Your compost heap this autumn and what should be in it
Now that summer has ended and we prepare our gardens for the oncoming winter, our compost bins should be bulging. Making your compost heap as nutrient-rich as possible in the autumn will ensure you have a healthy supply of fertiliser for your plants in the coming months as the garden comes back to life again in the spring, and it also provides a place for hedgehogs to hibernate over the winter, so it’s got wildlife benefits too. Here’s a handy guide to what should be in your compost heap this autumn, and what to keep out of it.
Your compost heap should be a good mix of nitrogen and carbon compostable material, so that the contents decompose efficiently. Getting the balance right can be tricky however – you should try to have more carbon material than nitrogen as too much nitrogen can lead to sour smells, the pile becoming too hot and reducing the number of beneficial microbes in it. If possible, you should also try to keep it dry, so cover it up!
Soups and stews are commonplace in the colder months, and those vegetable peelings and scraps of potato that you would have thrown in the bin make great additions to your compost heap instead. Autumn is also the time of year when you will have lots of plants and flowers that don’t last the winter and need to be recycled in a responsible manner – aka turning them into great compostable material to feed your plants for next year.
Autumn leaves in the garden are in plentiful supply, but people have reported problems in the past with getting them to break down properly. The trick here is to make sure you shred them first before adding them to your compost pile. Make sure to add them with other garden waste such as grass clippings and manure for maximum composting success.
For quality compost make sure you layer your materials (garden waste and kitchen waste) and remember to turn it a few times throughout the autumn to help it break down – just be cautious of any hibernating animals in there which you might disturb.
You can use your compost throughout the autumn and winter if it’s ready – after all, there’s lots of vegetables you can grow throughout the winter which might benefit from your rich fertiliser. These include beans, peas, asparagus, onions and garlic – so you can continue your passion for gardening all winter long.
With all these tips on what should be in your compost heap this autumn, it’s also important to remind yourself of the things that you should never put in it. These include – fish and meat scraps, dairy products, sticky labels that come on fruit and veg peelings and pet waste.