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Home-made compost

I've  been making my own compost for the last 4 years, I have three large 1m.sq bins made from wooden palets so am able to use each bin every 2 years. My mix is made up of kitchen veg waste, grass clipings and green leafy waste from the garden including weeds and (perennial weeds which I soak in water for about 4 weeks before adding), also comfrey leaves, cardboard boses and at least 6 scrunched up sheets of newspaper everyday which is taken from the base of my two large parrot cages so they contain parrot poo and discarded fruit. I turn this mix every time I add stuff and you can feel the heat generated in it as I fork it.

I recently tested this mix because I have had such little success with growing produce. The test result show low and extremely low in all of the test for NKP -, why? What am I doing wrong?


  • sotongeoffsotongeoff Posts: 9,802

    You are doing nothing wrong-but the garden compost you are using I would not use for growing plants but as a soil enricher

    You can buy products to add to the mix to provide the nutrient but basic garden compost is low in this as you have found out-the alternative is to buy proprietary potting composts for growing-and if your garden compost doesn't heat up enough it may still contain weed seeds

  • sotongeoffsotongeoff Posts: 9,802

    This is the sort of product you need to add as an example-this is for peat

  • Mish2Mish2 Posts: 6

    Hiya! Just looking for the compost recipe on here and saw this on Projects: The Basics: How to make compost - which is Monty Don's recipe! Hope this helps!

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414

    Compost the magic mix is meant to be used as a soil en-richer which will allow plants to grow healthy roots. You put it in the bottom of the hole and mix in the fill in soil when planting. You use it as mulch to stop soil drying out and to add fibre to the soil, the worms will drag it down for you.
    You do not use it for seeds or potting on seedlings although I do add it to my pots along with bought potting soil in bags which should have been heated to a much hotter state than we can get it in our own compost heaps.-
    You are doing everything right Pamela and will have lovely stuff to dig in around your settled plants as a mulch but at the same time scatter some general fertiliser, we all have our own idea's on what though I do use a lot of bone meal which is a slow fertiliser along with some solid pellets of fertiliser, a light hand is needed as you can overdo it and burn the plants.
    I am afraid that unless you have a soil steriliser, an old micro wave in the garage works, you still need buy seed compost or do as I do mix your own with bought compost fine grit and washed sand.
    Just keep doing what you do and use it copiously around your plants and on the borders.


  • I've only been gardening since I retired and we moved to Scotland 4 years ago - not the best climate I have found! So being new to the game I have read up quite a bit and constantly come across the importance of making your own compost. Last year, after a poor start on a plots previously only used for potatoes, I made 2 of my plots into raised beds and topped them up with 6" of Mel Bartholomew's mix from his 'Square Foot Gardening' book - I used a1/3 coir (instead of peat), 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 my own compost with added 'Nugro' from Fertile Fibre. But it looks as though I needed to add a compost base as well and regularly add more fertiliser as the season passes.

    Thanks for the help everyone.

  • Oh... and a heated greenhouse for bringing on my seeds in the spring - everything is so much later here in Scotland and I am too keen to get started in the year than the weather actually permits!

  • daituomdaituom Posts: 83

    Pamela, you should be able to use your compost every 6 monthes at the most. For every layer of green material used you should add an equal layer of brown material ie dead leaves, shredded paper, torn or scrunched up newspaper or torn up cardboard.There is no need to turn the material everytime you add to the bin but once a fortnight will be fine. The rule of composting is, 1 bin being used, 1 bin full and composting and the final bin being built up. What is VERY important is you are using pallets which allow air into the compost, unlike those plastic "darleks" which just produce a slimey mess. As with all living things, the bacteria and worms that digest and convert the raw material, need warmth, air and moisture. You are doing well, and carrying on a gardening tradition. Well done.

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414

    Pamela, Do not try to heat a whole greenhouse it is a costly venture, what you need is a heated bed. I made a solid staging at one end of the greenhouse fitted a box around four inches deep sides and wood bottom then bought heating cable and a thermostat. You fill the bottom of the box with sand then lay out the cable fitting the thermostat to the outside then cover the cable with more sand. An electric cable to the greenhouse is required and will need to be armoured if it goes underground. I am lucky in that my greenhouse is a lean-to on the garage wall so straight through the wall and fitted to a proper cut out.
    If that is not possible then you will need either gas or parafin and both give problems with humidity. Curtain one end of the greenhouse with bubble wrap and put shelving in for your seeds and plants it will not be cheap to heat that one small section but trying to keep the heat in a full GH is astronomical. I can also run a fan heater with frost guard although the garage wall takes in heat during the day and gives it back at night.
    As for the raised beds keep adding the compost as it will give texture, hold moisture and give a little feed to the plants, I do add some granular fertiliser to my compost heap now and then as I fill the box to add a bit of life to it.


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