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Green up and rot down

Grass clippings, hedge prunings, weeds and faded flowers all contribute to the mass of organic matter that needs to be removed from the garden.

Filling up landfill sites doesn’t help the pocket or our environment, so think about composting and keep the goodness where it belongs, in the soil.

There are a few key things to remember when planning a compost heap. Just like the estate agents jargon, location is all important. One of the basic ingredients to break down the ingredients quickly is heat so set up your compost pile so that the front of it faces south. It’s the heat inside the pile that speeds up all the friendly microorganisms which work their way through the debris. Heat also acts as a ‘thermal kill’, effectively sterilising unwanted weed seed.

The other basic necessity is good ventilation. Air flowing through the decomposing matter provides valuable oxygen to the armies of tiny organisms. You can improve air flow by either using a slatted timber construction, with spaces between the boards for ventilation and by raising the pile a few inches off the ground. An old palette is ideal for allowing air underneath. As the heat rises, it pulls air from underneath much like a chimney, keeping the fire burning in the centre.

Grass clippings can be added, but its better if they’re mixed with drier material like leaves so they don’t form a soggy mush which is slow to break down. If you add larger items like branches, remember to chop them up as small as possible. Turning the pile occasionally will also help to mix old debris with new and distributes the new stuff right under the noses of the microorganisms.

If you need large amounts of compost quickly you can of course always cheat! Mushroom compost is a natural waste product obtainable from mushroom farms. Rich, dark and full of nutrient, it’s perfect for planting. It might be waste to some, but for gardeners it’s food for healthier plants.