How to Compost

Compost safely

Your compost ingredients

Empty your compost bin

To turn or not to turn?

How long to compost?

Worms & Wormeries

Topical Composting

Compost kitchen waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and weeds

Too much grass

Leaves for Leafmould


Unwelcome Guests


Composting demonstrated


 Making your own sowing and potting compost mixes saves money, plus you can vary the recipe to suit your purpose and make up the amount you require at any time.

seedlings in home made compostFirstly, you should decide how rich a mix your plant will require. A seed has enough nutrient stored in it to get started, so you could in theory sow in leafmould or coir which have very low nutrient levels. However you would need to prick out and transplant the seedlings almost immediately to prevent them starving, so it’s best to start with at least some nutrient in the compost mix. As the seedling grows, it will need more and more feed, which is why we move seedlings into larger pots with a stronger, ie richer, mix. As a general rule, increase the size of the pot only gradually. The roots should nearly fill the pot before moving into a larger one.

Plants that need good drainage when they are “grown-up” also need good drainage when they are seedlings. Large seeds that need extra warmth to germinate also need free draining compost; cucumber and courgette seeds are especially vulnerable to rotting.

You will need to bulk up your home-made compost with material like leafmould or coir, the proportions depending on how rich the mix is to be. These not only eke out your precious home-made compost they also create more air spaces within it. So what to use with the compost?

Peat was once used, but those of us concerned about the welfare of the environment will always use an alternative. Peat should simply not be used.

Leafmould is ideal, but it can be difficult to make or have access to large enough quantities. It is low in nutrient, but retains water well. It also contains micro organisms that help fight plant diseases.
Coir, a by product of the coconut industry, is quite readily available, and is a good bulking agent. Care needs to be taken not to overwater: Coir often looks dry on the surface even when there is plenty moisture beneath, and can become waterlogged. On the other hand it is difficult to rewet if it dries out completely so a moisture gauge, readily available at garden centres, will keep you right.

Vermiculite, perlite, coarse sand and composted bark are useful in mixes needing good drainage.
Composted municipal green waste will provide you with a good bulking agent, and can be used instead of leafmould or coir in the mixes below. It is often described as a soil conditioner and will not be strong in nutrients.

Making a Potting Mix
The quickest and most satisfactory way to mix the ingredients is to use a Rotasieve. We have used it for several years and always recommend it to students on workshops. Make sure, when putting the compost through the sieve that it is not too wet and sticky. Here are mixes that can be used at different stages of a plant’s growth. Ones marked * are specially recommended.

Seed sowing mixes
*leafmould + garden compost 2:1 - a good, general mix. When extra drainage is needed, as for courgettes and many flower seedlings, add vermiculite. 2 parts compost: 3 parts leafmould or coir: 1 part vermiculite.

Potting mixes
When pricking out, make a stronger mix. leafmould or coir: compost  1:1 - will not sustain plants very long
Leafmould or coir + home compost 1: 1 is a good, general mix.

Vermiculite or perlite may need to be added to the above mix when an especially free draining compost is required, for example for cuttings or if seedlings are prone to rotting, like courgettes. The mix should then be:5 parts compost: 2 parts leafmould or coir: 1 part vermiculite.

When permanently growing plants like tomatoes and peppers in containers, you will need a much stronger compost mix: 7 parts compost + 1 part vermiculite. If you need to retain moisture, substitute water retaining gel for vermiculite. The gel will swell when you water and will release the stored water when the compost begins to dry out. This will keep After 2 months an additional liquid feed will be needed. You can also top up the nutrient levels with wormcast.

Other seasonal tips you might find useful:
Recycle your Christmas decorations and use them in the garden.
Composting in the snow
Warm up your compost in the spring
Using your compost - make the most of your composting efforts
Use your compost in spring
Making your own compost mixes
Dealing with the Autumn Clearing - shredding and more
Is your compost slimy and smelly? - solve the problem.
Restarting your home compost bin in the spring.
Making the most of your compost bin in summer.
Composting in autumn means dealing with heaps of leaves and piles of prunings
Winter Composting - What to do when your home compost bin is working too slowly
Solve the problem of a cold, stuck compost bin.
Make your own liquid feeds from comfrey and nettles
Composting lawn clippings that have been treated with herbicide
Composting in a Bag - how to get rid of kitchen waste and revive spent compost
How to compost sawdust, wood shavings and bark
Composting for Wildlife
If you produce too much to compost Minimise your garden waste
Take care when composting toxic plants

Composting problem?
 Contact us if you would like us to answer your query. We'll try to give a helpful answer!

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Also try Zero Waste Scotland