Top 10 composting tips

Here are my top ten composting tips for achieving great compost, which will help you keep your soil in great condition year after year. Using these composting tips can be the difference between a good year on the allotment and a poor one, especially if you’re fond of growing fruit and veg that thrives in nutrient-rich soil.

1. Get the green/brown mix right

The microbes that break down your compost pile need a balanced mix of nitrogen and carbon to thrive. While this may sound complicated, it simply means that you should aim to add an equal amount of ‘green’ materials (such as kitchen waste, manure, and grass clippings) to your compost heap as ‘brown’ materials (such as dead leaves, hay, wood chips, and paper). Try to keep the ratio approximately equal (by weight, not volume), and your compost will thrive.

Top 10 composting tips

2. Use a starter

Give your compost a kick-start with a compost accelerator, such as this one from Neudorff. This will help activate the microbes responsible for breaking down organic matter into compost.

Top 10 composting tips

3. Give your compost a drink

Adding wine to your compost at regular intervals will also spur the microbes and bacteria into action, as will the waste products which come from brewing beer.

Top 10 composting tips

4. Add paper

Newspaper or standard printing paper is a great and easy available source of ‘brown’ material for your compost. Instead of recycling it, shred it and mix it into your compost heap.

Top 10 composting tips

5. Give your compost a helping hand

The smaller the items that you put into your compost are, the faster they will be broken down into usable material. Give your compost a helping hand by cutting food waste down as small as you can before adding it to your heap. An easy way to do this is with the Green Cycler from Ecotonix.


6. Don’t add fats, pet droppings, or animal products

Fats, pet droppings, and animal products will attract pests and can spread disease, so you should avoid adding them to your compost.

Top 10 composting tips

7. Be sparing when adding ashes

When adding ashes as a ‘brown’ material to your compost, be very sparing, as the high alkaline content can affect the pH level of the compost and stunt production. Be similarly cautious with acidic materials such as pine needles and oak leaves.

Top 10 composting tips

8. Be careful when adding straw

Straw is another excellent ‘brown’ material for your compost, but it may contain weed seeds, which will take root in your developing compost and sap it of nutrients. Regularly check your compost for weeds, and avoid adding straw entirely if it becomes a serious problem.

Top 10 composting tips

9. Speed things up with a hot composter

Hot composting is a process that usually involves a compost bin or tumbler which gets the material to a much higher temperature than a traditional compost heap. This dramatically speeds up the process, and this method can produce usable compost in as few as 14 days. Mantis produces a wide range of hot composters which you can order online.

Top 10 composting tips

10. How to know when you have compost

You know you have compost when it looks, feels, and smells like rich, dark soil all the way through. It should be unrecognisable from any of the items you added to it, and it will usually be less than half the volume of the materials you started with.



Composting: Leafmould

At this time of year you can really make use of the debris left as a result of the changing seasons and the drop in temperatures.  Leafmould is compost made out of decaying leaves and is a great soil conditioner.

Leafmould is easy to produce – all you have to do is collect the leaves up and store in a plastic bag, wire cage or something that’s going to keep in the moisture.

Once stored – leave it… No pun intended.  It takes around one and a half to two years to break down, decompose and eventually be subject to “humification”.  Humification is the fancy word given to the process in which green and brown matter is turned into compost.

The benefits of leafmould

  • Leafmould can hold the equivalent of 80–90% of its weight in moisture and can increase the soil’s capacity to withstand drought conditions.
  • The process that converts raw organic matter into leafmould feeds the soil population of microorganisms and other creatures. This maintains high and healthy levels of soil life. (Soil life consists of all kinds of bacteria, fungus and enzymes which have really long, complicated names, but trust me when I say they’re beneficial for your garden!)
  • The dark color of well-rotted leafmould helps to warm up cold soils.
  • Leafmould is a substance, which on a microscopic level is made up of insoluble particles, which is dispersed among lots of other materials within the soil. This means that leafmould has a wonderful ability to keep the nutrients in the soil safe from being bleached by the elements. That stored nutrient goes straight back into the plants.


Well-rotted leafmould, which has been left for more than two years can be used as seed-sowing compost. You can also mix it equally with sharp sand, garden compost and a good quality top soil to use as potting compost.

Leftover, composted material that has not quite rotted down fully, or is less than two years old can be used as a mulch or a soil conditioner in the autumn.

In the winter, it can be used to cover bare soil and or used in the winter to cover bare soil and keep weed growth to a minimum.


If you plan on making your own multi-purpose, keep you leaves away from the main compost bin.