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13 Apr 2020

How to start a compost heap

A close-up of a large garden compost heap, bordered on three sides by wooden pallets. Pumpkins can still be seen in the compost! A garden fork rests by the side.
Having your own compost heap means extra nutrients for plants. Michael Lawrie, Head Gardener for the Trust’s Dumfries & Galloway properties and Head of Threave School of Heritage Gardening, explains how to start your own compost heap.

Step 1

Use old pallets or pieces of wood to make a large container in a corner of the garden. Stand it on bare soil. Leave a space at the bottom (or use a piece of sliding wood) so that you can reach the finished compost. All you need are some old pieces of wood, green household waste and woody material such as twigs or small pruned branches.

You can make a smaller version of this compost heap too – just choose pieces of wood to make a container that fits the space you have available.

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Step 2

Add vegetable and green household waste, coffee grounds, grass cuttings and any weeds you pull up. Include some finger-thickness woody material periodically. Cover it all with a lid or piece of old carpet to keep it warm.

Top tip: Add grass cuttings gradually, otherwise you’ll be left with a slimy mess.

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Step 3

Turn it over with a garden fork occasionally, and mix it together. If it gets really dry, add a little bit of water. You’ll soon start to see the worms breaking it all down.

If you start now, your compost should be broken down by late summer/early autumn, ready to be used for mulching and ground cover.

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