Using your compost FAQs
The compost will survive being bagged up and left until you are ready to use it on the garden. Leave a little of the old material in the bottom of the compost bin as it contains all the useful micro organisms that are needed to get the process going again.
The compost will be fine to use, although - just as a precaution - it would be advisable to wear gloves when you're handling it.
I have a compost bin which is almost full. I am moving house and would like to take this with me. Who do I contact?
We would recommend that you contact your local council's waste and recycling service who will be able to offer you answers on the local services available.
Try this simple method to sterilise your compost: in a conventional oven, place moist, not wet, soil in a shallow tray in a layer about 10cm deep. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven at 80degC for 30 minutes. Remove promptly, take off the foil and leave to cool.
You can also sterilise your home made compost before use with a phenol-based disinfectant or with an electrical soil steriliser. More information on this can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society website www.rhs.org.uk.
As homemade compost is made from recycled kitchen and garden waste, although very nutritious, it is too strong for growing seeds or bringing on young plants and needs to be mixed with other materials to make potting compost.
Builders sand is unsuitable for growing plants. You will find sharp sand (used to make concrete) or horticultural sand widely available from garden centres, DIY stores or builders merchants.
Compost makes an ideal mulch but compost can act like a fertiliser. Remember to leave space around soft stemmed plants as it could potentially scorch and damage them.
Ideally it would be better to wait until the spring. If you spread the compost in the autumn then some of the nutrients will be washed out of the compost. As plants will be growing more actively in the spring they will be better placed to use these nutrients as they are released from the compost.
When making compost for potted plants, you advise two parts sterilised soil or loam. Where do I get this?
Loam and soil can both be purchased from garden centres. Alternatively, you can buy sand and use soil from your garden in the mix. This will reduce the acidity of the compost and create a nice light compost.
Can I use the liquid drained from my rotating compost bin as a liquid feed? If so, what dilution method should I use?
The liquid is a by-product of composting, known as leachate, and will contain soluble nutrients which may be beneficial to plants.
The dilution rate is 1:10 (1 part leachate to 10 parts water) and, for sensitive plants, use a ratio of 1:20.
Check that your compost is definitely ready to use, as the vast majority of the worms should migrate upwards to follow their food source as the waste is transformed into compost.
If you are not sure, lay the compost out thinly on an old sheet or tarpaulin and cover one end of it. The worms should migrate to the covered end.
Home compost is excellent for improving soil structure. It will break up clay soils and allow better drainage and provide air spaces whilst incorporating vital nutrients for the plants to absorb.
Heathers are known as ericaceous plants and thrive in fertile, moist, but not waterlogged, acid soil. Both home and worm compost will add lots of nutrients to your soil and will help keep the soil moist.
Home compost can be used as a soil improver on all types of beds where plants are grown including vegetables, flowers and ornamental shrubs.