Four steps to better composting

Get better compost and learn how to make fantastic fertilizer for free with BBC Countryfile Magazine editor Fergus Collins. 

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1. The compost city

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You can’t have too many compost bins. Here I have one big compost bin open to the elements and two covered plastic bins. Organic material starts in the open bin where I can mix woody material with grass clippings and kitchen waste before being shifted into one of the covered bins when one of them becomes empty. These covered bins intensify the decaying process but the material inside needs to be turned regularly to ensure plenty of oxygen reaches the organisms doing all the ‘rotten’ work.

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2. New unrotted matter

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After being mixed in the open bed, a full load of organic matter goes into a rapid composter. It may take up to six months to rot down – in the meantime, it becomes a haven for a huge range of wildlife, from ants nests and slugs to slow worms and wood mice.

3. Veg bed ready

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It can take six months for a bin full of compost to rot down enough to be spread on the veg bed. You can speed up the process by turning the material every week with a fork. Some champion composters also recommend peeing into the bin – easier for men, of course. The finished compost should be crumbling and pleasant smelling – quite surprising considering the material that went into it – in this case, a lot of chicken droppings.

4. DIY fertilizer

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Gardeners often look at patches of nettles with disgust but they have a terrific number of uses. The early, smallest leaves can be wilted like spinach or blitzed into a soup. Several butterfly and moth species use nettles as food plants – and so can we in a way. Fill a bucket with nettles – stuff in as many as you can. Then fill with water, or for those who live in Wales, simply let the rain fill it. Within 10 days you’ll have a thick dark brown liquid – rich in nitrogen and smelling like a heap of manure. Diluted with water (10 parts water to 1 part nettle juice) it makes a fantastic free fertilizer. A great way to recycle a nuisance plant. Boy, does it smell though.

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Main image: Getty