gases.



If you don't compost already - or even if you do but want some tips on how to do it better - here's an easy guide to get you rotting:



1. What you can and can't compost:


Vegetable waste from the kitchen


Tea bags, leaves and coffee grains


Egg shells


Vacuum cleaner waste


Dead cut flowers


Lawn mowings and soft hedge prunings


Bonfire/wood-burning stove ash


Straw/guinea pig or rabbit bedding


Paper and cardboard


Evergreen leaves can be composted but take longer



Do not compost


X Meat, fish or cheese


X Any cooked food/plate scrapings.


X Droppings from meat eating animals


X Nappies


X Roots from persistent weeds eg. bindweed


X Coal ash; paper; metal; glass; plastic



2. How to compost


o Pile it in a heap - find an area of bare soil out of the way, pile up your compostable waste keeping it covered with something waterproof and let nature do the rest


o Buy a compost bin - you can buy a 220 litre garden compost bin for just 17.00 via Gloucestershire County Council. For more details visit www.recycleforgloucestershire.com.


o Build your own compost bin - they're cheap and easy to make out of re-cycled and reclaimed materials. One option is to wrap wire mesh around four posts and line the inside 'walls' using old carpet sections. For a lid put another section of carpet on top.



3. Getting set up


At the base of your compost heap or bin place a thick layer of coarse, woody prunings


Fork in a layer of weeds, plant trimmings and old bedding plants


Top up regularly with organic garden and kitchen waste - don't forget to also add 'dry' ingredients like paper or cardboard


Sprinkle with water if the heap seems dry


Keep a lid or cover on to prevent moisture and heat loss - this will quicken the rotting process


To speed composting add grass cuttings, chicken manure or nettle tops, and the occasional layer of soil eg. when emptying plant pots


When your compost bin is full leave it to 'rot' - start filling a second compost bin during this time so you always have one filling and one rotting


BE PATIENT - compost takes between 6-12 months to rot down




Wildlife on your doorstep - meditate on nature


There's so much wild activity going on in May. Traditional hay meadows are in full bloom, woodland rides are humming with insects, fish are spawning and hedgehogs are mating.



But the pace of modern life means that many of us don't have the time or space to properly experience nature. Even during a walk in the woods or an afternoon in the garden we are active, moving, and our experience of the nature around us is less tangible for it.



Here's an exercise that can be done in any natural surroundings from a garden or park to a woodland glade or on top of a moor. It's a lovely thing to do at any age, but particularly for children as it helps connect them on a fundamental level with the natural world. For many, sitting still with nothing to occupy us but our immediate surroundings may well feel uncomfortable and alien at first, but could then help take our appreciation of the nature around us to another level.



Aim to do this for 10 minutes.



Sit or lie down on the ground - on a blanket or coat if the ground's a bit damp or cold


Close your eyes


Breathe deeply in and out for three to five breaths


As you feel your body relax, keeping your eyes shut, start to become aware of your surroundings


What can you hear - the wind in the trees, distant traffic, running water, birdsong


What can you smell - grass, the earth, wood smoke


What can you feel - wind on your face, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the texture of the ground under you. Touch the ground near you with your hands, is it warm or cold, wet or dry, grassy or bare?


Now open your eyes


Take a close-up look at the nature immediately near you - the grass, the tree, the bush, the stream, the rocks


Look at the colours, the light, the textures - how each blade of grass or flower petal or leaf is different.


If you're very close to the ground can you see insects moving around? Follow their progress, look at their shapes, see how they move


Now bring your senses together and tune in fully, quietly, to the nature around you - allow time to really experience it through all your senses



Share this little exercise with friends and family. If you're somewhere together, everyone can go off and find their own place, then come back together after 10 minutes and share their experience. You might be surprised at how much fun this can be.



Uncommonly common - BLUEBELLS


This is one of the best times to see bluebells in Gloucestershire. They started flowering at the end of April and are now at their brightest and most plentiful.



Carpets of bluebells are common in ancient woodland where conditions are moist and shady. In fact the UK's warm and moist Atlantic climate means that we have between a quarter and half of the world's population of bluebells, and the best displays. Although common in much of Britain, Bluebells are rare in the rest of Europe and absent from the rest of the world.



Despite being called bluebells, the flowers can actually be white or even a mixture of the two. But if you see pink ones you are probably looking at Spanish bluebells, as these can be a much greater variety of colours. Spanish bluebells are a type of bluebell introduced as a garden plant and, as with all non-native species are a threat to our indigenous varieties.




Did you know


- honey bees can steal from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the bell and reaching the nectar without pollinating the flower


- since 1998 it has been an offence to sell bluebells picked in the wild, incurring a fine of up to 1000


- 19th century romantic poets such as Keats and Tennyson believed the Bluebell symbolised solitude and regret


- It's thought to be bad luck to bring bluebells into the house


- Bluebells are also known as wild hyacinth, Crawtraes (meaning crow's toes), and Granfer Griggles.






Places to visit:


Enjoy Gloucestershire's wonderful bluebell displays by visiting any of these woodland nature reserves this month:



Siccaridge Wood Nature Reserve three miles from Stroud - OS ref SO 939034


Midger Wood Nature Reserve seven miles south of Nailsworth on the A46 - OS ref ST 794 892


Lower Woods Nature Reserve near Wickwar - OS ref ST 749885


Silk Wood Nature Reserve adjoining Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury - OS ref ST 839893


Frith Wood Nature Reserve near Slad - OS ref SO 875085



For more information log on to www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk or call 01452 383333




My Favourite Place -


Emma Bradshaw - marketing manager



For me there's nothing better than the view you see from the top of Elliott Nature Reserve at Swift's Hill, near Stroud. I am usually breathless by the time I get to the top, which I put down to the view rather than my personal fitness level!



From the top you can see down the Slad Valley to the town of Stroud in the distance and on a clear day, the river Severn and the great Severn bridges beyond.



This place gives me a great sense of how the chain of life builds, link by link. This is where I was born and grew up and am now raising my own children. I wonder whether, back in the 1600s, my ancestors stood on this hill-top as I do now, and I wonder what their lives were like.



I sit down, close my eyes and hear the planes overhead, journeying to far off destinations and I'm glad I'm not a passenger on them. As the minutes pass I tune into the sounds around me: the crickets, grass rustling in the breeze and a skylark singing overhead. I can no longer hear the planes; I just feel the south westerly breeze on my face.



I am recharged and turn my back on the view, chasing my children along the ridge to the big quarry beyond. Here they play cowboys and Indians, wearing away their trousers as they slide down the slopes. This is how it should be and I'm grateful that my children are learning about nature by experiencing it. How lucky we are to have access to special places like this.



I just sit, glancing occasionally to make sure they are OK but giving them the freedom they crave and deserve, calling out just once to beckon them over to sit with me and drink hot chocolate from big enamel mugs. I look over to the Woolpack Inn, undoubtedly one of the best pubs in Gloucestershire, and it is bustling with walkers and people eating lunch. I wonder if they can see me?



Some walkers appear and we pass the time of day. They delight at this new place that they've discovered and vow to return to see the orchids that blanket the reserve through the spring and summer. I smile and wish I could bring all people here. My job would be so much easier if I could simply show them the wonderful wildlife that needs protecting.



We finish our day by running down the hill, tripping as we go. I'm glad that this hill, that is such a feature in the landscape, is quiet and I wonder - should I have chosen some other place to tell you about, so that I can keep it all to myself?



There are so many reasons for composting - it's easy, it's cheap, it's fun especially if you get the whole family involved. There's something quite magical about putting potato peelings, lawn cuttings and waste paper in the top of a compost bin and a few months later finding it's turned into rich, dark compost teeming with nutrients that will feed and enrich your garden.



Home composting is certainly cheaper than buying compost from a garden centre, which is a major consideration at a time of recession. But also it makes a significant difference to wildlife and the environment, because everyone who composts is helping divert tons of waste from going to landfill, where it can't rot down properly and produces damaging greenhouse gases.



If you don't compost already - or even if you do but want some tips on how to do it better - here's an easy guide to get you rotting:



1. What you can and can't compost:


Vegetable waste from the kitchen


Tea bags, leaves and coffee grains


Egg shells


Vacuum cleaner waste


Dead cut flowers


Lawn mowings and soft hedge prunings


Bonfire/wood-burning stove ash


Straw/guinea pig or rabbit bedding


Paper and cardboard


Evergreen leaves can be composted but take longer



Do not compost


X Meat, fish or cheese


X Any cooked food/plate scrapings.


X Droppings from meat eating animals


X Nappies


X Roots from persistent weeds eg. bindweed


X Coal ash; paper; metal; glass; plastic



2. How to compost


o Pile it in a heap - find an area of bare soil out of the way, pile up your compostable waste keeping it covered with something waterproof and let nature do the rest


o Buy a compost bin - you can buy a 220 litre garden compost bin for just 17.00 via Gloucestershire County Council. For more details visit www.recycleforgloucestershire.com.


o Build your own compost bin - they're cheap and easy to make out of re-cycled and reclaimed materials. One option is to wrap wire mesh around four posts and line the inside 'walls' using old carpet sections. For a lid put another section of carpet on top.



3. Getting set up


At the base of your compost heap or bin place a thick layer of coarse, woody prunings


Fork in a layer of weeds, plant trimmings and old bedding plants


Top up regularly with organic garden and kitchen waste - don't forget to also add 'dry' ingredients like paper or cardboard


Sprinkle with water if the heap seems dry


Keep a lid or cover on to prevent moisture and heat loss - this will quicken the rotting process


To speed composting add grass cuttings, chicken manure or nettle tops, and the occasional layer of soil eg. when emptying plant pots


When your compost bin is full leave it to 'rot' - start filling a second compost bin during this time so you always have one filling and one rotting


BE PATIENT - compost takes between 6-12 months to rot down




Wildlife on your doorstep - meditate on nature


There's so much wild activity going on in May. Traditional hay meadows are in full bloom, woodland rides are humming with insects, fish are spawning and hedgehogs are mating.



But the pace of modern life means that many of us don't have the time or space to properly experience nature. Even during a walk in the woods or an afternoon in the garden we are active, moving, and our experience of the nature around us is less tangible for it.



Here's an exercise that can be done in any natural surroundings from a garden or park to a woodland glade or on top of a moor. It's a lovely thing to do at any age, but particularly for children as it helps connect them on a fundamental level with the natural world. For many, sitting still with nothing to occupy us but our immediate surroundings may well feel uncomfortable and alien at first, but could then help take our appreciation of the nature around us to another level.



Aim to do this for 10 minutes.



Sit or lie down on the ground - on a blanket or coat if the ground's a bit damp or cold


Close your eyes


Breathe deeply in and out for three to five breaths


As you feel your body relax, keeping your eyes shut, start to become aware of your surroundings


What can you hear - the wind in the trees, distant traffic, running water, birdsong


What can you smell - grass, the earth, wood smoke


What can you feel - wind on your face, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the texture of the ground under you. Touch the ground near you with your hands, is it warm or cold, wet or dry, grassy or bare?


Now open your eyes


Take a close-up look at the nature immediately near you - the grass, the tree, the bush, the stream, the rocks


Look at the colours, the light, the textures - how each blade of grass or flower petal or leaf is different.


If you're very close to the ground can you see insects moving around? Follow their progress, look at their shapes, see how they move


Now bring your senses together and tune in fully, quietly, to the nature around you - allow time to really experience it through all your senses



Share this little exercise with friends and family. If you're somewhere together, everyone can go off and find their own place, then come back together after 10 minutes and share their experience. You might be surprised at how much fun this can be.



Uncommonly common - BLUEBELLS


This is one of the best times to see bluebells in Gloucestershire. They started flowering at the end of April and are now at their brightest and most plentiful.



Carpets of bluebells are common in ancient woodland where conditions are moist and shady. In fact the UK's warm and moist Atlantic climate means that we have between a quarter and half of the world's population of bluebells, and the best displays. Although common in much of Britain, Bluebells are rare in the rest of Europe and absent from the rest of the world.



Despite being called bluebells, the flowers can actually be white or even a mixture of the two. But if you see pink ones you are probably looking at Spanish bluebells, as these can be a much greater variety of colours. Spanish bluebells are a type of bluebell introduced as a garden plant and, as with all non-native species are a threat to our indigenous varieties.




Did you know


- honey bees can steal from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the bell and reaching the nectar without pollinating the flower


- since 1998 it has been an offence to sell bluebells picked in the wild, incurring a fine of up to 1000


- 19th century romantic poets such as Keats and Tennyson believed the Bluebell symbolised solitude and regret


- It's thought to be bad luck to bring bluebells into the house


- Bluebells are also known as wild hyacinth, Crawtraes (meaning crow's toes), and Granfer Griggles.






Places to visit:


Enjoy Gloucestershire's wonderful bluebell displays by visiting any of these woodland nature reserves this month:



Siccaridge Wood Nature Reserve three miles from Stroud - OS ref SO 939034


Midger Wood Nature Reserve seven miles south of Nailsworth on the A46 - OS ref ST 794 892


Lower Woods Nature Reserve near Wickwar - OS ref ST 749885


Silk Wood Nature Reserve adjoining Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury - OS ref ST 839893


Frith Wood Nature Reserve near Slad - OS ref SO 875085



For more information log on to www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk or call 01452 383333




My Favourite Place -


Emma Bradshaw - marketing manager



For me there's nothing better than the view you see from the top of Elliott Nature Reserve at Swift's Hill, near Stroud. I am usually breathless by the time I get to the top, which I put down to the view rather than my personal fitness level!



From the top you can see down the Slad Valley to the town of Stroud in the distance and on a clear day, the river Severn and the great Severn bridges beyond.



This place gives me a great sense of how the chain of life builds, link by link. This is where I was born and grew up and am now raising my own children. I wonder whether, back in the 1600s, my ancestors stood on this hill-top as I do now, and I wonder what their lives were like.



I sit down, close my eyes and hear the planes overhead, journeying to far off destinations and I'm glad I'm not a passenger on them. As the minutes pass I tune into the sounds around me: the crickets, grass rustling in the breeze and a skylark singing overhead. I can no longer hear the planes; I just feel the south westerly breeze on my face.



I am recharged and turn my back on the view, chasing my children along the ridge to the big quarry beyond. Here they play cowboys and Indians, wearing away their trousers as they slide down the slopes. This is how it should be and I'm grateful that my children are learning about nature by experiencing it. How lucky we are to have access to special places like this.



I just sit, glancing occasionally to make sure they are OK but giving them the freedom they crave and deserve, calling out just once to beckon them over to sit with me and drink hot chocolate from big enamel mugs. I look over to the Woolpack Inn, undoubtedly one of the best pubs in Gloucestershire, and it is bustling with walkers and people eating lunch. I wonder if they can see me?



Some walkers appear and we pass the time of day. They delight at this new place that they've discovered and vow to return to see the orchids that blanket the reserve through the spring and summer. I smile and wish I could bring all people here. My job would be so much easier if I could simply show them the wonderful wildlife that needs protecting.



We finish our day by running down the hill, tripping as we go. I'm glad that this hill, that is such a feature in the landscape, is quiet and I wonder - should I have chosen some other place to tell you about, so that I can keep it all to myself?



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