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  Frequently asked questions  

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Is your compost
going well?
Share your success
with others
How can I speed up my compost?
How long does it take?
Does a compost heap need to get hot?
Will my compost heap smell?
What if my bin fills too quickly?
What if I have too much grass?
What is mulch?
Lots of leaves?
Are activators necessary?
Why is my compost heap not working?
Uninvited Guests?


How can I speed up my compost?
Chopping everything up will help it to compost quicker, and also reduces its bulk dramatically.
If you have a petrol rotary mower, it is ideal for chopping up deadheads, hedge trimmings, bean tops, and anything the mower will take. Spread the material out on the ground, and take it slowly.
Woody prunings ans small branches are also excellent for composting, after they have been shredded.   Quiet electric shredders will cope easily with material up to 30mm (1¼ ins).
More information on shredders and shredder hire


How long does it take?      - 6 months to a year or longer - Its up to you !
Speed-up tips
Chop or shred materials before adding
Try and add roughly equal amounts of 'green' and 'brown' material
Before adding more material, check that its not too wet or too dry
Cover the surface with an old carpet, to keep the warmth and moisture in

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Does a compost heap need to get hot?
Your compost heap will only get really hot if you put a large amount on in one go,
although it will normally be slightly warm in the middle, even in winter.
Covering the surface with an old carpet or bubblewrap helps to keep the warmth in.

If you are making your own bin from pallets, consider packing the pallets with insulation- expanded polystyrene, foam ( in plastic bag) or antthing else you have available. If its anything water-absorbent, put in a plastic bag first.


Will my compost heap smell?
No. If it does, something is wrong. Normally, it is due to too much grass - mix with some material with more texture- woody shreddings, or crumpled egg boxes, cardboard etc.


What if my bin fills too quickly?
If your bin is full in under a month, then you probably need a second bin.
If you need something bigger, builders’ bulk bags are ideal, or you can build one using pallets.

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What if I have too much grass?
Either
Take off the grass box and let it fall back on the grass as food for the lawn. This method works best if you keep the grass short. And because there is no box to empty, it is a much quicker and easier job.
or
Use grass cuttings as a mulch (don't dig in)

What is mulch?
This is an ideal way of using surplus grass, leaves, or shreddings. Just spread on the surface around bushes. IT will stop the weeds growing and slowly breaks down, feeding the soil. NB Don’t dig in.

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Lots of leaves?   FREE jumbo leaf bags
They are best composted separately. They take around 18 months to compost, and produce wonderful leaf mould.
Just put them in bags (bulk builders bags are ideal) cover, and keep moist.
Alternatively, use as a mulch – the worms will pull them down within a season.
How to Make Leaf Compost (Word doc)


Are activators necessary?
No -you do not need to buy activators, just get the right balance of Browns and Greens, and make sure they are moist.
Grass cuttings (not too many) or animal manure (not cat or dog), will speed up your compost if it is ‘going slow’.

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Why is my compost heap not working?

Check how it looks about a fork’s depth in.
  • If it is dry, then water it – a bucket-full in a dalek composter; several bucket-fulls if it is a bigger composter.
  • If it is smelly – squishy grass, then fluff it up, mix with the layer below, or add shreddings or crumpled egg boxes, cardboard tubes and boxes torn up – anything to provide texture.
  • If it is moist and teeming with minibugs, then it is working well – just be patient!
Uninvited Guests?

Fruit flies are not harmful, just annoying. When you add kitchen waste, try to either bury it below the surface, or cover with grass cuttings.

Ants and woodlice are not harmful, but often come if the bin is a bit dry - water to make moist.

Slugs and snails prefer decomposing matter, so are better here than on your garden!

Mice and rats are around everywhere, but we normally don’t see evidence of them. Avoid adding meat, fish or cooked food. If they find your compost heap, you can discourage them by disturbing the compost heap regularly, If the heap is dry, this encourages mice to make nests, so watering heap can move them on. If you will want to get rid of them, use traps or poison (use carefully - eg inside a drainpipe).
When restarting your bin, put your bin on a sheet of wire mesh (12mm pitch) wrapped up around the bottom edge, or put on paving stones.
Remember, all these critters are eating and converting your ‘waste’ into compost, free and 24 hours a day!
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