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What to do with our huge and poorly constructed "compost heap"

We have a large plot of land at the bottom on the garden with the foundations of an old greenhouse that is against a 10ft wall.

For the last 15+ years that area has been used as a dump for all the garden waste from the garden (grass cuttings, old plants, hedge trimmings, fallen leaves etc).

The pile has grown to be enormous, about 3x5 meters across and 5 meters deep. 

I would love to turn this pile in to a usable compost heap. However, at moment I have no idea what the composition would actually be and the "fresh" layer on top is so large, accessing the bottom, rotten layer would be impossible. It feels like it would almost be impenetrable and I have no idea how I would begin to starting turning the waste there as there is so much of it!

Any tips?
Things to add, ways to revive it, ways to access the good stuff (if there is any)?



  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,294
    Hi and welcome to the Forum.
    It seems you have 2 choices: leave it as it is, or just start to nibble away at it a bit at a time.
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    edited April 2020
    This is what I would do.

    Build at least two proper compost bins, one for use, one to turn into. 3 might be even better.

    Move the stuff that has not rotted to these. You may be able to chip the material to give you finer stuff. Or just pile it in for now, but add some browns such as cardboard or finally chipped hedge cuttings in layers, some fresher manure will give it all a kick start too.

    Then you will be able to start getting to the stuff underneath while the new material gets a chance to compost quickly.

    The stuff underneath may be better than expected, probably at worst it will make a great soil improver, but I use to get some pretty good stuff out of my old large cold heap which just took whatever came out of the garden.
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Derbyshire but with a Nottinghamshire postcode. Posts: 16,462
    As Gemma says. Take unrotted stuff off top, shred if possible, mix it up with lots of green, grass lawn mowings are ideal provided it has not been treated with weed and feed.  Put it in a bin, or use builders 1 tonne bags if you can get them. They should then heat up, and will drop down in size.  After a heat up and drop, you will then be able to turn two into one, it will heat up and drop again provided it is damp enough.  If you methodically work into your current pile, you will eventually access all the good stuff underneath, you can use this as soil conditioner.  If any locals cannot currently get rid of grass cuttings, you may be able to  get quite a few bag fulls going.  It may take you all year to get it into useable form. Don't panic, just do a bit at a time.
  • Amazing, thanks guys! Good to hear the stuff at the bottom could well be useful. Honestly, the material right down on the bottom will have been there a decade!
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,531
    It will rot down quicker if you dose it from time to time with freshly-voided human urine.  Keep a watering can beside the throne.  But you need to add it to the compost within an hour, or the nitrates start turning to ammonia which is no use to plants.
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