Food scraps ‘not’ to add to your compost heaps – will ‘attract vermin’

Diarmuid Gavin advises people to 'make your own compost'

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Putting the wrong items in your compost bin can not only lead to the items not being able to decompose and contamination of the entire pile, but it can also attract pests to your garden, claimed Jonathan Hill at Rolawn. The expert has shared several food scrap items that “can’t” go in the pile.

Jonathan said: “There are a variety of recipes for compost but a common one is 50 percent green material and 50 percent brown material. Here are a few examples of what can and can’t go on your heap.”

Listing what should never be added to compost heaps, the expert said to avoid cooked fruits or vegetables, meat, dairy, fish and oils/fats.

He added: “Remember to stick to the ‘do not put on’ list of items, otherwise you may attract unwanted vermin to your compost heap.”

In terms of what food scraps can be added to compost piles include raw fruit and vegetable scraps, crushed eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds.

Jonathan shared how gardeners can identify if their compost is in a healthy state.

He said: “You know your compost heap is healthy if you can see many worms in it when you turn your pile over. 

“Worms are the backbone of a compost heap, they eat the waste matter that you have added to the heap and as the waste material passes through their bodies it turns into compost and comes out through their tail end. They are a wonder and much needed in the garden.”

Compost is typically ready to use in the garden after four to six months as this is usually the time it takes for the material to break down.

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However, the expert noted that it can be used sooner if the compost looks and smells a certain way.

Jonathan said: “Your compost is ready to use once it is dark brown, has a crumbly texture and smells like earth (and no longer rotting vegetables). 

“You can sieve your compost to get a finer compost which is perfect for sowing seeds in or you can add it to your vegetable and flower beds to help enrich and improve your soil. 

“You can fill pots or planters with your home made compost and grow flowers or vegetables.”

Gardeners can start making compost at any time of the year however late spring/early summer is the “perfect time” to start a compost heap, according to the expert, as there is an abundance of green plant material available to start a heap with. Whether people have a small or large garden this should work for either.

As they are not particularly pretty and can smell, a good place for a compost heap is away from the house, in a quiet hidden corner of the garden. 

For those who are not going to make a container for the heap then locating it behind a tall shrub or shed would be ideal as they make a good screen. 

According to Jonathan the “cheapest, easiest and least time consuming way” to start making compost for those who haven’t begun already is to just start a pile somewhere in the garden and keep adding new material to it.  

He said: “You do not need a container, just keep piling your waste material onto the heap and fork it over every few weeks. However, putting your compost heap into a container can help speed up the process of composting and it contains what can be an unsightly mess to one place.”

The most common containers are self-assembled wooden containers or plastic ones. Plastic compost heaps can be bought and some councils have schemes where you can buy them from the council at a reduced rate.

The benefit of a plastic bin is that the material you put in it warms up quickly and turns into compost quicker. The expert explained: “This is because the dark plastic absorbs and stores thermal energy and releases it slowly which speeds up the rate of composting.”

Jonathan added: “You can make compost in plastic bins in just three months. The downside to plastic bins is that it might not make enough compost for your needs. If you have a larger garden or many pots/planters you would like to fill, you may wish to make yourself or buy wooden compost bins.”

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