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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kay

How and why to make great compost

In years of designing London gardens, I think I've only managed to persuade 3 or 4 clients to include a compost bin in their newly designed gardens.

The reaction of most people is that it is too much work and a compost bin will ruin the aesthetics of their garden. However this doesn't have to be the case.

The benefits of composting are:

  1. You recycle your garden waste, meaning no trips to the tip or money to councils to remove your waste (Harringay council now charges up to £75 per year).

  2. The compost that you create is great as a mulch or soil conditioner meaning that you don't have to buy this twice a year.

Making good compost is really easy. You just need the right type of bin in the right position with the correct things added. Then it is really just a matter of turning it every so often and waiting.

  1. Your compost bin needs to be directly on the soil and in sun (if possible). With my designs I try to hide or disguise it using screening or plants.

  2. The contents need to be a 50/50 mix of nitrogen and carbon rich. Nitrogen rich items include grass cuttings, leaves and teabags, with cardboard and woody stems rich in carbon. Cut up woody stems as they will break down easier but leave egg boxes or loo rolls intact as it helps with aeration. Most compost heaps have too much nitrogen which can make them slimy and smelly.

  3. Speed up the composting process by turning the heap with a fork every so often. I like two wooden pallet bins for this purpose - one has the finished compost for use in the garden and the other is for filling.

4.Once the result is brown and sweet smelling it is ready for use. Hopefully this will take around 6 months.

There are items you shouldn't add:

Diseased plants

Perennial weeds

Cooked food


Raw meat


Gloss or printed paper

Coal fire ash

Cat or dog faeces

One of the main reasons given for not having a compost bin is lack of space. The Hotbin composter can help with this. It is very compact and claims to produce compost in 3mths.

I recently installed one in a client's garden so will be watching the results carefully over the coming months.

Happy Composting!

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