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Home Composting / Gardening News

Home composting in early Spring 

During the cold winter months compost bins cool down and compost at a much slower rate.  In springtime, your compost bin will need a bit of a boost to bring it out of hibernation and begin warming up again.  All the creatures that help the material to rot down, such as worms and mites, are still in the compost heap but have moved to the warm centre of the compost bin for the winter.  To start your bin or heap composting again, you can: turn it with a fork to get oxygen into the materialmow the lawn to introduce some moisture and nitrogen-rich material.There might be material at the bottom of the bin or heap ready for harvesting.  The material should be dark brown with a crumbly texture that smells earthy.

The harvested compost can be placed on flower borders or spread on the lawn as a soil conditioner.  Alternatively, it can be mixed with 1/3 topsoil and 1/3 sharp sand or grit to make a potting mix.  Home compost will be too rich to grow seedlings, however, leaf mould is a good starting material for seeds.

For more information on home composting, why not attend our face-to-face home composting workshops during March, April and May (more information below) or watch our home composting workshop online?    

Home Compost Bins Offer 
Discounted compost bins are available to Warwickshire residents from just £10. 
See below for details of the two most popular bins.  

330 litre compost bin

The 330 litre compost bin is the most common compost bin and a great way to start.  It is cheap and effective but will only take uncooked fruit and vegetable waste, mixed with garden waste.  It should be placed in a half sunny, half shady area of the garden on bare soil or grass.  Buy Now from £10  

Green Johanna

The Green Johanna is a food digester and, unlike the cold compost bin, can take all food waste including cooked, meat, dairy and fish.  It will also compost garden waste.  Due to insulated sides, the Green Johanna composts at a higher temperature than the standard cold bin, killing off harmful bacteria that can be found in certain food types such as meat.  It should be placed in a shady area of the garden on bare soil or grass.  Buy Now for £40  

Help bees by not mowing dandelions 

If you are keen to do your bit for the declining bee population, not mowing dandelions could help.  Dandelions provide a valuable food source for early pollinators coming out of hibernation, including solitary bees, honey bees, and hoverflies.If you really need to mow your lawn, composting your grass clippings will wake up the compost bin from its winter hibernation.  Mix with some dry materials such as twigs, leaves or cardboard and scrunched up paper to provide air pockets that will keep your compost bin healthy.  

Home Composting Workshops 

During spring this year, we will return to running a series of face-to-face home composting workshops across Warwickshire. Find your nearest event in the list below and follow the link to book your place.
Workshop dates 

Kenilworth Library, Smalley Place, Kenilworth, CV8 1QG
Tuesday 29th March 2022 at 10.30am
Book your place by registering on the Home composting workshop eventbrite page.

Rugby Library, Little Elborow Street, Rugby, CV21 3BZ
Thursday 31st March 2022 at 10.30am
Book you place by registering on the Home composting workshop eventbrite page.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6HX
Tuesday 5th April 2022 at 10.30am
Book your place by registering on the Home composting workshop eventbrite page.

Nuneaton Library, Church Street, Nuneaton, CV11 4DR
Wednesday 6th April 2022 at 11.00am
Book you place by registering on the Home composting workshop Eventbrite page.

North Warwickshire Borough Council, Council House, South Street, Atherstone CV9 1DE
Wednesday 6th April 2022 at 1.30pm
Book you place by registering on the Home composting workshop eventbrite page.

Warwick Library, Market Place, Warwick, CV34 4RL
Wednesday 4th May 2022 at 10.15am
Book you place by registering on the Home composting workshop eventbrite page.

If you prefer to learn in the comfort of your own home we recorded a webinar. 
Click on the link below to watch the webinar.
Home Composting Webinar  

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of the extra information that has been requested on the feedback forms at the end of our workshop, plus the answers.

Should I water my bin if it is dry?
A.  Watering the compost bin is a short term fix.  Dry bins are an indication that there are too many brown, dry materials such as twigs and leaves and you should add more green, watery materials such as grass and vegetable peelings and give it a good mix. There should be some moisture in the compost when squeeze in your hands.

What do I do with my compost?
A.  Finished compost is a dark brown, almost black soil-like layer that you’ll find at the bottom of your bin. It has a spongy texture and is rich in nutrients. Some bins have a small hatch at the bottom that you can remove to get at the finished product, but sometimes it’s even easier to lift the bin or to tip it over to get at your compost.

Spreading the finished compost onto your flowerbeds greatly improves soil quality by helping it retain moisture and suppressing weeds. Composting is the easiest way to make your garden grow more beautiful. However, the compost is too rich for some purposes like potting or root crops, but works well for fruiting or leafy food crops.

How to get the compost out of the bottom of the black bin?
A.  Removing the compost through the hatch can be quite difficult.  All the twigs and prunings need to be cut own to a small size and even then the material can stick together.  We recommend removing the bin in the spring by rocking it backwards and forwards to loosen the material around the side of the bin and lifting off.  Separate out the well-rotted material at the bottom of the bin and place the material from the top of the bin that isn’t well-rotted back into the bin.
Is it advisable to turn compost from the full bin into an empty bin? 
A.  You can move the harvested compost from the bottom of the bin into a holding bin if you don’t plan to use it straight away.  It will continue to rot down in the bin until you are ready to use it.
Do activators make a difference?
A.  Activators such as Garrota are not necessary if you have the right mix.  After the winter months, your compost bin might need a kick start.  Filling your bin with lots of greens and mixing it with browns will be enough to start the composting process off.  Mowing your lawn and mixing with newspaper or cardboard is all you will need.
Do you have any advice on controlling flies?
A.  The flies in a compost bin are often fruit flies.  An adult fruit fly can lay 2000 eggs which will hatch within 30 hours.  To reduce the likelihood of a fruit fly infestation, cover fruit and vegetable peelings with soil when placed in the compost bin. 
Why can the Green Johanna take cooked waste when it is on the list of what not to add?
A.  The Green Johanna is a hot bin.  This means that it composts food waste at a higher temperature than the cold bin (standard 330 litre black bins from £10.00) sustaining different micro-organisms that can easily compost cooked food, meat, dairy and fish.  
How do I get my bins going? 
A.  Place your bin on the soil in a half shady, half sunny position in the garden, unless you have a Green Johanna which needs to be in full shade.  Start the bin off with anything you have at hand but ensure a mix of green (wet) and brown (dry) materials.  This could be vegetable peelings and garden prunings.  It really doesn’t matter what you start with just continue to add in equal measures of brown and green. 

Sometimes the compost bin will need a kick start around March/April after the winter months.  To do this simply mow the lawn introducing lots of moisture and nitrogen-rich material mixed with equal quantities of brown material such as newspaper or cardboard to provide air pockets.
Are there certain foods that may harm the earthworms?
A.  Earthworms aren’t the worms that are working hard in the compost bin.  Composting worms such as reds and brandlings are not keen on overly acidic material such as citrus fruit.  However, the average family is not likely to create enough citrus fruit waste to cause the worms a problem, they will just avoid it and the other mini beasts will take care of them.

If you want to help worms, eggshells are a good addition to your compost bin.  Eggshells provide calcium, which reduces acidity in the bin. This prevents high acid conditions that can harm your worms. Also, crushed eggshells provide grit to aid the worms’ digestion. And, it is believed that eggshells help worms in their reproductive process. [Source: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm]
Do I need to stir the bin?
A.  It is best to stir the compost every so often (perhaps every month) to ensure a good mix of the green and brown materials.  The easiest method is to mix the material when you place it in the compost bin and scrunch up any newspaper if you don’t have other brown, dry material available to provide air pockets.  Then it’s just a case of sticking a garden fork into the middle of the bin and moving it around to ensure there is air in the compost bin.
Composting in conjunction with an allotment.
A.  Composting at an allotment isn’t very different from composting in your garden.  You may find that you have a higher proportion of greens when harvesting a crop.  Too many greens can make the mix a bit wet and should be balanced out with an equal portion of browns.  Browns can be difficult to find at an allotment, but newspaper and cardboard make a great substitute for twigs and leaves. 

You may find that mice, rats, and ants take up residence in your nice warm compost bin because there is less human activity.  To reduce the likelihood of rats you can leave a gap around the bin.  Rats in particular, like to follow the boundary line of the garden or allotment rather than being out in the open, and if a compost bin is in their way they are more likely to investigate and set up home.  Kick the bin whenever you pass by it, this will unsettle any residents; don’t place any cooked food from home in the compost bin.
The information about rats and pests and not to use cooked food waste conflicts with the information on the Green Johannas. Will I get rats using a green Johanna if I use cooked food waste?
A.  A basic cold compost bins have an open base, so critters can easily get in and might be attracted to cooked food and meat. Green Johannas have a base which is sealed to the bottom section of the composter.

The base plate on a Green Johanna has a series of 4.5mm diameter holes that allow good ventilation but keep out rats and mice.
Are there any leaves that you cannot put in the compost bin e.g. Rhubarb leaves?
A.  The only leaves we wouldn’t recommend placing in a compost bin are those that have evidence of any disease such as black spot and evergreen such as holly and conifer leaves.  Deciduous leaves such as silver birch and fruit trees, take longer to rot down but will eventually. 

Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is corrosive and a kidney toxin, but this has no significant effect on soil micro-organisms. The leaves will decompose perfectly well as the amount of oxalic acid is low and the molecule doesn’t survive well outside of the plant cells. Eating plants grown in rhubarb-leaf compost is also perfectly safe.
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