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Worm composting

Worm farming

When you see a group of worms squirming around and over each other, you may think that this is organised chaos. You would be right, it is. They have no concept of a future. They follow their noses to wherever the food is and just eat. All of this activity is punctuated by moments of breeding and occasional periods of torpor. They are capable of consuming everything that tastes good to them but looks moulded or rotten to us. This is the world of worm composting.


This is what makes worms so useful. When the conditions are favourable to them they get to work for us. They will only eat organic material that has started to deteriorate. Evidence of this will be when there are signs of mould. The worms graze on mould that’s been generated from waste food. Because they have no teeth they find it easy to bite and digest mould, it’s rather like us eating candy-floss.


As the waste food decomposes, the food structure breaks down and softens. This makes it more accessible to worms. They can then begin the process of devouring waste food like an industrial process. This is vermicomposting, When you have a wormery fully set up with a good charge of worms you will be amazed at how much food waste they can consume. You must be aware that worms can only eat food waste that is either mouldy or well into the rotting process.

It’s very easy to set up wormery of your own. You can get a wormery from Amazon. You can also buy worms from Amazon. These will be the tiger composting worms. These worms are the most suitable for consuming and digesting organic waste.

What else?

Do you have to use worms in compost?       

Earth worms in compost good or bad?

Worms escaping compost bin

Are maggots in compost good or bad?

Can worms live in hot compost?     

 Types of worms in compost

#wormcomposting will recycle any #greenwaste and turn it into prized #vermicompost. Check out the video and see what worms could do for you. Click To Tweet

Worms in compost good or bad?

Worms in a compost bin will always be a good thing. It’s also a good sign if you see a lively population of worms at work. It means that the conditions are right and that you have achieved the right balance of mixture in the compost. If you don’t get the balance right and there is too much nitrate material and not enough carbon this will hinder the breakdown of organic matter. If the organic matter isn’t broken down enough the worms can’t eat and digest it.

If you’ve got a wormery setup with a good population of worms you will have an ever-open door for all of the organic waste that you have to throw out from the kitchen. The volume of waste that you feed in is limited when operating a wormery but the worms should break it down fast enough.

This is not the same as a compost bin where you have plenty of capacity. You can throw in larger amounts of waste but don’t expect it to be broken down quickly by the worms.

A wormery will generate both solid and liquid material. Both are of value and can be used as a feed for plants. It would be wise to dilute the liquid with water because if you use it in its concentrated form it may be detrimental to the plants. To make the best use of the solid it would be wise to mix it with sand or soil. Worm castings alone may cause problems. This is a rich concentrated resource it can be spread far and wide making use of what would have otherwise been a nuisance waste.

A dedicated wormery can only work with worms in it. This type of system cannot be used as a composter it is purely a digester where everything must be done by the worms.

Compost bin

Do you have to use worms in compost?

No you don’t have to have worms to make compost. It’s quite possible to make a really good compost relying on just the naturally-provided micro-organisms. Find out more about how to make compost at

When you accumulate a lot of organic material and put it in one place e.g. in a compost bin or compost tumbler the material will very often become warm. This is because of the actions of the micro-organisms. Left alone compost will form but it will take longer.

With no worms in place you will need to have batches of compost forming in the number of compost bins. this would involve filling a bin until you can get no more in it and then closing it off and just leaving it for the micro-organisms and nature to take its time. If you have the space this is an option but you have to accept that these bins will have to be left in place for some time, possibly years.

If you add worms or if worms find their way into the compost at any stage they will accelerate the process. With most composting systems it’s very difficult to stop worms from finding their way into the forming compost. This is because the compost is very attractive to them they can smell it and it’s food. It’s irresistible to them and once they get in and take up residence they will breed very quickly.

Earth worms in compost good or bad?

It’s very unlikely that you’ll find an earthworm in a compost bin. Their natural home is in soil. They digest nutrients and organic material that they find in the soil. The quantity of food in compost would be too much for them because they need soil in the mixture to help them digest the food as it goes through their digestive system. To put it another way, compost is too rich for them. so they tend to avoid compost preferring to stay in the soil where you very often find them when digging over the garden.

If you do see an earthworm in compost it will probably be because the compost is very old. When compost has reached this stage of maturity it will not be too rich for the earthworms and they will be quite happy to live in it.

Worms know exactly what they like and if you see them anywhere it’s because they’re happy to be there and they’re getting what they want.

Worms in a compost tumbler

Most compost tumblers are off the ground. They are usually on a stand to make it easy to roll the tumbler over. Because of this the worms can’t easily find their way in because they have to climb up the framework to get anywhere near the food. This isn’t to say that none will make it because it’s always possible that some will. If you do see any worms in the tumbler that have just turned up by themselves it means that you’ve got some very acrobatic worms.If you are interested in compost tumblers, here’s one at Amazon.

Can you put worms in a compost tumbler?

Yes you can put worms in a compost tumbler. It’s very important to note that before putting worms into any composting system that the compost you’re putting them into is suitable for them. if you place them into compost that is warm the worms won’t be happy and they will leave by any way they can.

If the contents of the tumbler are fresh green kitchen waste and nothing else they won’t be happy because there’s nothing there for them to eat.

They can’t eat fresh green waste. So before adding worms to a tumbler you need to wait for the kitchen waste to rot down to a point where the worms can see it as food.

Worm composting

The worms will feed on the mould that develops on kitchen waste in the early stages of decomposition but they need to have enough well rotted compost to live in. They actually need this to have somewhere to hide from predators and to be able to get away from light because worms prefer to be in the dark.

An added complication is that if there is too much fresh waste worms can be affected by the fact that gases are released in the early stages of waste decomposition. These gases are usually toxic to worms and will drive them from the area.

While it is easy to physically place worms into a compost tumbler if the conditions aren’t right for them they will leave by crawling out wherever they can. They will find their way down the tumbler stand and disappear straight into the ground before heading off to find food source elsewhere.

The tumbling action will upset them but, in my experience, it’s never enough to make them want to leave. You only need to roll over a compost tumbler occasionally to get the aeration effect that accelerates decomposition.

Worms in a compost pile

Worms will just turn up in a compost pile when it becomes attractive enough to them. You shouldn’t need to add worms to a compost pile. The only time you may need to physically import worms to put into a compost pile is if the pile is on ground that is totally bare or on concrete or stony ground.

But even if there don’t appear to be any worms around anywhere it is amazing to see how worms will find it because they have a very keen sense of smell. It will only take a handful of worms to find your compost pile, in the middle of nowhere, to take up residence and before long you will find there will be an ever expanding population.

Another important consideration here is that the compost pile must be moist because if it’s dry the worms won’t be able to function. By the same token if it’s too wet, although worms prefer moisture, they will leave for that reason.

Can you put worms in a compost bin?

You can import worms into a compost bin just in the same way as adding them to a compost pile but depending on where your compost bin is and what sort of compost bin it is you shouldn’t need to add worms.

If your compost bin is open at the bottom like this compost bin which you could get from Amazon the worms will find their own way in. This won’t happen straight away. It may take several months of loading waste into the compost bin before you see any worms. This is because, as with any compost, it will take a while for the compost to form and be ready for the worms to take up residence. Also because a compost bin is a confined space the gases that are produced in the early stages of compost being made will be contained. This will deter the worms from wanting to move in, unlike a compost heap that has much more ventilation allowing any obnoxious gases to escape.

 Worms dying in a compost bin

What kills worms in compost? If you have a problem with worms dying in your compost bin you need to check the ventilation. Because of the gases that are generated when compost is being formed it is quite possible that some worms maybe overcome and expire. Other reasons for worms dying are dehydration. Worms need to be moist.

If you put a lot of dry material in the compost bin moisture maybe absorbed buy this material, so adding water maybe the solution. It is unlikely that a compost bin will be too wet especially if it is a compost bin with an open base. If the base isn’t open and there is no free drainage and rainwater can get in, it is quite possible that the worms will drown or leave in a hurry.

If you have a compost bin and there is a population of worms you need to be aware that most of the time you won’t even see the worms. This can sometimes suggest that the worms aren’t there, but they will be. They will be busy feeding deep down in the compost. A good way to test whether a compost bin has an active population of worms is to knock the bin to agitate the worms a little. When you do this they will all start to move because they don’t like being disturbed. When they move hold your ear close to the surface of the compost and listen carefully. You should hear them making a collective slurping noise. This is a good indication that there is life in your compost bin.

Where do worms in compost come from?

Worms are everywhere or at least you can expect them to be everywhere. The point is where you are trying to make compost there will be a perfect haven for worms. If there is soil near by, which there will be if you’re in a garden, there are going to be worms. You will find it difficult to escape them but who would want to?

All you have to do is to create the ideal circumstances i.e. a compost bin of any type, and the worms will go to it and take up residence.

The thing that some people struggle with is that they don’t see any worms until they set up a compost bin. Then, almost by magic, there’s a huge uncountable number of them leaving the question, where did they all come from?

It’s very simple. When you have created a massive food supply for worms it will become too much of a temptation. It will only take a handful of worms to move in to this new paradise. They will live well and start breeding. You won’t see evidence of this straight away. Because they breed very quickly, in the right conditions, it’s quite likely that the first you will see of any worms is when there has been a massive expansion in the population. When this happens your compost bin may have worms all over the inside surface.

Worms escaping compost bin

Worms are very mobile they don’t need to stay anywhere especially if they’re not happy with their local environment. It’s no good trying to keep them in. In a sealed container it’s not practical because there needs to be plenty of ventilation. If you notice that worms are leaving a composter then there will be reasons why they are leaving.

The overriding reason why they are migrating away from the compost bin will be that there isn’t enough food or there isn’t enough food that is digestible for them. If there isn’t enough organic waste material for them to consume they will digest compost that has already been digested to try and extract more nutrients from it.

This can only be done for a limited number of times before all the available nutrients are extracted. This is when the worms will feel the need to move on. In a compost bin the worm population is constantly expanding. There will come a point when the population is so big that it is inevitable that there won’t be enough food for all of them. This is the time when you will see worms leaving the compost bin.

You shouldn’t be alarmed if you see any worms leaving the bin because as long as there is any food at all that can be digested by worms there will be a population of worms remaining. It is highly unlikely that the entire population will leave a compost bin. They do not swarm and leave like bees.

If for some reason the conditions in the compost bin becomes so bad but there is a major exodus it’s always possible that there will be a small population remaining. The reason for the large number leaving will be for a number of reasons. It may be too wet or maybe gas is produced from a sudden abundance of fresh organic material during the early stages of decomposition. If there isn’t enough ventilation than these gases can’t escape. Some of these gases are toxic to worms which means they will feel the need to evacuate.

These are extreme adverse conditions and may only happen occasionally. you shouldn’t worry too much if this does happen because worms are a part of nature and as such are very resilient. They are tough little survivors, when the conditions become more suitable they will return and carry on doing what they do. Here’s one of a range of compost bins at Amazon.

Are maggots in compost good or bad?

The thing is with maggots is that they are a necessary evil and they have to live somewhere. They are very efficient at digesting organic waste which means that they are competing with the worms who are after the same food.

If you want to reduce down your kitchen waste and convert it into compost quickly, maggots will play a big part in the process. The question is do we want the worms to be the masters of the compost system where they build up a strong population or are we happy for them to face the competition of the ravenous maggot?

Worms flies compost

The main downside of having maggots present in a compost bin is that at some point they will hatch out into flies. When they do you will see masses of flies all around the bin and you may find some will find their way into your house. If you are bothered by flies in the house from your compost bin our your neighbour’s bin, here’s a fly catcher from Amazon.

So while on one hand maggots will break down organic waste and turn it into compost on the other hand the flies that the maggots generate become quite a nuisance. On balance you are better off without the maggots.

How do I get rid of maggots in my compost bin?

There are a number of ways to get rid of maggots but you need to find an option that doesn’t adversely affect the worms. The best way that I know of is to use white lime (hydrated lime). This will have the effect of either driving out or killing the maggots. There is an added bonus. If you use lime it will neutralise the acidity in the compost which will make it easier for the worms to digest and process rotting material. The worms will actually ingest small particles of lime which helps with them digest.

Can worms live in hot compost?

The answer to this has to be no. Worms in hot compost just cannot happen.

Fresh material that’s added to compost bin will tend to warm up in the early stages of decomposition. This is when bacteria are actively breaking down the material in the first stages of composting. If it’s just a small pocket area the temperature won’t rise too high because the heat will disperse throughout the rest of the heap. The heat that is generated won’t last very long.

Worms can only live in material that is cold but above freezing. They are very sensitive about temperature. It is not a problem if there is a hotspot in a compost bin but it is important that the worms can escape to a cooler part. Here they will thrive and explore the hot spot as it cools.

If there is a comprehensive warming up of a compost bin because of too much fresh organic waste being added in one go this could quite easily be devastating for the entire worm population. If there is nowhere for them to escape to within the compost bin, they will leave the compost bin completely. For this reason it’s very important that you do not add too much fresh material at any one time. If you have a lot of fresh green material that you want to turn into compost place it in a separate container and allow it to go through the early stages of decomposition. This will allow the heat to be generated and disperse without affecting the worms in the main compost bin.

You can accelerate this process by agitating this material and when you’re satisfied that there is no more heat being generated you can then place all of this in the compost bin where the worms are. The same process would work just as well when running a wormery.

How to keep worms in a compost bin

If you stick to the simple rules of making sure that the compost doesn’t get too warm and that there is plenty of free drainage, the worms will not feel the need to leave. The adding of lime will do much to improve the conditions for worms. This is the best you can do and in most cases should be enough.

There is no point taking action to seal a compost bin or wormery to keep the worms in. Doing this you would restrict ventilation and the worms would suffocate. It’s much more important to focus on providing the best conditions you can so that the worms want to be in your compost bin.

Does citrus kill worms in composting?

Citrus material will not kill worms. All that will happen is that they will move away from an area where there is excessive acid coming away from this material. They will stay away from it and only approach it when the citrus material has deteriorated and the acidity has become diluted to a point where the worms feel comfortable.

If there is nothing but citrus material being added to a compost bin then you must take action to neutralise this acid.

Acidity tends to preserve rather like pickling. Instead of rotting into compost it will just sit there without changing for some time.

Worms compost leaves

If you’ve got loads of dead leaves in the autumn/fall, make compost from them. The worms will eat dead leaves when they begin to decompose. The leaves must not be dry because dry leaves don’t rot down so it’s important to soak them generously with water to help accelerate decomposition.

Do not expect worms to thrive in the bin where there are just leaves and nothing else. It’s very important to add the dead leaves to compost that’s already formed and where there is a good population of worms already established. by doing this the worms will find their way into the leaves when they have decomposed enough.

They will break the leaves down completely and turn them into, possibly, the best compost you can make. Because of the potential volumes of leaves involved it would not be practical to feed them to a small wormery because they take up too much space.

You really need to load the leaves into a larger composting system like a compost bin or a compost tumbler. It would be more practical to store leaves in bags and feed them into your composting system a bit at a time.

The ideal way of using dead leaves is to add it to green kitchen waste so that the two become mixed. Dead leaves provide the carbon factor which is just what you want to balance the high nitrate content of green kitchen waste. So if you’ve got any leaves you really should make use of them in this way.

Types of worms in compost

There appears to be two types of worm that get the job done when it comes to turning fresh green waste into compost. If you wake up one morning and find that a population of worms has exploded in your composting device, these will have moved in naturally from the surrounding ground.

They are most likely going to be red earthworms. For those who want the Latin it’s Lumbricus rubellus.


The other one that has covered itself in fame and glory when it comes to turning green kitchen waste into black crumbly compost is the Tiger worm. Also known as the red wiggle worm and the red Californian earthworm. To give it the Latin it’s Eisenia foetida.

Worm castings

The Tiger worm is especially bread for the purpose of making compost and is used to commercially make compost on an industrial scale because it’s considered to be the most efficient out of the two.

If you can identify these worms and tell them apart then count yourself as clever.

We are free to debate which of these two is the best but who cares just as long as there is a good population of worms in the compost breaking everything down and producing something really useful.

If red earthworms have moved in and taken up residents and they appear to be getting the job done, there’s no point introducing Tiger worms.

Life cycle of worms in compost

The worms lay ‘eggs’ which are more commonly known as cocoons. They hatch into tiny little worms and reach maturity in around one month. It’s from here on that all the fun begins because apart from spending most of their time eating, they have the advantage of having both male and female organs. This gives them plenty of options in their mating habits from which they generate one or two cocoons every week.

3 weeks later 2 to 3 worms will emerge from each cocoon. This goes some way to explaining why such a big population of worms will appear in a short time. As a rough calculation every worm in a compost bin has the capability of producing around 600 more worms in its lifetime.

In good conditions a strong population of worms will double every three months so if you imagine the point where there are 500,000 worms, in three months time there will be 1 million. I’m not suggesting that you count them out but it is an interesting thought.

Worms compost winter

Worms will not survive below 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Centigrade. The maximum temperature they can cope with is 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Centigrade. The cocoons however will survive where are the worms won’t. They have their limits as far as temperature goes but they will cope In adverse conditions enough for a population to be regenerated.

In extreme conditions the worms will migrate away from areas of cold or heat. Where there is a reasonable mass of compost material it is well possible for them to find an area in the middle where they can survive comfortably.

If the volume of compost is large enough the inner volume area will be insulated enough to provide a winter refuge. they will stay where they feel safest and most comfortable until the conditions change following the seasons

Another factor is the moisture level. Worms don’t like being dry, they need moisture to stop their skin from drying out. It also provides lubrication for moving through the compost material. Moist material is easier for them to consume.

What what are worm castings

Worm castings can be thought of as an organic form of fertilizer produced by worms.

This is what are the worms produce when they eat and digest organic waste. Because they are eating all the time they are producing worm casts all the time. A pound of worms will digest half a pound of material every day and produce worm casts from it.

Because of the nutrients in the green organic waste material you can safely assume that, even though it’s been through a worm producing worm casts, that this will do a lot to feed plants. After having been thoroughly digested by worms there will be a range of available nutrients which plants can make use of straight away.

Worm farm

Worm casts, also known as vermicompost, can be made quite easily. There are a number of ways in which you can do it. You could set up a wormery or you can get pretty much the same effect using a compost bin but with this method you would need to have a closed batch system. This is because you need to be able to leave the compost long enough for the worms to convert the whole amount completely.

It’s very important that you don’t add any fresh material after the closing off point. this way you will end up with a consistent organic fertilizer that won’t be contaminated with any fresh waste material.

It’s not practical to try and make vermicompost using a tumbler-style rotating composter. This is because worms don’t like being disturbed. They don’t appreciate being mixed around with everything around them as though they were in a concrete mixer.

If you have a rotating compost bin and you want to make vermicompost the best thing you can do is to get a compost bin to put beside the rotating bin. when you have fresh waste from the kitchen load rotating compost bin and rotate it regularly.

When the rotating composter is full have a shut off point where you don’t feed any more fresh material for a while. Maybe have a holding-container to store waste in the meantime. This is to give the most recent addition of kitchen-waste a chance to rot down enough for the worms to start digesting and converting into vermicompost.

At this point remove the entire contents of the rotating composter and place it in the empty compost bin. If you are lucky some red earthworms will seize upon the opportunity and migrate into the compost bin. They will then begin to digest the contents.

With the rotating composter empty you can now start loading it again every time you have waste from the kitchen to dispose of. When the rotating composter is full just repeat the whole procedure until the static compost bin is full.

At this point it may be necessary to have an extra compost bin to allow the worms in the first compost bin to completely convert the contents to compost.

If you have a Rolypig composter you won’t need to stop feeding in waste at any time because the waste goes in one end and emerges at the other. It’s a constant throughput system. See more about the Rolypig at or see another example of rotating compost bins at Amazon.

But it may still be an option to have a compost bin to go with your Rolypig because what comes out of a Rolypig could be further refined allowing worms to completely break the compost down into vermicompost.

Slow worms in a compost bin

Slow worms are often mistaken for snakes but they are actually a member of the lizard family. They are lizards without legs. It’s relatively unusual to find a slow worm in a compost bin but if there is a warm spot in the mass of material, this is what will attract them.

The slow worm

Their normal habitat Is among dry sticks or rocks, generally anywhere where they can hide from predators. They are carnivorous themselves and pray on slugs which makes them useful in the garden. They also like worms, so if you see one in the compost bin it’s probably a good idea to remove it. Take it to somewhere away from the compost bin and place it in long grass where it can slither off and hide.

If you know you’ve got slow worms around be prepared to see them regularly as they have a lifespan of anything up to 30 years and they can grow up to half a metre long.

The worm makes life below ground just

as busy as life above”

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Snakes in compost bin

What repels snakes?

Depending on where you are in the world you may, at some point, encounter snakes in the compost bin. Some of these snakes maybe a problem and others will be insignificant. Here we will go through a few of the snakes that you’re likely to find in a compost bin and what to look for to establish what type of snake you have.

Do compost piles attract snakes?

It really depends on what type of compost pile you have. If it’s a lot of mainly dry grass material in a heap with an element of moisture present, this will generate a small amount of heat as it rots down. It’s these warm conditions that attract snakes because they find it ideal for laying their eggs. The compost pile in this case becomes a ready-made incubator where the eggs will be safe, away from predators and can hatch out into young snakes.

The way to avoid a problem with snakes in compost is to insure that the material that you want to make compost from rots down quickly. This will remove the type of habitat that snakes need and are looking for. If you have dry material in a compost heap this is where you will find snakes because a heap on the ground is fully exposed.

By placing composting material in a bin and keeping the contents moist the rotting process will commence to produce compost. A compost bin is by its nature contained making it difficult for anything to get into it and is therefore the preferred option compared to a compost heap. It only requires the most basic of compost bins the type of which can be found at Amazon.

What else?

What snakes live in compost heaps?

Grass snakes         Adder snakes

Hognose snakes         Garter snake

How to keep snakes away from yard and house

It is possible to erect a snake proof fence using half inch wire mesh. You need to dig a trench about six inches deep along the line where the fence is to be. This is to bury part of the fence underground, the remaining wire being above ground. Don’t erect the fence completely upright because a snake may be able to climb up. If you slope the fence outward at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees, this will make it difficult for the snakes to climb.


You need to do all you can to keep vegetation away from the outside of the fence because snakes may be able to climb the plants and gain access over the top of the fence.

Some will say that you need to remove all materials and hiding places in the garden where snakes can thrive. This is almost impossible to do because gardens, by their nature, can never be so tidy as to not have anywhere four snakes to reside.

What snakes live in compost heaps?

Because of the nature of compost in its early stages of decomposition a compost heap is an ideal haven for most snakes. For some snakes it’s not just a comfortable place to live, they can also make use of the food supply that a compost heap or bin can provide. Here’s a selection of typical snakes that you may find in a compost heap or bin.


Grass snakes

Native to the UK the grass snake is very often mistaken for an adder but it isn’t venomous. For a visual comparison look for the yellow and black colour on the back of the head and note that the eyes have round pupils.

Grass snake bite


Grass snakes are sometimes confused with slow worms. These are legless lizards and they’re not snakes. They are much smaller but can be big enough to cause confusion. The grass snake can grow up to 39 inches in length with the females often longer than males


Over recent years the grass snake numbers have fallen and as a result they are protected under the wildlife and countryside act. The habitat of the grass snake has been eroded as a result of urbanisation, agricultural intensification and road building.


Compost heaps as well as on-farm manure heaps are ideal for grass snakes to lay there eggs because the sort of material in this sort of habitat tends to be warm and insulated. It really depends where you are in the country but you’re more likely to find grass snakes if your garden is in a more rural location. Because gardens are usually to tidy there isn’t enough natural cover the grass snakes to hide.

Snakes will bite in self defence if disturbed or trodden on and grass snakes are no exception. No one wants to be bitten by anything anywhere especially creatures from the wild because you can never be quite sure what it is that’s doing the biting. Given that there is a risk that grass snakes may be hibernating in your compost bin it’s probably not wise to go digging around with your bare hands if you feel like digging around at all.


Adder snakes

These are native from Europe to Asia. the adder has a thicker body and a noticeable zigzag pattern along its back. If you get close enough to have a really good look you will notice that the eyes of the Adder are made up of vertical slit pupils. These are venomous and if you get bitten you need to get medical attention straight away. This is one to avoid but It is highly unlikely that you will find an Adder in your garden. Modern gardens are usually much too busy with activity like lawn mowing and garden rotovating going on. The adder doesn’t like to be disturbed and is easily scared by vibration.

Snakes and adders

If ever you are in terrain where you think there maybe adders present a good tactic is to stamp your feet or hit the ground with a stick. The vibration from this is enough to move others away from the area. this is something that wild deer are sometimes seen doing. They stamp their feet sending enough vibration through the ground driving snakes away.


Hognose snakes

Native to North America they are also known as Puff Adders. They get their name from the distinctive turned up nose and can vary in colour. The Puff Adder name comes from the way that they tend to flatten out their heads and rise up like a cobra when threatened.

Hognose snakes venomous?

The good news is that these aren’t venomous other than to small pray-creatures like frogs or toads. They can deliver venom but only from the back teeth which makes it difficult to infect humans.

These are snakes that appreciate the comfort of a warm compost pile and will take up residence to hibernate and lay eggs.


Garter snake

Another native of North America they are only found in areas where they have access to ponds of water. This is partly due to the diet being mainly amphibious creatures.

Garter snakes venomous?

It isn’t considered to be dangerous but is known to be mildly venomous. It isn’t too much of a threat to humans because, like the hognose, the venom delivery is from the rear teeth.


Garter snakes will hibernate in colder regions and will often do so in groups. They give birth to live young, which is rare among snakes, usually in large numbers. So if you have them turn up in a compost heap you may see a large population.


If you see snake eggs in your compost bin it’s probably wise just to take note that they are there as a warning but then just leave them alone. When they hatch the young will move away and start exploring new territories.

When the snake decided to go straight,

he didn’t get anywhere.”

William Stafford

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Rat proof garden. Is it possible?

Rats near rivers

If we are looking for a way to barricade rats out of the garden by physical means, the answer to this question has to be no. We have to accept that if a rat wants to get in somewhere it will keep going until it gets there. They have plenty of time to chew at anything that gets in their way.


If there was nothing in your garden that they want, they wouldn’t bother. They will just move off to somewhere else. Rats have a very keen sense of smell and if they get a whiff of something tasty they will do whatever they can to get at it.


If you know that you have rats in your garden you have to assess the level of infestation. If it looks like you’ve got a big problem then this calls for a big solution which usually means calling in professional experts who will, for a fee, deal with the problem for you.


If you find some evidence of rats present in the garden you can do things yourself. The evidence we’re looking for here are rat droppings, signs of chewing and rat holes. The holes will be the entrance to the burrow where they live and will be about 3 inches in diameter.


Using poison is an option and as an individual you can use it but you may only be allowed to buy small quantities. If you have a big problem with rats that may need a lot of poison you may find that you will need to be a registered rat poison user. This will depend on which country you live in. There are rat poisons available from Amazon.


Then there is the rat trap. Setting a rat trap is one of the easiest things to do. The modern rat traps are very easy to set and are quite hygienic to use. Catching a rat in a trap is often regarded as a moment of celebration for most, it’s one less. See the range of rat traps available from Amazon.

Rat animal

What else?

What do rats not like?       What are rats afraid of?

What are rats attracted to?       What are rats a sign of?

What are rats associated with?       What are rats allergic to?

What are brown rats?

How long does it take for rat poison to kill a rat?

There are blocks of poisonous rat bait available which will kill a rat in two to three days. This doesn’t mean that the rat is rolling around in agony for two to three days. A rat needs to ingest the poison over a short period of time. The effect of the poison will begin at two to three days at which point the rat will expire quickly. If you use this material you need to place it somewhere away from other animals. You need to make it difficult for cats and dogs to get at. It’s unlikely that domestic pets will find this type of material interesting but it is wise to take precautions.


You need to be able to conceal the poison somewhere in your garden but where the rat can get at it. There are poisons that are available in pellet form. These may be more appropriate as they can be fed through a rat baiting station. This method is much safer as it is difficult for other mammals to get at the poison.


There is a whole range of rat poisons available at Amazon these are both blocks of poison or poison pellets. The advantage of putting down poison outside of the house and in the garden is that you are less likely to experience rats dying in your house. This is something that you really need to try to avoid because of the smell. If it does happen that a rat dies in your house you will have an unpleasant smell for two or three days after which time it should disperse. This is assuming that you can’t get access to the rat corpse.

If you have rats burrowing in your garden it is most likely that, having taken the poison, they will go back to the burrow and that is where they will die and you probably won’t see or smell anything afterwards. This is by far the most agreeable outcome. If you can find where the rat holes are and you feel sure that the poison has worked enough to clear the rats completely, it makes sense to fill in the rat holes. Doing this you will take away the opportunity for new visiting rats to take up residence.


What do rats not like?

There are plenty of claims of what rats don’t like but you have to be aware that the rat is one of the cleverest and most determined animals on the planet. If they find something that they want they will put up with anything to be able to get at it. There are those who say that if you plant daffodils all the way around the border of your garden that this will keep rats away. I can’t think that this would be the case but if you want an excuses to plant daffodils then there it is.


What are rats afraid of?

Rats are afraid of us but only just. If they see anything bigger than themselves they will make a run for it because they are aware that they do have predators. Among these you can list dogs, cats and in countries where they are prevalent, snakes.

Never corner a rat because they will turn and jump at you in attack mode. You need to be aware of this because a cornered rat can be dangerous. It isn’t so much ‘what are rats afraid of’ but rats are what we should be afraid of.

Rats in the garden

What are rats attracted to?

Of all the questions about rats and how to deal with them, this is the most significant one of all.

Rats are attracted to all the foods that we eat. There is scarcely anything that they will turn their noses up at. We have a lot in common when it comes to cuisine. Their usual target is foods that we have left over and whatever we dump in the trash-can to be collected.


They also need water, this is why you are more likely to see rats within scuttling distance of a pond, lake or river.


Leaving food waste in plastic bags outside of a sealable bin to be collected is probably the easiest target for rats. Their teeth make light work of any plastic bags. They can be through it in a second and have access to whatever they can smell inside.


If you have a bird-seed table it’s almost certain that the local rats will know about it. When birds eat the seeds that you put out they tend to flick them around. A percentage of what you intended for the birds ends up on the ground around the feeder. The rats will get into a habit of ‘cleaning ‘this up. If you don’t see any bird seed on the ground this is most likely because the rats have beaten you to it and eaten it all.


Another highly effective rat attractant is keeping chickens in your garden. This is a paradise among paradises for rats. Think about it, here they have everything they could ever want. Chicken feed at ground level and provided regularly every day. The chickens are no competition at defending this food supply. There will also be water topped up daily for the chickens.


Added to this the house where the chickens live provides accommodation, not in the house but underneath it. Rats are the best when it comes to burrowing and they will dig an efficient network under any construction that you have in place for chickens.


It gets worse. Rats like chickens eggs. They can help themselves if they can get at them. They can do all of this and it’s quite possible that you won’t even know that it’s happening. Even if if you do see evidence of rats and then go to the trouble of adding extra wire-netting to keep them out, you need to know that this will be a temporary hindrance to them. Rats have teeth that will chew through metal wire. They’ll soon be in.


It isn’t just the edible waste that we leave lying around. Rats like heaps of any material to hide in. Piles of wood, piles of stones or any junk piles where there are voids in amongst it. This is where rats can hide and live. If this sounds familiar then expect rats to be in there somewhere.


You would think that the ideal solution would be for everyone to adopt a policy of keeping food waste tightly secured away so that there is nothing anywhere for rats to get at. This would work but the problem is this. If rats can’t find what they want on the surface then they will find it beneath our feet.

What I mean is the sewer. When you think of what they encounter in our underground sewerage systems you shouldn’t be surprised that we have difficulties in finding something that will deter them from coming into the garden. A nice border of daffodils must surely be quite refreshing to them compared to a night in the sewer.


What are rats a sign of?

If you see or know that there are rats around where you live it will mean one of two things. It may be that there is a plentiful food supply around for them on your premises or from one of your neighbours.


It could also mean that you are witnessing a plague of rats which has just turned up in your area. This occasionally happens and is quite common. These are rats which have originated from an area where they’ve been able to multiply but the circumstances have changed such that they all have to leave.


If a Plague of rats turns up in your area it may be that they will only stay a short while before moving off to somewhere else. This will depend on what food they find in your area. If there is nothing for them they will be gone and it’s quite possible that you won’t need to use any poison or put down the Trap.

I have experience for myself of a plague of rats appearing from nowhere. When this happens it’s easy to panic especially when you think of the damage that such a large number of rats can cause in a short space of time. Fortunately, in my experience, the problem only lasted a day. They disappeared as quickly as they came and it hasn’t happened since. I put this down to the fact that there was not an adequate food supply for them.

So, if you see a large, sudden influx of rats, don’t be in too much of a hurry to put down poison because they may just disappear.


What are rats associated with?

Rats have been long associated with a number of bad diseases one of them being the bubonic plague. Otherwise known as ‘The Black Death’ this was prevalent in the 1300s across Europe. It’s believed that the disease was spread from the fleas that rats carried. Although the rat was held responsible for this disaster recent discoveries suggest that this wasn’t entirely the case.


There are however, a number of diseases that rats carry which are known about. Among these is lassa fever, this is more prevalent on the west coast of the African continent. Another being leptospirosis which can be contracted from having unhygienic access to the droppings or urine of infected rats.


Leptospirosis, otherwise known as Weil’s disease, can go unnoticed because the range of symptoms can go from having none to a flu like fever with serious complications. If there is one reason for getting rid of rats this has to be it.

If you have handled items which you think rats may have contaminated with their urine and you have unexplained pain in your muscles or flu like symptoms it would be wise to seek medical advice. If the problem is caught early enough medical intervention will help.


What are rats allergic to?

There are a number of foods that rats apparently have problems with. Among these are liquorice, poppy seeds and blue cheese. Green potatoes are also considered to be toxic to most animals including ourselves. The thing is rats have access to a wide range of everything that’s going and can therefore be choosy about what they eat. While they may have access to some of these potentially toxic foods it’s unlikely that they will consume enough to make any difference.


What are brown rats?

The brown rat Is often referred to as the street rat, the wharf rat, the Norway rat and the sewer rat. It is the most common rat found in Europe and North America having originated in northern China. It can be found in every continent except Antarctica.


Because of all the advantages it has the brown rat has arguably become the most successful mammal on earth.


When the water reaches the upper level,

follow the rats.

Claude A. Swanson

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How to deter rats from garden

Rats in garden

There is no way of deterring rats from coming into the garden. There are so many ways in. Don’t waste money on any of those sonic devices that send out a noise that animals can hear but humans can’t. They will work but only for a little while. It appears that they get used to the noise and can live with it.

The only sure-fire way to tackle rats is either trapping or poisoning. If you aren’t happy about using poison then you are left with trapping. Care has to be taken whichever system you use. Traps must be placed where no pets can get access and you must check them daily. There are rat traps on Amazon that are easy to set and effective in trapping.


If you feel confident enough to use poison you can get rat poison from Amazon. But be careful, this is poison. Don’t just throw it around. It’s much safer to use a special rat poison station. These are made for the purpose of providing a constant supply of poison to rats and nothing else. See the rat poison stations at Amazon to find out what they do. (See more about killing rats here)


If you ask anyone do you have rats in your garden, it’s quite likely that the answer will be “no I don’t think so, I’ve never seen one”. Well think again because rats are everywhere. They have much more intelligence than we give them credit for. They are experts in the art of concealment. You may not have seen them but they will have certainly seen you. They know what time you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning. They know when they can go out from their burrows.


Should you be worried about all this? Well, don’t get paranoid about it. Unless you have a massive influx from a swarm that has just turned up that needs the services of the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’. (Get the book and read the story from Amazon).

Rats control

The odd rat prowling around on a regular basis every night is not a cause for panic. This night-time behaviour has been going on for centuries. The time to take action is when there are obvious signs that there are a number of rats turning up and the evidence for this becomes clear.


If you see rat droppings (they are much bigger than mouse droppings) in odd places or there is clear evidence of wooden doors or floor-boards being chewed. Rats tend to gnaw a lot. It’s possible that you may hear a rat trying to gnaw its way through a wooden door at night making a rasping noise. I’ve experienced this, it’s quite unsettling and a definite call for action.

What else?

What rats eat in the garden

Do rats burrow in the garden?

How to fill a rat burrow

How to get rid of rats naturally

How do I kill a rat?      Shooting rats

Rat traps

What kind of plants keep rats away?

Why do you get rats in your garden?

If you have absolutely nothing in your garden and the area is a completely empty, you will have no rats at all because there’s nothing there for them. There’s nowhere for them to hide. Rats love clutter they like heaps of rubbish and plenty of places to hide. An ideal place for a rat to hide is underneath a wooden shed in the garden. They know enough to know that you are not going to look there because there’s no way you can get in under a wooden shed.


We all know the garden cannot be an empty place, if it is then it’s not a garden. It doesn’t matter what we do there’s always going to be stuff in the garden. The bigger the garden is the more stuff there will be, so having an empty space for garden is an impossibility.


Having somewhere to hide isn’t enough on its own. They do appreciate a good food supply and all too often we are very obliging when it comes to inadvertently feeding rats. We do this by leaving food waste where they can get at it. If we do everything we can to make sure that food waste is in a composting bin that’s difficult for rats to get at, this would reduce the problem.


So the reason why a rat or a number of rats turn up in your garden is because the conditions are favourable with food and somewhere to hide. They don’t necessarily have to take up residence. They can be living somewhere locally and visit you on a regular basis as well as all the other gardens in your area.

Rats in garden problem

The first thing is to recognise when or if there is a problem with rats in the garden. If you don’t know where to look and what to look for you won’t even know if you got a problem. If the evidence is clear then you have to accept that there is a rat problem. If you see small holes that are about 3 inches in diameter were something has clearly dug it out.You can assume that something has moved in and taken up residence.


If this is a recent development then it will probably be a female rat that’s looking for somewhere to nest and it will be the early stages of a new rat colony. If you do nothing about this then the population in the locality of your garden will expand and the problem will escalate.

The success of this colony would of course rely upon the food supply nearby. This may not be your responsibility, it may be that one of your neighbours is unwittingly providing a food supply that is feeding the rats that are living in your garden. There is a need therefore to make rat control a community project because if everybody knows about the problem there is a much better chance of doing something positive about it.

What rats eat in the garden

Rats aren’t fussy, if it smells nice and they can get their teeth into it they will eat it and this covers all the food that we eat ourselves and everything that we throw out as waste food. If they are around and they can get at it they will. The thickness of a plastic bag will provide no barrier to them but if they have to get into a compost bin this may involve chewing through a thick wall of plastic or wood.


This is something they will do if they know there is a good supply within. But with the nature of composting being what it is the food waste in a compost bin will very often rot faster than the rats can get out at it. So if you have a compost bin don’t allow excessive amounts of food waste to build-up in it that doesn’t rot down quickly. To help with the process I suggest you add an accelerator to move things along quickly, you can get and effective compost accelerator from Amazon.


One of the reasons why a rat may want to chew its way into a compost bin is because it’s static. The compost bin never moves around and so every time they visit it’s always in the same place. Because of this they feel safe if they go inside.


They don’t necessarily have to chew through the wall of the compost bin. They are very effective at tunnelling and it’s quite possible that they can dig down on one side in the ground and then tunnel their way up from in under.

They can do this very successfully and with no evident holes in the side of the compost bin you won’t even know what they’re doing it.


The Rolypig composter has a bit of an advantage because of the nature of the RolyPig. This is a tumbler-style compost bin which has to be moved regularly to stir the contents of the compost bin which rapidly accelerates decomposition. So with the Rolypig the decomposition is a little faster and because it’s a tumbler it is moving around on the ground.


Rats will be very suspicious of this. They like the certainty of routine and if things change and move around they don’t feel safe. Unless  a Rolypig is left in one place for a long time it’s unlikely that a rat will find its way in.


Another area which needs to be considered is bird tables. If you have a bird table and you put too much bird seed out for the birds they very often spread it around while they are feeding. Some of this seed falls to the ground. The birds themselves don’t realise that it’s on the ground and most of it gets left there around the base of a bird-seed stand.

Some bird’s will find it but there will be plenty left for the rats who will find it as well. Because birds seed tables are supplied regularly the rats, being creatures of habit, will get to know about this and they will become regular visitors.

The problem here is that people who have a bird seed table won’t know that the rats are feeding on the ground around it because rats are so tidy that they will clear everything away and you won’t realise that it was ever there. The thing to do here is to adopt a design of bird seed table that doesn’t allow for excessive spilling of bird seed onto the ground.


Do rats burrow in the garden?

Rats will Burrow anywhere if the ground is easy enough to do dig. Including in your garden. They prefer ground that has been disturbed because it’s easier for them to dig. They won’t dig through concrete so where there is a solid yard area it’s unlikely that there will be any rats underneath it.


If a rat does dig a burrow in the garden the entrance to the burrow will usually be concealed. They are clever enough to find somewhere out of sight to set up what they want to be their new home because they want to be somewhere where they can’t be disturbed.


So if you inspect your garden very carefully you need to look out for holes or maybe just one hole that measures about 3 inches in diameter. You will probably see a small heap of material outside the hole which has been excavated from within. If you look around the whole on the ground you will see evidence of regular visits to the hole and possibly regular track paths. This will give an indication of how busy a colony of rats that may be there.


If you see a small hole that measures not much more of than an inch in diameter, this will be a mouse.


If you do find anything that looks suspiciously like a rat hole, do not touch anything because you need to be aware that rats have a habit of carrying all sorts of unpleasant diseases. So if you find you need to handle anything in the area be sure to wear rubber gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards with disinfectant.

How deep do rats Burrow?

Rats only Burrow down as far as they need to which is usually no further than 18 to 24 inches but they are capable of digging much deeper. This will depend on how easy the material is to dig through. The length of the burrow usually reaches no further than four feet.


Depending on the ambitions of the rats and whether they think they may prosper from digging further it is unusual for them to go any further than this. But it mustn’t be forgotten that they have the capability to dig their way down underneath the foundations of a house to gain access to a building.

Any network of burrows will converge into a central nesting area. This is where they will hide-out during the daytime spending most of the time sleeping and raising the young.

How to fill a rat burrow

Before you can fill a rat burrow you need to know if the barrel is occupied or not. One way, and probably the best way, to find out if a burrow is actively being used is to partially block the entrance. If you do this it will probably be during the day time when the rats are in the burrow and then, in the night if they are there, they will dig their way out past the obstruction.


If the obstruction hasn’t been cleared within a couple of days you can safely assume that the burrow is dormant. The best thing to do then is to fill it in. It’s wise to do this because if you don’t an investigating rat, passing through, will seize upon the opportunity to take up residence of what would be a ready-made home.

With no evidence of rats going in and out you can then start filling in the entrance to make a permanent seal.


Having established that at the burrow has no occupants you need to, as quickly as possible, start filling in the hole. You just need soil with perhaps, a few stones and push this into the hole, ramming it in tight. Remember that rats like loose soil to dig into. If you make it difficult for the rat to dig they will find it hard to open up the burrow and get in. As a precaution, splash some strong disinfectant around the immediate area. This will drown out any remaining smells of rat which may attract new visitors to try digging again.

How to get rid of rats naturally

Depending on the level of infestation there are things you can do to drive rats away. There are claims that the smell of mothballs will deter rats. This should be no surprise as the smell of mothballs is enough to drive most things away. So if you place these in places where rats are likely to frequent there’s a chance it’ll make a difference. Unless, of course, you are unlucky enough to have an infestation of rats who have a fetish about old clothes in a pre 1950s wardrobe.


The same effect can be achieved using camphor balls,this is something that most rodents find quite intolerable. Another suggestion is to use peppermint oil. Rub it around on surfaces where rodents may appear and also dried mint leaves have an adverse effect. It’s also suggested that if you grow a lot of mint in your garden this will keep rats away as well.


These are just suggestions taken from the perceived wisdom of those who I’ve asked. They can’t be a permanent solution because you wouldn’t want mothballs and peppermint everywhere all the time. You can only hope that this approach will do something to upset the rat’s day.


It also makes a lot of sense to clear away materials where rats can hide and if there are items, for example a pile of firewood, try to arrange it so that it’s off the ground leaving an open space in underneath where the light can get in. It’s areas like this that can be made to feel insecure to the visiting rat.


In addition avoid having plants or vegetation of any kind growing against the wall of your house because this provides cover for the rat. If there is an open space there’s nowhere for them to hide and start digging, as they do.


One of the most effective natural ways of getting rid of rats is to have an active cat on duty or possibly a number of cats. A cat will tackle a rat especially the young ones. Even if your cat is not effective at killing rats, just having a cat around, the smell will be enough to deter rats but only up to a point. One cat will only tackle one or two rats in a week. If the rat population is expanding then it will become more than a cat can cope with.


Another lively accoutrement for the garden would be a dog. This particular approach could quite easily provide an element of entertainment. The ideal dog for tackling rats is the Jack Russell terrier. There are other dogs that are effective when dealing with rats but the Jack Russell is probably the best there is.


If there are any rats around the Jack Russell terrier will smell them. They can be described as being small but very determined and if they get a sense of a rat they will very often start digging where they find a rat hole. This may or may not be a good idea because, if left to dig unattended, they are quite capable of excavating quite a large hole leading to collateral damage.

A more organised way of making use of a Jack Russell terrier for rat control would be to go out at night with a torch and just take a look around to see if there are any rats. It’s at night that the rats are likely to be around on the surface and out of their burrows. A keen terrier will quickly identify a rat and go after it. Terriers are quick on their feet. A rat stands little chance of surviving when a terrier gets hold of it. The kill is quick because this is something that Jack Russell Terriers are particularly good at.

How do I kill a rat?

There’s a number of ways you can kill a rat. It’s important to remember that whatever method you choose you have to do everything you can to be humane. A quick kill is always the best.

Kill a rat humanely

We already looked at cats and dogs to keep the population of rats down and tackle them whenever they turn up. This is a regular option if you have an effective cat or dog but there are other things you can do.


Shooting rats

If you can use a gun, rats are relatively easy target to shoot because they don’t run particularly fast. They are also creatures of habit; you can predict where and when they are going to run.


As for what type of gun do you need to shoot rats, it largely depends on what do you feel comfortable with. You can use an air rifle if you are a really good shot. With an air rifle you have only got one pallet that has to hit the target. These are best used for when the target is still which may happen on occasions when trying to shoot a rat.


The most effective type of gun for shooting a rat is the shotgun. This doesn’t have to be a very powerful shotgun. With any shotgun there is a much better chance of hitting the target because a shotgun cartridge has many pellets and it will only take one pellet to hit the target to secure kill.


Firearms of any type are potentially extremely dangerous but, in the right hands, they are extremely effective. Whenever firearms are used extreme caution must be exercised. If you haven’t had any experience of using a firearm it may be wise to call someone in who knows what to do.


Depending on where in the world you live you may find that you will need a licence to possess either a shotgun or air rifle. If you are thinking of acquiring a weapon of this type go to a reputable shop where you can talk face-to-face with an experienced assistant who will advise you on the power capacity that you will need for shooting rats.


When handling guns always put safety first!


As discussed earlier, another way of killing rats is to use poison. this is another area where you may need to have a licence to poison rats if you need to use large quantities poison. This is because you have to be very careful about how and where you place any poison. You can’t just scatter it around. It has to be put in special containers that rats will go to but other wildlife won’t. You can get a rat poison station for this purpose from Amazon. Also from Amazon you can get rat poison most of which will be effective against mice.


When you use rat poison you just have to hope that the rats will die out of sight and out of mind. In practice this is what usually happens as on most occasions they die in their burrows and you don’t have to do anything more to them. You have to be aware that they may be the odd occasion when you will find a dead rat that has succumbed to the poison and the question then is what do I do with it.


I suppose the ultra correct thing to do would be to contact the local relevant authority and ask them what they think you should do with a dead rat. But I’m guessing that no one will want to talk about this and so you would probably be wasting your time.

Given that this is likely to be the case I would suggest that, on the very rare occasions when this may happen, you have two choices. One is to put it in a plastic bag, making sure that you wear  rubber gloves, and then put it in the trash can to be taken to the dump. The other option is to dig a small pit in the garden away from the vegetable patch and bury it.

Rat traps

Another option is to use rat traps. There are two types of rat trap. There is the type that traps them and kills them in one go and then there is the cage trap (available on Amazon) that catches them alive. There are rat traps that will catch and kill a rat available on Amazon.


Whichever of these you use you present yourself with the problem of what do you do with the rat be it dead or alive. As  we have already discussed, there is a choice of avenues for disposal of a dead rat. With trap-killed rats you will need to get used to disposing of dead rats possibly on a regular basis.


But what do we do with a live rat in a cage? The first thing that needs pointing out here is that a live rat in a cage is a very dangerous animal. You must be very careful how you handle it because it will want to bite you. If the prospect of this scares you then you are right to be scared.


So what are the options if you have a live rat in a cage? You won’t want to keep it as a pet so don’t even think about that. It will have to be disposed of either by shooting or drowning. It has to be pointed out that drowning a rat maybe illegal in some parts of the world. Therefore presented with the situation it has to be up to you to make a decision over what it is that you want to do. 

Whatever method you use for controlling rats, always be mindful that good hygiene is of utmost importance. If you are handling rat poison, disposing of a dead rat or releasing a dead rat from a trap you must always wear rubber gloves. After this you must always wash your hands thoroughly especially before handling any food.

What kind of plants keep rats away?

There appears to be some conjecture on the subject but there are lots of suggestions flying around which may well be worth a try. There are plants which you can grow in the garden that appeared to have some success at deterring most rodents. This will only be effective in the spring and summer months when plants grow and mature.


Part of the success comes from the growing plant itself and further to that formulations can be generated from the extracts of these plants which can be used as a spray. Making the liquid solutions often involves soaking the relevant plant leaves in boiling water then allowing it to cool before straining out the liquid which you can then spray around areas where rats and other rodents may travel.


One example of this is mint. This is one of my favourite plants as it makes the delicious mint jelly and it goes very well with roast lamb and many other meats. Rats however, appear to dislike it which makes the growing of meant very convenient. If you can spare some mint leaves and chop them up to put in boiling water, this will make a solution which when strained out can be poured into a spray bottle.


You can then spray it everywhere where you think rats may visit. This is something you will have to do on a regular basis because the smell will disperse after a while.


Another plant that rats don’t like is garlic. You can grow garlic in the garden. We all know about the smell of garlic, most of us like it in our cooking but rats aren’t so keen. As with the mint you can make a spray solution by placing garlic cloves in boiling water and then strain out the liquid.


Just for a laugh you could mix up a solution and squirt it down a rat hole. this will make them think twice about whether they want to stay around or at least it will make them turn up there twitching-noses.


There are other plants that make a difference in the garden, among these are daffodils and marigolds. The smell of flowering lavender will also upset their day. This is before we get to the range of herbs that have an adverse effect on rats. Among these are sage, black pepper, oregano and Cayenne.


These are plants which are most likely going to be grown in your garden anyway. It’s most convenient to think that the plants that we like in the garden can provide us with a first line of defence against rats. The effect of plants grown in the garden are always going to be minimal so don’t have high expectations of this.

I’ve often said that my rats have taught

me much more than I’ve taught them.”

B. F. Skinner

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Composting toilet

Composting toilet 3

Composting toilet

When I’ve mentioned or suggested doing anything like this the usual response has been people turning their noses up and either they pretend they didn’t hear or quickly change the subject to something else.


We prefer to turn a lever or push a button that sends our arisings on their way down a pipe to be processed out of sight and, very much, out of mind. The concept of holding onto what you do in the lavatory with the purposeful intention of making use of it later is totally alien to the vast majority of us.


But it needn’t be like that. There are some encouraging comments from those who have been using modern composting toilets. You can see an example of a typically modern composting toilet on Amazon.

What else?

How to use a composting toilet     

How often do you have to empty a composting toilet?

Compost toilet accelerator     Composting toilet and flies

Composting toilet advantages and disadvantages     

composting toilet allotment

Composting toilet for boats      Composting toilet for RV

Composting toilet for camping

For the #eco minded a modern #compostingtoilet is a comfortable option. Click To Tweet

How does a composting toilet work?

A composting toilet is, to be crude about it and it’s difficult not to be, a combination of an ordinary toilet and a compost bin. But it is, of course, much more than that. Modern compost toilets have been specifically designed to contain and process human waste in a way that is civilised and effective.


The appearance of modern composting toilets is very much the same as conventional toilets where the waste is piped away. These are very often described as dry toilets because there is no water involved. Such a system will work really well where there is a problem supplying water to a particular location.


Composting toilets fall into two categories. One type separates the liquid from the solid when used, this requires the visitor to the toilet to be proactive in using it and make sure that the liquid is kept separate from the solid.


The solid is allowed to dry out, often with a fan mechanism which dries the solid material as well as drawing away foul air. It will help if you have compostable material in the shape of sawdust or peat moss before you start using the compost toilet.


Just a layer of about 2inches to start with. This type of material will do a lot to keep an open mixture and help air to get into the mix. This will help to speed up the composting process and reduce the risk of smell. You can get suitable carrier material for this purpose. Look for peat moss, coconut fibre or sawdust on Amazon.


These materials are supplied dry and it’s considered to be more effective if you make it moist before adding the human waste. This is to help the microorganisms get started because they can only function where there is moisture. So you need to add some water to the peat moss, coconut fibre or sawdust but don’t make it too wet. It just needs to be moist.


The liquid urine is stored in a separate vessel which can be processed through other composting methods away from the composting toilet. You can add the urine to your compost heap that’s already making compost from other materials like kitchen waste and garden trimmings. It’s long been known that urine is high in nitrogen compounds and is therefore extremely valuable when added to a conventional compost heap.


To make the best use all of the liquid you need to add carbon rich materials to obtain a balance in a compost mix. This would include the adding of dead leaves lawn clippings and anything else from the garden that will rot down. It would be preferable if any woody material is added, that it is shredded down to small particles.You can get a garden shredder at Amazon.


If you’re on the road and you have a composting toilet in operation then you can dispose of the urine liquid through a convenient sewage outlet. This is probably the most responsible thing you can do. However, if you really are out in the middle of nowhere and you are desperate to dispose of it, you can just dump it in the countryside but just be very careful that it’s not being dumped near someone’s water supply or a storm drainage grid. This very much a last resort approach.


Concentrated urine is a potential pollutant and it’s therefore very important that you keep it away from water courses, streams and rivers as this will likely disturb fish and other wildlife.


The solids in composting toilets will break down over time, provided the conditions are right, the microorganisms present will work very quickly. The process is accelerated by regular agitation of the solid material. On the modern composting toilet this is achieved by turning a handle and provides aeration of the mix.


After a reasonable length of time compost can be extracted from the unit which can either be stored for later use or use straight away as a valuable soil conditioner depending on which system you are using.


The other system is much more basic and involves the liquid and solid being gathered in one vessel. For this basic system to work you need to have to composting toilets side by side. One of them will be in use until it’s full. The other one will remain empty until the first one is full.


On filling the first toilet compartment, this will be closed off and will not be used for a long time. Visitors to the toilet will then start filling the second compartment. This system relies on the first toilet compartment having time to turn the entire contents into compost before the second toilet compartment becomes full.

Composting toilet 4

This type of basic composting toilet would not necessarily rely on any sort of agitation. It requires time for nature to take its course. As the first compartment becomes full It will be necessary to ‘take the top off the mountain’. This is often done by including a handle operated mechanism that moves a scraper from side to side that spreads the top of the material to make best use of the space inside the compartment.


Depending on the number of people that this system needs to cater for it may be necessary to have more than two composting toilet compartments. This is a calculation that has to be done in the early stages and can be easily planned for.


It’s generally considered to be wise to leave the composting toilet compartment closed off, when full, for at least one year to allow adequate decomposition to take place. During this time any harmful pathogens that may be in the material should have been destroyed by the microorganisms which will be extremely active throughout the whole process.


Because the liquid and solid all going in together there is the need to add dry material that will soak up the moisture and break down into compost along with the rest of the waste. The ideal materials for this would be saw-dust or finely chopped dead leaves.

There needs to be a plentiful supply of sawdust or leaves beside the toilet so that visitors can throw in a  scoop on top of the gathering pile when they finish and before they leave. For the system to work efficiently every time a visit is made to the toilet users must comply with this requirement.

How to use a composting toilet

Before you can use a composting toilet you need to be aware of what sort of toilet it is. You need to know what technique is required and what the protocol is for the set-up. This will very often be explained to you if you’re a guest visiting it for the first time.


It will either be a case of everything goes into one or you may be required two separate your liquid from your solid at point of delivery. When using a composting toilet that requires the liquid and solid separated it’s up to the user to make sure that the liquid is directed towards the front of the pan and the solid remain to the rear.

Keeping the two components separate is what does a huge amount to reduce the risk of smell. If the two do mix together a reaction takes place which generates a gaseous discharge. One of these gasses is ammonia and that is partly what you may smell. It’s important that everybody does what is required to avoid this and to make the system to work effectively.

If you’re required two add a scoop of dry sawdust after you’ve finished then it is important that you do this out of consideration to those who come along after you. This we can call community consideration.


How often do you have to empty a composting toilet?

Where you can leave the material composting as a batch for a whole year it’s easy because time and nature will do everything for you. When it comes to the point of removing the compost it should be a rich dark material which any gardener will be pleased to see. So in this case the chore of removal will happen approximately once a year.


In the case of the modern composting toilet, because the space is more confined, the capacity is limited. You can assume that it will be enough capacity for up to 70 visits before you will need to empty the solids chamber.


How to empty a composting toilet

It’s advisable that you wear rubber gloves when handling this sort of material. For the most basic of composting toilets where a compartment has been closed off for a year or more, this should be very simple.

With nature having run its course there shouldn’t be any problems with handling the material that has to come out. The design of the compartment has to be easy to use for accessibility. You should be able to just dig it out with a shovel and, If you’ve got everything right, this will be an extremely rich source of organic fertilizer.


The modern more compact composting toilets are much more simple to use because a lot of thought has gone into the design that enables the operator to regularly extract small amounts of compost. The process with these is much faster because agitation has to happen for the unit to work efficiently.

To empty a modern composting toilet the best way is to take off the lid assembly and place a big bag, preferably a compostable bag, over the container. You can then turn the whole unit upside down and shake all the contents into the bag. This can then be taken away to be disposed of. It will no doubt have further decomposition to perform but if you can place it somewhere where it could be left for a year or two it can always be guaranteed that it will turn into an extremely useful organic fertilizer.


Compost toilet accelerator

If you’re using the batch chamber system that involves leaving the waste to turn to compost over a very long time you may not need an accelerator. But it would certainly make a difference if you did because you would be sure of having a really mature compost by the time that you start to remove it. I would strongly advise the regular adding of white lime (hydrated lime) throughout the filling of the chamber as this will help with sanitizing as well as playing a part in accelerating decomposition. You can get white lime at Amazon.

If you’re using one of the modern composting toilet units it’s strongly advise that you do use an accelerator because you really do need the process to happen as quickly as possible. There are products available that will do this for you. If you look up compost accelerator for water less systems on Amazon you should find a product that will do what’s needed. 


Composting toilet and flies

If you find flies are a problem around your composting toilet don’t automatically assume that they have come from the toilet. There may be flies moving in from elsewhere. You need to look around and see if there is something that’s providing a source of flies for example fruit flies or house flies maybe moving in from a nearby compost heap.


These flies may lay eggs in your compost toilet and become a problem. There are things you can do to make it uncomfortable for flies. Using the fly spray killer may be necessary in extreme cases but there is much more natural method. Get yourself a bag of white lime (hydrated lime) and keep it somewhere dry because it has a tendency to go hard if it gets moist.


Use the white lime powder, sprinkle a liberal helping over the surface of material in your compost solids chamber. This will have the effect of deterring the flies and it will probably kill any maggots that may have taken up residence. The white lime will not affect the composting of the solid material. It will possibly improve it and contribute to the process because it will help to neutralize any acidity in the mix. This will in turn help to accelerate the composting process.


Composting toilet compost

The compost from composting toilet is sometimes known as ‘humanure’. There are those who say that it’s a very risky thing to do to use human waste as part of a composting program and they are probably right. Because there are potentially harmful bacteria viruses and pathogens in human waste, It’s very important that we all recognize that there is a risk of soil contamination.


It’s for this reason that the recommendation has to be to only use this material around plants which are non food producing. So you could use it to feed ornamental shrubs or grass lawn areas but don’t use it on the vegetable patch or around fruit bushes.


The best way to deal with this problem is to add the compost that’s generated from a composting toilet to a much larger compost facility. This is where the compost from the composting toilet is likely to be exposed to the heat that is generated from a much bigger heap. the heat will sterilize much of the viral content and pathogens.


Further to this we mustn’t ignore the part that worms can play. A strong population of worms will consume all of the material when it has decomposed to the point where they can live in it. When worms digest compost material they have the ability to destroy viruses and pathogens during the digestion process.


The best worm for this would be the tiger worm because they’re the most efficient at digesting compost material and they do it very quickly. It is quite possible that red earthworms will move into the heap from the surrounding territory. These will do a lot to break down the material but it would still make sense to import and add a consignment of tiger worms because these will be much more effective. The tiger worms will live with the red earthworms. You can get consignments of tiger worms at Amazon

To be safe the best thing you can do with compost that’s been generated from a composting toilet you must leave nature to break down this material completely. Think of time as being the balancer and neutralizer. Viruses cannot live outside of a host forever. If the worms are left to digest all of this material completely, as they will, you should end up with a material that can be used without consequences.


Composting toilet advantages and disadvantages

The main advantage of a composting toilet is that you can set it up anywhere. You don’t need a water supply to it or drainage from it. There are no worries if everything is frozen and there’s no water because you won’t need it for the toilet. If you manage the whole project diligently you will ultimately end up with a rich compost that you can actually use.


The emphasis here has to be that you must conduct the composting process properly to make sure that the process reaches a safe and secure conclusion. It Is an option for secluded rural locations or for travelling, camping and boats.


The main disadvantage of using a composting toilet is that there is considerable maintenance. You have to get into the routine of doing all the things that have to be done. It may take a while to build up experience to be able to get the best out of your composting unit. You have to make sure that the material in the compost isn’t too wet because if it is it will smell and it will take longer to break down into compost.


You also need to make sure of that everyone who uses the composting toilet knows how to use it and that they do what needs to be done when they are using it.


The modern composting toilets often need a power source and there has to be a discipline of making sure of that the relevant containers are emptied when they need to be. Having a composting toilet is a commitment it won’t manage itself when things need to be done they must be done.


Composting toilet at home

One of the advantages of having a composting toilet in your home is that you can place it wherever you want. If you have a confined space where you can’t do anything else it may be ideal for your composting toilet. You just need to be sure that you’ve got enough manoeuvring space to be able to carry out the emptying procedure.


The only limitation is that you need to have access for a vent pipe that works like a chimney from a wood stove. This encourages plenty of air movement pulling away foul air. The vent pipe needs to protrude either through the wall or through the roof with the end of it being 3 feet higher than the top of the roof.

This will ensure that there is enough positive air movement which will pull air up the pipe. Having a vent pipe will be necessary regardless of whether you have an electrically powered composting toilet with a fan or no power intervention at all.


Composting toilet allotment

Imagine the convenience of this. You would need to have a small wooden hut or a small garden shed similar to this one which you can find on Amazon. The ideal situation here would be to encourage all the allotment holders to share a composting toilet and where there is a large compost heap or a good composting system where the arisings from the composting toilet can be left for a decent length of time to rot down completely.

Composting toilet 5

Here’s an example of a composting toilet from Amazon that a group of enthusiastic allotment gardeners could possibly install.


Here again worms can play a big part and making sure that the compost is broken down completely to produce a commodity that everyone will want a piece of.

It would, of course, depend on the views of those in the allotment group on whether the resulting material was used on vegetable patches. It might be safer to cure it in a separate compost heap that’s just for flowers that are grown on the allotments but I suspect with such a valuable commodity in the hands of experienced gardeners, there will be no shortage or suggestions as to what to use it for.


Composting toilet for boats

Having a compost toilet on a boat has a number of advantages mainly to do with space. If you acquire a boat that already has a water-based toilet you can take all that out and remove the capacious holding tank that’s needed to contain the output and you don’t need to concern yourself about overboard discharge.


With an on-board composting toilet no pumping is necessary there are no valves to go wrong, nothing can get clogged up or start to leak. As with having a composting toilet in the home you just need to make sure that you’ve got ample ventilation with a vent pipe that protrudes away from the boat.


If you’re going to be offshore for any length of time and the solid container is likely to fill up then the best thing to do is to have a spare container which can replace the full one. The full container can then be stored somewhere safe until you make landfall when you will find an opportunity to take it to be dumped in a sanitary fashion.

Here is an example of an ideal composting toilet that would fit well on any cruising size boat. You can see an example of it at Amazon.


Composting toilet for RV

The advantages of having a composting toilet in an RV or motor-home are much the same as for those for a boat. Space is always valuable and having a composting toilet means you can manage without a storage tank for taking the outfall from the conventional water type toilet.

If you’re taking out an original toilet setup and replacing with a composting toilet you will need to be aware that you have to fit a ventilation pipe for which you will probably need a power assisted fan to extract fumes. You will also need to locate it where the original toilet was as this will be the designated area on the vehicle. The biggest difference will be that instead of having to dispose all liquid waste there will be a small amount of liquid and the rest of it will be solids. Take a look at an example of a composting toilet which you can find at Amazon.


Composting toilet for camping

It’s probably not practical to be thinking about a composting toilet when you’re going camping. There’s enough else you’ve got to lug around and the whole point of camping is that you abbreviate your equipment to be as minimal as possible. It’s usually all about what you can get in your car and on the roof rack and no more.


So the most practical thing you can do is to go for a simpler option which is a small portable toilet which disposes of the waste by chemical means. An example of a camping toilet can be found in Amazon. This particular unit takes up very little space and is extremely convenient. It could also be used as a regular toilet if there are major renovations being done to a bathroom or you need the convenience of having a spare toilet in the house either upstairs or down.


You need to use a liquid which you place in the toilet. Human waste dissolves in this liquid known as toilet fluid. The reaction takes place quite quickly reducing the risk of smells and making flushing out much more convenient. It also helps to ensure that the toilet Is easy to keep clean at all times. You can get toilet fluid at Amazon.


If you are using something like this for camping you will need a tented area to house it. You may have a compartment within your tent or it maybe more convenient to have a completely separate stand-a-lone tent erected specifically for the purpose.


You can get on outdoor pop up tent that’s ideal for camping creating an instant toilet tent. The same style of tent could also be used for showering or changing. You can see an example of an outdoor pop up tent at Amazon.


Compost toilet for a yurt

A yurt could be described as a semi permanent tent. It makes ideal accommodation but can be easily dismantled, folded up and moved to another site. It’s an idea that was perfected by the Mongolians and has been used for centuries. The yurt is a relatively recent addition to the camping scene in the western world.


A complete yurt will have basic facilities including a wood burning stove. This would be seen as standard operating equipment when you consider the windswept and cold Mongolian plains from which the yurt originated.


It takes a little longer to set up a yurt but I have to say it is worth the effort for the comfort. This is just one example of the nouveau style camping that’s taking hold. People want the romance of camping under the stars but at the same time they want an element of luxury and comfort.


This is fashionably referred to as ‘glamping’. The word ‘glamping’ being a combination of glamour and camping.


For those who are attracted to this new trend a toilet facility is still needed to go with it. This is where similar facilities as for camping would work adding a level of comfort which would compare with the basic comforts of home.

If or when you’re offered the privilege of using a composting toilet, just remember this:

Aim to please and think

about the environment”

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What is composting?

Composting is the converting of organic material that was once living into a black crumbly material which is of immense use as a natural fertiliser for growing plants. These could be flower plants or vegetables and the waste from these can then be turned into compost at a later date.

So with this we have a recycling process which is indeed the essence of composting.

What is compost?

Compost is what you get when you leave a load of green waste e.g. potato peelings, lettuce leaves and any leftover trimmings from vegetables in one heap. Overtime nature will take its course and break it down into what will eventually become compost. It’s a simple process which has been going on since time began.

Composting is something that’s so easy to do it actually happens by itself. Nature is in control of every aspect of it. Everyone is capable of making compost because everyone has access to the raw materials to be able to do it and with so many composting devices available if you put it all together there really is no excuse for not making compost. You can get a composting bin from Amazon or if you are feeling adventurous you can get a compost tumbler also from Amazon, or check out the Rolypig compost tumbler at

What else?

How to start composting       How to make compost

Garden compost       Vermicompost

What to put in compost       What to do with compost

Composting in winter        Compost bin ideas

Compostable bags          Horse manure compost

To make compost there is one single ingredient that you need more than anything else and that is green waste that’s left over from the kitchen. This includes everything from apple cores to potato peelings and everything else that has a tendency to go mouldy if you don’t eat it before the best before date.


All of this material is available to you free of charge, indeed it may cost you in some cases to dispose of it if you don’t make compost. You could be paying to have this waste taken away and someone else will make compost out of it and make use of it. You wouldn’t want that especially if you’ve got a garden with growing plants and vegetables which could easily make use of it.


Some people are put off from attempting to make compost. They think it’s difficult, it requires a vast amount of knowledge, it’s smells and it might involve getting their hands dirty. Then there is the issue of flies and rodents. many take the view that it’s just not worth the trouble and you might as well put the whole lot in the trash can for the bin man.


But I would suggest that you think again. With a small amount of research, and maybe some investment, you can make use of what is, arguably, a valuable natural resource. Try not to spend too much time thinking about the green waste you are handling and how disgusting it might look.

Instead focus on the end result. You will have at your disposal one of the most useful natural components that any gardener would ever want. Some we’ll go as far as to call a well made compost ‘Black Gold’.


How to start composting

If you’ve never considered making compost before now, you need to think about where to start. Up until this point your routine has, most likely, been one of throwing green waste away then forgetting all about it. You’ve probably taken the view that seeing any value in this sort of waste is for ‘greenies’ who have a political agenda and knit their own toilet paper.


But it needn’t be like that. Green waste from the kitchen and any green waste from the garden does have a biological value. All you need to do is to gather it together in one place and leave it to nature.


To be able to do any level of composting you need a bit of spare space. Somewhere out of the way in the backyard. An area where there is no disturbance because your compost heat or container must be left undisturbed for long enough. You have to be aware that compost takes months and in some cases years to form. The rotting process of converting green waste into compost is not fast so don’t expect anything to happen within days.


So to get started the most basic of composting can be done as just a heap on the ground but this isn’t wise because it does attract vermin. The waste that you’re handling here is food to wildlife, some of which will take a delight in scattering it far and wide.


The best thing you can do right from the start is to either make or buy a containing vessel. Vermin can still find a way into this but it does make it a bit harder for them if your compost is being made inside a vessel.


There are a whole range of composting vessels available. There is the simplest compost bin which doesn’t cost very much, you can check out the prices at Amazon. This is the easiest way to get started because having a vessel turn up that can be just put in place you can start throwing your green waste from the kitchen straight in to it.


And that’s it, it’s that simple anyone can do it. When you’ve started on the habit of doing this with your green waste you will eventually benefit from what nature will provide. It’s very important when you start making compost that you don’t have any expectations of an early result because early results just don’t happen when you are making compost.

Just know that you are making an investment for the future and at some point down the road you will get a pay-back.

How to make compost

How to make compost

Here’s the good news, compost makes itself. It really requires little or no effort on your part other than to set up the conditions. Provided that you have a vessel in place to receive the waste nature will eventually do it’s thing. The only intervention that may be needed from you is to agitate the contents of your compost bin. Doing this will allow more air to get into the mix which will assist the tiny microorganisms that are feeding on the waste.

You can use a tool which will stir your compost to air into it. There is compost aerator device available at Amazon


In the early stages of green waste turning into compost you may see a small amount of steam appearing from the surface. This is because the microorganisms living in the waste are breaking down the material which often generates heat. This is nothing to be alarmed about and it will only persist for a short while. After this stage of warming the material will start to cool and the decomposition into a finished form of compost will continue


It would also help to cover the compost vessel to prevent heavy rain from saturating it. The compost, as it’s forming, needs to be kept moist so if it’s very dry you need to add water but you mustn’t add too much. An excess of water will result in nutrients draining away. If the compost is too wet the material becomes sealed within itself and air can’t get in to feed the microorganisms. When this happens the whole process becomes dormant and no decomposition can take place.

This state is very often referred to as being stagnant. You may also notice a smell and in the summertime you will undoubtedly see a lot of flies. This can be avoided by monitoring the general moisture level. This is not a complicated thing to do, you can often tell what’s going on just by looking at it.

Garden compost

Garden compost can be bought ready-made in bags. You can check out the prices of garden compost at Amazon. It’s a very convenient way of cutting to the chase and getting what you want straight out of a bag instantly rather than wait for your own compost to be created. Your own compost can, of course, be progressing in the background.


It could be argued that the compost that you make from your own kitchen and garden waste will be better than anything you can buy in a bag. So be aware that the wait for your own compost will always be worthwhile.


One of the biggest advantages of buying ready-made compost out of the bag is that it’s ideal for propagating small seeds. There is a whole range of grades of compost that you can buy.


Some have a high acidity level which are suitable for plants that prefer acid soil for example the rhododendron. Others have white lime mixed in, these would be suitable for the vegetable patch or for spreading on a lawn. If you have ground that is heavy clay there are compost mixtures available that have added grit which will help to open up the clay and allow the air in.


When making a choice you need to study very closely what’s available and be aware of what your garden needs. All of these bagged composts will make a big difference to your garden. They all provide a healthy natural source of nutrients and can therefore do no harm.


But always be aware that the best compost of all will be the compost that you’ve generated for yourself from your own green waste because you know the source of the compost and you know that it won’t have been diluted in any way at all. You may find that when you compare your own compost, when it’s ready, with any compost that you buy, that your own compost is much more concentrated in terms of nutrients. For this reason you may find it necessary to mix in some sand or soil with it.

Doing this will help your own, much more valuable, compost go further and do more for you. It’s important to be mindful that your own compost is the’ real thing’ and that there will actually be a limited quantity available to you. Buy diluting it a little, you will be able to make it go further.



Vermicompost is what is produced when worms consume green waste. Worm composting is when the fun begins. When you have an established compost bin of any sort you will have the ideal haven for all sorts of soil dwelling creatures. Some you won’t see because they’re too small but the ones you will see will be the ones that are surely the most prolific of all, worms. These won’t be just any worm. These will be worms that benefit from the type of material that you have in your compost bin.


You can set up a wormery which is designed specifically for worms. |These consist of containers some of which have trays where you place fresh green waste and as it rots the worms move into the waist and start consuming. You can see a selection of wormeries at Amazon. They are very simple to install and operate.


Most wormeries have a facility for collecting liquid that’s generated from the process. This can be used as plant food so it is worth keeping it to one side for when you need it. Then there is the solid that the worms generate from the waste. This Is worm castings also known as vermi-compost and can also be stored.


As a gardener this may be the most useful natural plant food that you can get your hands on. You can take satisfaction in knowing that this material has been generated from waste which you may well have thrown away. Life rarely gets better than that.


There are two types of worm that tend to live in compost. These are the Red Earth worm and the tiger worm. Depending on what type of soil you have in your locality the red earthworm will be everywhere. It will only take a small delegation to arrive anywhere near your compost while it’s forming and they will immediately take up residence.


If after a period of time you notice that your compost bin has no worms but you would like to have some worms at work there are options. You could go to a friend’s garden where you know there are worms and collect some or maybe take a sample of someone else’s compost heap that has worms in it and place it in your own compost.


These will then settle in and do what they do. If no worms turn up and you can’t scrounge any anywhere then the only other option is to buy worms, check out the price on Amazon. These will most likely be the tiger worm variety because they are specially bred to consume waste and maybe a better option than the red earthworm.


Where ever your worms come from they will think they’ve arrived in paradise. They will immediately commence a lifestyle that will amount to a never ending orgy of eating and breeding. In the right conditions worms will breed very quickly. It’s understood that when they become established the numbers will double every 3 months.


If worms turn up in your compost bin having moved in from the surrounding habitat you may not necessarily now that they are there. It’s only when the numbers actually explode that they become visible by which time there is a significant and well established population.


It is possible to make compost without using worms and it wouldn’t really matter if no worms ever turn up. In most cases you won’t have the choice. They will turn up and you will be glad that they did.

What to put in compost

What to put in compost

You can put anything in a compost bin that will rot down. This includes anything that is organic in the truest sense of the word. To be technical about it if something is genuinely organic it means that it’s carbon-based and once living. This would include all food waste that is left over after meals. It would also include vegetable peelings and fruit peelings.

We can also add to this trimmings from the garden including lawn clippings, hedge clippings and dead leaves. we can also add cut-flowers that have gone over. Some of the trimmings from large woody plants will need to be shredded. Small particles of woody plants will rot down very quickly. Take a look at garden shredders at Amazon.


In short if you see something going mouldy or decaying in anyway you can place it in your compost mix and the microorganisms will break it down into compost.


It’s very important to try and achieve a balance when adding material to a compost vessel. The balance that I’m referring to involves the quantity of nitrate material and carbon material. There needs to be more of the carbon material than the nitrate. The nitrate factor comes from the food waste, this will always be much higher in nitrate compounds. Left by itself without any carbon material to balance it, it will take a very long time to rot down.


The carbon Factor comes from materials like newspaper and cardboard otherwise known as’ Browns’. This sort of material helps in a number of ways it balances the food waste, soaks up surplus moisture and keeps the overall texture of the compost open allowing more air to get into the mix.


The ratio of carbon to nitrate mix needs to be in the region of 20 units of carbon material to one unit of nitrate-rich material. Given that you can get the balance right you will see compost form over a period of time but if you really want to accelerate the process it is possible. There are accelerators which will speed up the process a little.


There are two components that you can add that will make a difference. Firstly, because compost tends to be rather acidic, it may help to add white lime (hydrated lime). This is available as a powder and it’s quite safe to handle. It’s not the same as quicklime which should be avoided because it burns the skin. White lime will do much to neutralise the acid. If something is acidic it tends to preserve rather than decompose, rather like pickling.


The other ingredient is ammonium sulphamate (ammonium sulfamate). This you can buy at Amazon. It’s available in sachets of granules which you sprinkle on to the green waste as you add it to the compost.ammonium sulphamate is a manufactured compound. It has the effect of accelerating decomposition of organic material.

There is another source of ammonium nitrate which you can use if needs must. This comes in the shape of your own urine. So if you are a dedicated composting enthusiast you may want to give this some thought.

What to do with compost

If you’ve never made compost before and you are just getting started you may wonder what it is you’re going to be doing with the compost when you’ve got it. A well made compost is a very valuable feed for any plant that you are growing. Because it’s a very concentrated material it would be wise to mix it with soil. not only would this help it to go further to do more for you but mixing it with soil in a seed bed where you want to grow crops, like vegetables and flowers, is probably the best thing you can do with it.


Most people will only have a small amount available to them at any point in time because it takes a lot of waste to produce a lot of compost. If you are being diligent with what you throw out the amount of waste available for compost should be minimal.

Therefore if you’re not throwing out vast quantities of green waste you won’t have a vast quantity of compost.


If you are lucky enough to have a huge amount of compost then you have more options. You can be generous when digging it in to a vegetable patch and you can spread it thinly over your lawn. This will help the grass more than anything else that you may add to lawn.


take care when spreading it on the lawn because you need to scatter it thinly, If you leave areas of grass that are completely covered which compost, this will kill the grass because compost provides a high level of nutrients which in some cases are too much for plants to cope with.

Whatever you do with compost in the garden you can be sure that it will do some good somewhere. The benefits of using compost around growing plants will become obvious after a while and when you see this it will encourage you to carry on making compost of green waste into the future.

Composting in winter

It is well possible to make compost in the winter provided the weather isn’t so cold for too long. In really cold weather where the temperature is at freezing point or below little or nothing will happen. Any green waste that’s placed in a compost bin in these conditions will stay preserved.


This is not a problem because as soon as the weather warms up to a high enough temperature the microorganisms can start to function again and normal decomposition will then be resumed.


This is assuming that you are living in a part of the world where the temperature is agreeable enough in the winter months for something to happen. There are parts of the world where everything freezes up for the whole winter in which case nothing will happened at all. If you live in a part of the world with this sounds familiar then the best thing you can do is to allow your compost bin to fill up. When it’s full you will need another compost bin and start feeding that. You may have to keep doing this just to have somewhere to put your waist during the cold time.

When the spring comes and the temperature rises, everything you’ve got in all of your compost bins will start rotting. This won’t mean that you will have any more compost year on year it just means that half of the year’s compost will be produced all in one go. Green waste that’s only just started being broken down in the spring of the year should rot down enough to provide compost for the following year.

Compost bin ideas

There’s a range of composting bins and devices available to suit any budget. It depends on you and what it is that you want to achieve when it comes to making a choice over which system would suit you. If what you want is a compost bin that remains as a static fixture then a basic compost bin is all that you need. These tend to be a straightforward in at the top and out of the bottom system.


The most basic of composters is one that you can make yourself by using four wooden stakes and chicken wire. This involves a bit of work but it’s an option if you have an area of your garden which you can leave untouched. The ideal position for this is against a boundary fence. This type of composting sistem would be ideal if you get a lot of leaves each year or if you have large lawn generating a significant amount of grass clippings.


It really depends on your circumstances and the size of your garden. For most people a simple compost bin would suffice and they are not too expensive for the average home budget. You can check out the prices of compost bins at Amazon.


If you are thinking about more elaborate composting devices you may want to consider compost tumblers. There is a significant range of these available and all of them have a place. They all do very much the same thing. The idea of a tumbler is that it accelerates decomposition by introducing air every time a tumbler is rolled over. There is the Rolypig compost tumbler, see it at or check out compost tumblers at Amazon.


Rotating Composter vs compost bin

Whichever system you choose you have to be aware that, at some point, you have to stop adding fresh waste to your chosen vessel. If you have a compost bin system it would be practical to have more than one compost bin. When the first bin is full you can close down that bin and start filling an empty bin.


This will allow the first bin to rot completely as a whole without being ‘contaminated’ by fresh waste. This will mean that when you do get the compost from that first bin it will be compost that you can use from top to bottom.


The same applies to a rotating composter or compost tumbler. You do need to have a cut-off point where you don’t add any more fresh material. Because a tumbler composter tends to accelerate decomposition the volume of compost in the tumbler will rot much more quickly. While you’re waiting for this to happen you may need to put fresh waste in a holding bin so as to avoid fresh waste going in the tumbler at this stage.


When you can empty out the tumbler, the waste that’s been held back can then be loaded in. This is not a problem with the Rolypig compost tumbler because the compost is being turned over regularly. With the Rolypig fresh waste goes in one end and comes out the other. Find out more about the Rolypig at

When it comes to making the choice over having a rotating compost bin or static compost bin, I would suggest having a combination of the two. That way you can take compost out of the tumbler before it has fully formed into compost and put it in a static compost bin.

Here you can just leave it and forget about it because it’s already largely broken down by the effective tumbling action. You can then start reloading the compost tumbler and continue with the process. There is a good range of compost tumblers at Amazon. If you go for this option a standard compost bin would suffice which you can also get at Amazon.

Compostable bags

Biodegradable bags can be used to line a waste bin so that you can put the bag and contents straight into the compost. There are grades of biodegradable bags that are strong enough for them to be used as carrier bags.

These bags are made from materials that will break down when they get wet and are exposed to microorganisms. There are two categories of compostable bag. There is paper which we all know will breakdown and rot completely overtime.


Then there is the compostable bag which has the appearance of being a plastic bag and is designed to take the place of some plastics. This is to reduce the amount of plastic that finds its way into the environment where it can take decades to break down if ever.


Compostable biodegradable bags, will break down completely over a relatively short period of time. Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques it is now possible to make, what appears to be, a plastic bag using a recipe of naturally occurring organic commodities. These include cornstarch, wheat, tapioca and potato all of which can be described as appetising food to something or someone somewhere.

You can get biodegradable bags at Amazon.


When using compostable bags you need to be aware that, because they are easily biodegradable, they have a short shelf-life. They begin to biodegrade as soon as they come in contact with moisture. This is particularly so with the paper bags. Anyone who attempts to carry a glass jar of pickled onions in a paper bag is inviting potential mishap.


You would stand a much better chance with a bag that’s been made from starch based compounds because these would survive a little longer giving you a much better chance of getting home with the shopping.

Compostable bags are an ideal solution as it fits in with the ‘ use once and throw away’ habits that we seem to have. You can be sure that, when you do throw a biodegradable bag into the compost bin, you will be able to make use of it again as plant food.


Leaf compost

If you get a regular supply every autumn/fall of dead leaves turning up, grab as many as you can. Store them in big bags, temporarily, these are valuable in the right hands and if you’re the first one to arrive on the scene, they are yours.


Anyone who’s had experience of composting leaves will tell you that they can never get enough. So if you know that there are likely to be a lot of leaves blowing around at the next fall get yourself prepared. Have some empty bags ready and when you know you’ve got a good quantity you can then start arranging composting facilities to rot them down.


Leaves are as biodegradable as paper bags and modern biodegradable starch bags. All you have to do is make them wet and they will start to rot. It really is as simple as that. It may take a year or two for leaves to rot down completely. This will be accelerated if you add white lime and use a compost tumbler just like making compost from any other organic waste.


Food compost

Food waste is what you will be handling on a regular basis and it’s what you will be working with most of the time. Because we’re always peeling potatoes and carrots there will be a constant supply buy food waste. It’s highly convenient to have somewhere to dump this waste knowing that you’re going to be able to make use of it at a later date.


Because food waste can sometimes contain the scrapings from plates Including remains of cooked meat you have to consider the potential of vermin. The best way to reduce this risk is to do what you can to accelerate the decomposition of this waste so that it isn’t available to them for very long.


One of the best things you can do when putting food waste in a compost system is to add white lime (hydrated lime). This will make it unattractive to vermin and you’re much less likely to have a problem. The white lime will do a lot to neutralize the acids that will try to preserve this material and so decomposition will happen very quickly. You can get white lime (hydrated lime) from Amazon.


It is worth persevering with making compost from food waste for two reasons. Firstly there is a plentiful supply that has no end and secondly food waste tends to have a higher nitrate content which is extremely beneficial when trying to generate a good quality rich compost.

Horse manure compost

Horse manure compost

Of all the banansas that life can bestow upon us this has to be one of the most valuable ingredients that anyone could wish for. That is if you have a garden and you grow lots of vegetables and flowers and you want them all to flourish. If you don’t have a horse make friends with someone who has In fact make friends with lots of people with horses because this may turn out to be the best friends you’ll ever have.

If you don’t have a friend with a horse you can get horse manure compost from Amazon.


Let’s look at the statistics of what a horse can do, specifically from the rear end. One horse can produce about 50 pounds of manure each day. That’s about 8 tons a year. They can’t avoid being fed so they can’t avoid producing it. As long as the horse lives, this supply will go on and on.


In addition to this there is the used bedding which has to be thrown out on a daily basis. Then if luck is really in and the means are there with which to collect it there is 8 to 10 gallons of urine up for grabs. If you can possibly get together the combination of horse manure, used bedding and the urine you have the ideal mix.


The thing is with making compost from this combination is that the heap can generate quite a bit of heat. This happens when the microorganisms, that occur naturally, get to work at breaking down the material. The heat generated is enough to kill fly larvae, parasitic worm eggs and destroy the seeds of undesirable weeds.


As with any material that you are making compost from, you can accelerate the process by turning the heap over. When you turn over the compost heap that’s mainly horse manure with used bedding, you will find that clouds of steam will rise up in the process.


You also won’t be able to escape the fact that there will be something of a strong smell. Don’t be alarmed by this. It’s all part of healthy country living and above all natural. Just keep in mind the vegetables that you’ll be growing.


Coffee grounds compost

Some people worry unnecessarily about what they put in their compost. In general as long as it will rot down, anything can go in compost including coffee grounds. You can also add to this the coffee filters because they breakdown as well in the compost bin. In the mass of your compost that contains pretty much everything else the coffee grounds will hardly be noticed and they will breakdown along with everything else.


Coffee grounds don’t cause a problem with acidity because they are almost neutral on the pH scale. It’s unlikely that you will have large quantities of coffee grounds generated from your own use so putting them in the compost as you get them shouldn’t be a problem unless you drink a massive amount of coffee.


If however, you know someone who runs a coffee shop where people drink coffee all day and you have the opportunity of all the coffee grounds you may need to have a strategy where are you add small amounts on a regular basis rather than adding a huge amount in one go. The same would apply to tea and tea bags. All of which will turn into compost although you may find that some tea bags don’t break down completely.


Why compost

Do you really need a reason for making compost? You could argue that you are doing your bit for the planet and you’re saving landfill space. If we calculated the amount of material that’s taken to landfill sites I suspect the tonnage is quite considerable along with the cost of moving it. So it can be argued that if everybody did their bit and make compost a lot of expense and effort would be spared.


The first reason why most people make compost is that they see and appreciate the value of this material. They see tangible results in their gardens from the vegetables and flowers that they grow and that when they have a process in place it doesn’t take too much effort just to keep it going.


The composting habit is a simple one and if you’re not doing it yet the sooner you start the better because if you don’t you’re missing out on a very valuable resource. If you’ve never made compost before just think about the quantity of material that you’ve been throwing away, possibly for years, and what you may have been able to do with it. I feel that this is the argument that would convince most people to get up and make the effort.


The stronger the smell the

greater the beauty that’s generated”

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Can you use compost on your lawn?


Spreading compost on your lawn is one of the best things you can do as a lawn feed. Not only does this provide a list of valuable nutrients to the grass plants, it helps to build a more open texture to the soil around the grass roots. This allows air and moisture to permeate through to the roots.

Lawn aeration before spreading

Before you spread your compost it would help if you open up the lawn surface by using a lawn aerator. This involves making spike holes all over the lawn to open up the surface.

Before you start thinking ‘how much of a job is that going to be?’, don’t worry. There is a whole range of tools available from Amazon. Check out lawn aerators. There are mechanical devices designed to make this a simple task using tools that range from powered aerators to boots with long spikes. Walking around on the lawn spiking the turf may turn out to be a useful form of exercise.

What else?

Organic fertilizer or chemical fertilizer.  Weeds on the lawn.

How to apply lawn fertilizer with a spreader.  Do I need to roll my new lawn?.

How do you get rid of moss in your lawn?  Laying turf lawn.

How do I sow grass seed in existing lawn?   How to cut grass properly.

Spiking the surface is largely done to allow air to get into the roots. It depends on the type of soil you have but some heavy soils can become compacted over time forming a sealed surface layer. Often known as being ‘capped’.This inhibits air and liquid from getting into the ground. As a result the roots are starved of oxygen and water.

So opening up the surface in this way will allow some of the compost crumb to get into the root area beneath the grass surface. It will also allow rain-water to wash the dissolved nutrients of the compost into the soil. It’s this that feeds the roots. Doing all of this is most of what’s involved in a good lawn care program.

Spiking is also good practice for creating a lawn area that is permeable to rain water. An open surface allows the ground to soak up and retain rain water like a sponge. It will hold onto the water for a while before it eventually drains away.

This is a practice that everyone should operate because slowing down rain water in this way would do much to reduce, or possibly prevent, flooding.

In cases where the soil is largely sand, spiking the surface may not be so necessary because sandy soil tends to be naturally free-draining. This type of soil is less likely to suffer from compaction and will not form a solid, non-permeable surface.

Lawn treatment

How do you spread compost on a lawn?

If you are relying on the amount of compost that you generate from your own mixture of kitchen waste and grass clippings, the volume of material may not be too small. So you will want to make the most of what you have.To make compost from kitchen waste, see the Rolypig composter at

Because compost tends to be damp it’s not practical to try spreading it using a granular fertilizer spreader. It will just stick in the spreader and won’t flow. The best way to spread it is to load up the wheel barrow, take it out onto the lawn and, using a spade, fling it out over the grass.

If you leave dense areas use a broom to spread it further on the ground and work it into the soil surface.

The most important thing is to spread a very thin layer. If you spread it too thick it will kill the grass and you will end up with bare patches. If you have a largish lawn it’s quite likely that you will need to spread your compost thinly for the majority of the lawn to benefit.

Can you use compost as a top soil?

This is a question that will arise if you have been lucky enough to acquire a bulk load of compost from an outside source, may be several tons.

It’s not wise to use just compost as a top soil alone. Trying to do so would not be the best way of making use of such a bonanza.

Because of the nature and structure of a lot of compost in a thick layer you may find that the finished surface will remain soft and difficult to walk on. Your feet will sink into it.

The best thing you can do is to mix the compost with the soil that you already have to improve the structure. This should work even if you have the worst soil type on the planet. The adding of a generous amount of compost will improve any soil any where. The heaviest of clay soil will come to life if enough organic material is added. The first indication of success here will be the arrival of worms where there have been none.

Rich dark compost

Compost is the ultimate natural lawn fertilizer. Only spread compost that has finished turning into a dark mixture. The ideal compost will be a crumbly medium derived from an input of kitchen waste mixed with balancing ingredients. See more at ‘ What goes in a compost bin?‘.

To help build up a strong mixture, add dead leaves. These will rot down over time if kept moist. Find out more about ‘how long does it take to compost leaves

This must be ‘aged’ compost, if there is any material in it that you recognise then it’s not ready to spread. Any organic material that hasn’t fully rotten down will stay on the lawn surface. Apart from being unsightly it will rot down over a period of time and take nitrogen out of the soil where it lays.

To avoid this problem you have to make compost in batches. When a batch is well on the way to forming a finished compost sample do not add any more fresh cut grass or kitchen waste to that batch. Close it off and simply start another batch.


When should I feed my lawn?

You can feed your lawn with compost crumb at any time of the year. Grass is capable of growing all year round if the climate will allow. And the roots will absorb the nutrients that well rotted compost will provide.

The main consideration here is to what extent do you want to use your lawn through the year? It’s most likely that you will want to use the lawn for recreation through the summer and, quite possibly the spring and into the autumn fall.

So a practical period would be in the autumn months after you have collected the leaves that have fallen for the year and after you have cut the grass for the last time in the year.

This is also a time when no one is likely to be walking on the lawn. It’s wise to keep every one away from it, including pets, for a day or two to allow the compost to sink into the soil. Compost will stick to footwear and then the next you will see is marks on the carpet. To avoid this problem the ideal time to spread compost is just before a storm of rain.

So watch the weather forecast, for what ever that may be worth, and if it looks and feels like it’s going to rain, go out and spread your compost. Straight after spreading use a stiff broom to brush it into the ground, this will get most of it down onto the soil surface. Hopefully the rain will then wash it off the leaves and take it down into the soil through the spike holes.

Lawn care

Organic fertilizer or chemical fertilizer

Organic fertilizer will always be the much preferred choice but it may be that you haven’t got enough to cover your lawn area. You may not have generated enough compost to meet your full requirements.

So, this is when there is a case for using artificial fertilizer. It’s OK to do this, you won’t do any harm. Artificial fertilizers are made up of a mixture of three main components. These are nitrates, phosphates and potash. All three will be hungrily absorbed and consumed by the growing grass.

The best time to apply artificial fertilizer is in the spring of the year when the grass is just starting the year’s new growth. As with using spray chemicals you must follow the directions that come with the fertilizer. It isn’t a problem if you don’t use enough but it will be a problem if you spread too much.

Too much of anything is usually a bad thing. The grass plants can only take in so much of the nutrients that are presented to them. If added to excess the surplus, which can’t be absorbed, will drain away and will be lost. There is a risk that it will find it’s way into the drainage system then into streams and rivers.

Apart from sending unwanted chemical fertilizer into water ways, the grass plants, which you want to grow and outrun the weeds, may suffer from ‘scorching’ as with over use of spray chemicals.

How to apply lawn fertilizer with a spreader

The best type of lawn fertilizer spreader is the rotary spreader. These are available at Amazon. These spreaders do a much better job because they spin and throw the fertilizer out resulting in a more even spread. It does require a level of skill to get the best out of a spreader but it is worth persevering.

Doing it this way is much more precise than walking along with a bucket in one hand and flinging the fertilizer around with the other.

Lawn spreader settings

Before using a lawn fertilizer spreader you need to set it up to feed it out at the right speed. There will be a settings guide with the fertilizer that you buy. There is a range of lawn fertilizers at Amazon.

Don’t do the settings testing on the lawn, sweep an area on a smooth concrete or asphalt drive-way and do it there. You need to set the spreader gauge to the fertilizer supplier’s suggested setting before loading into the hopper. The larger the hole settings in the hopper floor the faster the rate of delivery onto the ground.

When you run the test on the clean hard surface this will be a chance to gather information about how it will work when on the lawn. If it is a rotary type you will see how far it spreads. You may see that there will be a bias of spreading to one side, either left or right, where more fertilizer will be spread.

Make a note of this and put a marker on the spreader as an indicator to remind you while spreading along. You will also need to establish the forward speed which is down to you to be able to maintain a constant walking speed, about 3mph.

When you’ve done with the test run, sweep up the fertilizer on the hard surface and put it back in the hopper because you can make use of it. When you feel ready and confident you can start to spread fertilizer on the lawn.

As you are walking along try to keep the spreaderplate level, this will help to ensure even spreading. When you reach the point where you have to turn and come back the other way, you must shut off the outlet as you turn. This is because when you are turning your speed will slow down but the fertilizer will still be coming out at the set flow speed. Doing this will avoid spreading too much at every turning.

Using this type of spreader is a skill. It’s something which you will develop a ‘feel’ for. You will get better at it with practice.

Lawn weeds

Weeds on the lawn

Some people fret about weeds on the lawn. It depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Some like to see the dandelions coming up giving a bit of brightness and character.

A lawn, though, should be mainly grass. Some weeds, if allowed to thrive too well, have a habit of taking over. If you are going to the trouble of producing a really good compost to feed the grass on the lawn, you don’t want the weeds to benefit from all the nutrients that this provides. So you need to take action.

Before you start on a weed control program it’s wise to find out which weeds you have then you can decide what will be the best course of action.

Broadleaf lawn weeds identification

The broad leaf weeds are the main culprits. If you can get rid of these your lawn should look and feel clean. These are the weeds that tend to stand out therefore they are quite easy to get rid of using targeted treatment.

They include:

  • Nettles
  • Docks
  • Thistles
  • Plantain
  • White clover

There are many more. Docks have the ability to produce their own natural weed killer that effectively kills the grass and everything else around them so that they can have the space to themselves. This is just one example of the fierce competition that goes on in the natural world. So don’t feel tto bad about intervening with weed killers for lawns yourself.

In the case of white clover it has to be remembered that this is a legume, a member of the bean family. As with all legumes it has the ability to extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in the ground by way of its active root nodules. This free source of nitrogen will be beneficial to the lawn grasses. There is, therefore, an argument for leaving white clover.

Remove lawn weeds

For anything big e.g. nettles, thistles and docks, it is well possible to hand pull lawn weeds or dig them out. That way you get the whole plant and root. Leave them on a concrete path or somewhere where they can dry out and wither then feed them into your composting system. Waste not want not. You can get a most effective device for digging weeds from Amazon. There is a range of easy-to-use diggers that grab large weeds so that you can lever them out of the ground.

This would work if you have a smaller manageable lawn but there will be a point where it just wouldn’t be viable to dig, pull and do things by hand.

How do you spray weeds?

This is when you have to look at spray chemicals. Depending on the scale of infestation there is a range of strategies available to you. The trick here is to kill the weeds but leave the grass growing. There are selective weed-killers which will do just that. There are concentrated selective weed killers (from Amazon) available that have to be mixed with the right amount of water which will kill most broad-leaf weeds.

It’s very important to stress that the operator must study the label instructions carefully. Follow the guide to get the concentration level as instructed. Failure to do this may result in a solution mix that is too weak which result in not having the desired effect of killing any weeds. If the mix is too strong you run the risk of killing the grass as well as the weeds.

Depending on the level of weed infestation on the lawn you may find that your first choice of weed-killer won’t kill all of the weed varieties that are present. This will mean getting another type of selective weed killer and repeating the same diligent process to tackle these.

Weeds can only be cleared by using chemical sprays when the weed plants are actively growing. The growing season goes from early spring to the autumn/fall time. Because the seasons can vary from year to year you may find that a late spring growing-season will delay any chances to attack weeds.

Don’t be too keen to treat weeds early. It’s better to wait until all the weed seeds have fully germinated and become established. Treating them at this point will give you the best chance to get all that try to grow for the growing-year

Broadleaf weeds will beat grass

Soil temperature needs to be high enough for weed seeds to germinate. Grass needs an increased soil temperature to stimulate new growth to take it from the dormant winter months into the spring and summer when it sees its fastest growth rate. When the soil temperature rises to the required point for growth and germination to commence it becomes a race among all vegetation.

The most efficient and fittest plants will survive at the cost of everything else.

Your first consideration when using weed-killer sprays is the local weather. You can’t spray in the rain because this will dilute the spray to a lower concentration. This will reduce the effect of the weed-killer making the whole operation a waste of time and money.

The second weather consideration is the wind. It will blow the spray around and affect plants which you want left untouched.

Spot treating weeds

If there are too many to dig or pull then individual spot spraying using a small hand held sprayer with a suitable weed killer would do the trick. To avoid soaking the surrounding grass with weed killer consider using a toilet roll centre to place over the crown of the weed and spray down the tube. You can through it away when you’ve finished. Make sure that you are using the correct concentration of chemical/water mix and don’t be tempted to give an extra squirt. This won’t do any more for you, it will just waste the spray chemical and you run the risk of over spray which may stay in the ground causing problems later.

Weed killer for large lawns

For larger patches you may need to mix up a larger volume of spray solution. Depending on how much you have to do, a large area may need a knapsack sprayer. This requires some pre planning. You need to assess the area that must be sprayed to be able to calculate the amount of spray-chemical mix that you will need.

Try to avoid preparing too much chemical solution because you may be tempted to go over parts which you have already sprayed, this is just bad practice. It’s also unwise to have a surplus of spray-chemical solution left over in the knapsack sprayer.

What are you going to do with the surplus? You mustn’t pour it down the drain and if you empty it into a container to store for next year you may forget about it when the time comes and mix up a fresh mix.

You will then have a container of spray-chemical hanging around which may or may not have a label on it. You won’t know if it would be effective if you use it because it may deteriorate and there is the constant risk that it may fall into small inquiring hands.

Weed killer spray

Weed control watering can

When controlling weeds, the regular reference is to ‘spray’ weeds with chemicals. In the industrial agricultural-world spraying is the most cost effective way to apply crop protection. For the average garden this isn’t so necessary. You can use a watering can for this, some have a sprinkle bar attachments. There’s a range of watering cans available at Amazon. This will make for a much more targeted treatment and you won’t need to worry too much if it’s a windy day.

killing weeds in lawn with vinegar

It is true, you can kill weeds using a vinegar solution but it isn’t in any way selective. It will kill all the weeds and the grass together. When applied it will act relatively quickly compared to chemical weed killers. After application you may see a reaction with in a day.

This is because it performs in an instant mechanical way. The acetic acid in vinegar kills the plant by absorbing water from the leaves. The leaves fail to function and the plant dies.

There are are variations to using vinegar as a weed killer involving adding soap or detergent to help the solution to stick to the leaves.

Some recommend the addition of salt. You need to be very careful with this. It is not advised to use salt on soil where you want anything to grow whether a grass lawn or anything else. The salt can stay in the ground for a long time and possibly render the affected area useless.

So, vinegar is an option for clearing an area of weeds if you really want to avoid using other chemicals but leave out the salt. You could use it as part of a strategy where a patch of ground is nothing but weeds. Applying a vinegar solution will clear the whole patch leaving it clear, for a while, before cultivating for grass or anything else.

What concentration of vinegar?

To get the full effect don’t dilute the vinegar, after all it is safe to use from an environmental point of view. If you are treating weeds on an area where you want anything else to grow, don’t add salt. You may benefit from using salt if you want to clear weeds on a gravel path or drive-way. It would also work for clearing weeds growing in the gaps of paving slabs. Here is where you don’t want anything to grow at all.

lawn repair

Lawn drought stress

If you have suffered an extended dry period in your area it won’t be wise to apply any kind of weed-killer. If you do there is a risk of ‘scorching’ the grass that you want to protect.

The growth of both grass and weeds on the lawn need to be vigorous enough to avoid this happening. Only apply treatment during a period of changeable weather, picking a dry window of opportunity between wet rainy periods.

Why does moss grow on my lawn?

The appearance of moss tells a lot about your lawn. Seeing moss would tell me that the soil is too acidic. If you take a soil sample and analyse it to get a ph reading you will find that the measure will be quite low. Moss likes acidic conditions.

Then there is the type of soil that lays beneath the grass and moss. This will be heavy soil and will be, most likely, clay. This type of soil is rarely free-draining. The nature of clay is that it seals, preventing both water and air from moving through it. If this type of ground becomes compacted it will make it even less permeable.

If the ground has a high level of sand, it’s less likely that you will see any moss at all. Sandy type soils are much more open. This type of soil is difficult to compact and so remains free-draining.

So, if you see moss growing on your lawn you can assume that you have a lawn trying to grow on soil that is heavy clay. The soil surface is sealed due to compaction. Neither water or air can get into the grass roots and the soil is acidic. Seeing moss is such an indicator of acidity that it isn’t worth bothering analysing the soil.

How do you get rid of moss in your lawn?

Even on heavy clay soil there are things you can do to get rid of moss. If you feel energetic enough you could go over the lawn with an aggressive rake that will scratch it out. What you gather can then be put through your composting system.

How to get rid of moss in lawn naturally

Don’t bother with spraying chemicals or vinegar for this because there are much more effective things that you can do. The aim is to change the conditions so that moss can’t grow.

So, how to stop moss growing on the lawn? The best, and probably the only way, to reduce the acidity in the soil is to spread white lime on the surface. This will neutralise the acidity and raise the ph level. Doing this alone will, in most cases, get rid of the moss.

Spreading lime doesn’t need to be an annual event. White lime will stay in the soil for a number of years which means that the effect of spreading lime will stay for some time.

Garden lime

What rate of lime do you spread?

Depending on the level of infestation a good starting rate would be approximately 1lb or ½ a kilo of lime per square metre. This would be a good dose that will suppress the moss from returning for a decent while, you may need to dress the ground again at some point in the future.

The spreading of lime will do most of what you need to prevent the returning of moss to the lawn but, because of the nature of heavy soil, you will need to take some action to open up the surface. In a farming situation this would be done using equipment that breaks the surface and disturbs the soil beneath.

On a lawn we need to be rather more sedate and use aerating tools as mentioned earlier. If done thoroughly this will open up the surface enough to allow drainage of surplus surface water. Doing all of this will make your lawn look and feel a lot healthier.

Where to buy hydrated lime?

You can buy large bags of hydrated lime from Amazon. If you buy more than you actually need for now it will keep but you must ensure that it is well sealed inside a plastic bag. It is hygroscopic which means that it absorbs moisture from the air. If this is allowed to happen then it will set into a solid lump.

Garden roller

Do I need to roll my new lawn?

In a word ’no’. There is nothing to be gained from rolling a lawn that has well established grass growing on it. The only time when you will need a roller is when you are preparing a new seed-bed before sowing the grass seed or carrying out repairs to an established lawn.

There was a time when some claimed that by rolling the lawn in the spring time this would increase the number of new shoots on each grass plant. The view at the time was that it would thicken the grass and provide a more full and lush lawn.

In fact it damages the plant causing substantial bruising. Because of the admirable resilience of the grass plant, it survives this imposed adversity and proceeds to recover. It’s an indication of just how tough the grass species are when we see it flourish after what is, for them, a violent intrusion.

In agriculture you will see fields being rolled in the early spring of the year. This is for a different reason. Very often it will be because cattle will have been roaming on the fields during the autumn of the year before. This will have marked the fields with hoof-marks leaving the field surface roughened. The rolling will smooth this and prepare the field for the new growing season.

Another reason is to press down any stones that may have come to the surface. This is necessary as stones may find their way into harvesting machinery causing expensive damage.

Rolling is also necessary for sports fields e.g. football pitches, golf courses and cricket pitches. Some of the rollers here are really heavy. For a cricket pitch a roller full of solid concrete is often used.

We only need to manage a small lawn. If a lawn has been prepared properly from day one there shouldn’t be any need to roll it. In the case of a lawn that has been left rough with pits and mounds, the best thing you can do is to import some soil and fill the pits. If you spend a bit of time on this you should be able to bring the surface to a new level that you can live with.

How do I sow grass seed in existing lawn?

If the lawn is being used as an amenity area during the summer and slightly worn as a result, you may feel the need to sow more grass seed. Overseeding an existing lawn is a simple thing to do but you need to prepare the lawn before starting.

Can you plant grass seed over dead grass?

Don’t sow any seeds on top of dead grass. If you do it will just sit there when it needs to be on the soil surface where it can put down roots.

If you have any dead grass lying around, the best thing you can do is to rake it all out and put it through your composting system. This sort of material will make really good compost.

Can I put grass seed on top of grass?

Sowing grass seeds on an established lawn will work. You must cut the grass short and rake away the grass clippings so that the new-sown seeds can find their way onto the soil surface. Before you sow the seeds you must prepare the soil surface to give the seeds the best chance to become established.

Overseeding lawn after scarifying

Scarifying is when you scratch the soil surface between the established grass plants. This has to be done in a fairly aggressive way to prepare a fine enough tilth for the seed to germinate but not so much that it damages the existing grass.

This must be done when the ground is dry enough. If you try doing this when it’s damp or wet, you will only make a mess and the seeds will rot rather than germinate. After scarifying the soil surface you can sow the seeds straight away. There is a full range of grass seed available at Amazon.

If you have a large area to do then you can use a rotary spreader (from Amazon) as used for spreading fertilizer. Study the gauge settings for this as grass seeds are small and will be very different to handle compared to fertilizer.

After having sown the seed it would help to roll the area that has been seeded. This is one of the rare occasions when rolling is advised. If you do this in the autumn/fall time after the grass has been cut, possibly for the last time in the year, it wont cause much damage to the existing grass plants.

The rolling will press the seeds into the soil surface giving them every chance they need to germinate almost immediately. They will then become established grass plants through the winter months as grass can grow just a little at this time.

The ideal lawn roller for this is a water filled roller there is a selection at Amazon. You can control the weight of the roller to suit the task. Some rollers can be filled with either water or sand.

What is the best time to sow grass seed?

The best time to sow grass seed to establishing a new lawn is, as with overseeding, probably early autumn/fall time but don’t leave it too late. As the winter months approach the ground temperature drops, this won’t be a good time for sowing.

Seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. Some may survive until warmer times but most will be lost. The autumn/fall is when it’s more likely that the summer lawn activities are at an end. This is the time when the lawn is left alone long enough to be repaired.

Cultivate for seeds

How do you prepare soil for planting grass?

The most important task when establishing a new lawn is to ensure that you have the ideal seed-bed. It’s no good if there are big solid lumps of soil on the surface or cracks in the ground. The seed-bed must be worked to a fine crumb. You only need to cultivate the top 50mm/2inches, there is no need to go deep. You need a universal consistency over the whole surface of the lawn.

This is when using a roller is highly recommended, there is no damage to be done when doing this. A roller is one of the best tools for crushing lumps of hard soil. You may find that you will need to go over the soil surface several times to to get a really fine seed-bed. For this you are well justified in going to Amazon and getting a water filled roller. Fill it completely with water or sand because you need to crush all lumps of soil to get as fine a tilth as possible.

When you are happy that you have a finely work seed-bed you can then sow the seed. The best way is to use a rotary spreader which, with practice, will give you a more accurate spread. Don’t work the seed into the ground, just leave it on the soil surface. Finally, having sown the seed, give it one more rolling to press the seed into the finely-worked soil.

Lawn turf

Laying turf lawn

Laying cut turf is an option if you are in a hurry to get an established lawn. It will cost around 10 times what it would cost compared to sowing grass seeds. With some guidance and care it is well possible to have a lawn in place that will look good and will be weed-free, at least for a while.

What turf should I buy?

When you’ve made the decision to go for laying cut turf for an almost instant lawn, you will need to decide what type of turf will best suit you. There are a few simple categories. Either you will want an ornamental grass lawn or a hard-wearing lawn that’s up to an almost sports standard.

Go to a reputable turf supplier that’s a member of the TGA (Turf Growers Association). This association sets the standard for quality turf. If you explain what your needs are there should be someone there who will guide you to a suitable turf. 

What is the best time of year to lay turf?

You can lay cut turf at any time of the year but it’s wise to avoid the winter months because the working conditions may be awkward. From mid spring to mid Autumn/fall is the best time because this is when all plants are actively growing. The grass roots will establish themselves by growing into the soil beneath the turf.

How to prepare for laying turf

The first job involves clearing away the old turf or any debris that covers where the new turf is to be laid. If there is any organic material that you can make use of, this can be turned into compost. This would include the old turf. Dig this off to get the old grass and roots but shake as much soil out of it as you can.

Next dig over the entire area where the new turf is to be laid. You need to establish a 150mm/6inch depth of cultivation. It can be done by hand using a spade or fork but if it’s a big area use a mechanical rotovator. There is a range of soil tillers and cultivators at Amazon.

If you are planning to lay turf on hard ground where there is little or no soil to play with, it will be necessary to import top soil. If you need to do this spread it out to achieve a depth of 150mm/6inches.

If the new lawn’s edge is to touch against a patio, you may want the lawn and patio to be on the same level. To achieve this allow for a step depth from the patio of 20mm/¾inch for the new turf to sit on top.

If you are working with heavy clay soil you will need to incorporate some organic matter into this base layer. This will attract worms and provide an ideal natural cushion for the roots from the new turf.

Depending on how much clay you are having to work with you may need to work in some gravel to help with drainage.

Clear out any large stones, any that are larger than a mobile phone really should be taken out.

Next you must rake over the entire surface. You are aiming for a smooth surface that has no pits or mounds. This is a last opportunity to find any stones. As you are raking think of the surface finish that you would like to make it easy to mow with the lawn mower.

It’s important that the surface isn’t too fluffy. It needs to be firm. Some will tell you to step it down with your feet. Doing it this way you have to tread it down leaving a boot mark on every inch. You can make this work if it’s a small area but what about a large area? After a while you may start to feel silly.

So get a roller that isn’t too heavy but just enough to get some light compaction. This will reveal any soft spots that need a little extra top soil. When you’ve completed this the foundation should be set to receive the new turf.

How do I work out how much turf I need?

A roll of turf is usually 1m² so you can measure your lawn area and work it out. Allow an extra 5% just to make sure that you have enough. If you need help to figure out how much you need there are online calculators available. Just do a search for ‘Lawn turf calculators’.

How do you lay down turf?

Laying turfs isn’t much different from laying squares of carpet but you must be aware that the cut turfs are delicate. Don’t try dragging them around because they will tear. When handling an unrolled square of turf you have to push and nudge them into place. This is when you will appreciate all the work you’ve done to establish a fine smooth surface with no stones to get in the way.

Begin by laying a row end to end along an edge, perhaps against a patio. Then you have to cut a turf in half before starting the next row. For cutting turf use an old knife or sharpened garden spade, try to keep straight when cutting.

You lay the half turf followed by a full square. This way you create a staggered pattern like a brick wall. Snug the edges together as tight as you can, if there are any gaps fill them with some fine soil. Use a short piece of wooden plank to press down on each turf to get plenty of contact with the under soil.

Place wooden planks on the grass turfs that you’ve laid where you need to stand or kneel on. Avoid walking on any fresh-laid turf because they will be unstable and may move out of line.

Can you lay turf on top of grass?

Yes you can but please don’t is the answer to this. If you feel the need to replace the grass that you already have it will probably be because the old turf is a worn out mess. You will be doing yourself and your lawn justice if you clear away the mess completely and start again.

If you place the new turf on top of old you may not achieve the desired smooth surface finish because this is something that has to be worked at. Also the old turf may try to grow through the new.

Considering the expense of buying the new turf it makes more sense to go the full distance, prepare a good foundation and end up with a lawn that you can be proud of.

How much should you water your new turf?

You need to be aware that the ground beneath the new turf must be damp. If it isn’t wet enough the roots on the cut turf will dry out and it’s quite possible that it will die.

When you have finished preparing the surface to receive the new turf you may need to soak this with water. This will definitely be necessary if you’re attempting this in a drought period in the summer.

When you’ve finished laying the complete lawn you must water it. The best time of day for watering is early in the morning before the sun comes up or, even better, in the evening after the sun has gone down. Doing this will reduce loss of water through evaporation.

You will need to monitor the moisture of the new turf daily for several days. This is a critical period as the roots from the turf need to bed-in to the under soil.

A shower of rain will help but don’t think that a heavy thunderstorm will mean that you won’t need to do any more. Thunder rain water goes as quick as it comes so keep watering. Lift up corners of the turf here and there to see how moist it is. If it looks a bit dry give it some more.

When your new turf has clearly become established a program of regular watering by hose or weather should be sufficient.

How long do you have to leave turf before you can walk on it?

You can walk on it straight after it has been laid. Just be aware that, while still new, it’s going to be unstable for a while and the odd turf may move. It can be repositioned without a problem. Just don’t plan any garden parties until it feels good and firm under foot.

When should you cut your new turf?

Feel free to cut the grass on the new turf as soon as you see any fresh growth. The advent of new grass growth is an indicator that everything is going to plan and that the roots of the new turf have pushed down into the under-soil. How ever it would be wise to tread and work carefully for the first time cutting as there may be some loose turfs here and there.

If you are cutting grass for the first time after reseeding or new-laid turf, there is no point collecting the clippings. If you are just taking a light cut it would do more good to allow these to drop down to the soil.

Lawn mower

How to cut grass properly

The biggest mistake that people make when cutting the lawn is to cut to close to the ground. The assumption is that by cutting it aggressively tight it saves work because you won’t need to cut it again for a good while.

This, however, doesn’t necessarily help your lawn. If an extended dry period follows on from a tight cutting of the lawn the soil surface will bake and crack. With little or no grass to shade it this can get worse in times of drought. With a possible water shortage and hosepipe bans in place irrigation won’t be an option.

So, when you mow your lawn don’t be greedy. You know how much you like using the lawn mower, leave some for next time. Set the cut height to about 40mm/1½inches. This will provide some shade for the soil surface reducing evaporation. Do this in a drought time and yours will be the greenest lawn around.

Another advantage of leaving some depth of grass is that the weeds find it a struggle to thrive. The grass shades them out and they can’t get through. So if you are a ‘weedist’ with sadistic tendencies against weeds this is the perfect strategy for you.


Best lawn mower for small garden

For a small lawn it will be a toss-up between a walk-behind lawn mower or a strimmer all of which can be seen at Amazon. For small lawns there is the convenience of rechargeable lawn mowers all from Amazon.

It depends on what we call small. The bigger the lawn the bigger the cutting device. If you are lucky enough to have a huge lawn you can justify getting a ride-on lawnmower (from Amazon). This would make mowing the lawn a sitting-down-job.

What ever system you use to cut your lawn, never forget that the lawn clippings can make superb compost which can be fed back to the lawn helping to maintain a lush green centre-piece for your garden.

A beautiful lawn doesn’t happen by itself.”

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How to make organic fertilizer from leaves

How to make organic fertilizer from leaves

If you want to know how to make organic fertilizer from leaves, the first thing you need to know is that rotting down leaves can take a while depending on how you go about it. Which ever way you do it you will find that apart from the leaves, you will need two other ingredients – water and air.

The air comes free from all around us and for the water grey-water can be used, i.e. dish-washer water, bath water or washing machine water. It’s a waste to use clean water.

Organic fertilizer, otherwise known as compost, can be generated in two ways.

If you want speed, and most of us do, the fastest way to turn leaves into a well usable organic fertilizer involves chopping the leaves.

For the best result feed the leaves through a chopper over and over again until they are ground down to small particles. The smaller the particles are the more moisture will soak in and the faster the rotting process. There is a range of garden shredders available at Amazon.

Compost leaves

Having chopped the leaves, there are choices about how to do the rot down. You can either:

  1. Place the chopped material in a basic bin or container, soak with water, cover it and leave it to work. The bin or container must have adequate ventilation for the air to get in.


  1. Load it into a tumbler device. Ensure adequate moisture is present and rotate regularly. The tumbling action will introduce enough air into the material making for a much faster rotting process. There is a range of highly effective compost tumblers available at Amazon.

Can I make leaf mould in a compost bin?

Yes you can make leaf mould in a compost bin.

The simplest way is to build or buy a basic compost bin from Amazon that will hold a decent volume of leaves. Soak the whole volume with water.

The down side to this method is that it will take about 2 years to achieve a dark, well rotted, usable organic fertilizer. Find out more at ‘how long does it take to compost leaves‘.

Dead leaves must be kept moist for the rotting process to start and continue to reach the end result of dark, rich organic fertilizer.

Cover the container with a water-porous layer e.g. an old piece of off-cut carpet. This will allow some moisture into the load to maintain the required moisture level. It will prevent both over watering from heavy rain and drying out during hot dry weather.

Which ever system you use be aware that when a tumbler or container is rotting down leaves or anything else, no more fresh material can be added.

You have to treat each volume as a closed batch. If you add any fresh dried leaves the result will be an inconsistent mix of fully rotten and partly rotten material.

This means that if you have a lot of leaves to process you will need to set aside separate bins that will make organic fertilizer at different stages.

If you choose the slower simple option these containers will be in place for around two years.

How to store leaves for leaf mould

If the Autumn has provided you with a nice big heap of leaves, good for you. Look after it because dead leaves are worth their weight in gold, almost.

Make sure that they don’t blow away and end up on your neighbour’s rights because if they do you can say goodbye to that.

Bag them up and store them somewhere dry and ready for when you want to make organic fertilizer.

What is leaf mould

Having collected and bagged all the valuable leaves that you can, you can now decide what you want to do with them. To make leaf mould the best and easiest way is to make a few drainage holes in the plastic bag and saturate the leaves within with water. The surplus water will drain out leaving moist leaves which will become mouldy and start to rot.

Leave the bag outside for the rain to get at it. This will provide enough moisture for the process to continue. It’s important that the leaves don’t dry out. You also need to place the bag in a sheltered spot or the wind may blow it around.

Storing leaf mould in this way for about 1 year you should be able to use the contents of the bag. You will notice that the structure of the leaf material will have largely broken down but you will still recognise it as leaves.

You will notice that the contents of the bag will turn white with the fungus that grows on the leaves. It’s this that releases the nutrients from the leaves that become usable to growing plants.

To become fully rotten compost you will need to leave the bag for at least one more year.

Leaf mould made easy

Leaf mould uses

If you have bags of leaf mould that are about a year old you can use them to dig into a garden patch in the autumn. This will introduce the nutrients that leaf mould can provide into the ground.

Be aware that by doing this the leaves will carry on rotting in the ground or on the surface. If you have a good worm population in the ground these will digest the leaves as they break down.

The continued rotting this way will result in some nitrogen being taken out of the ground which you may not want. It may make more sense to leave it in the bags for another year to fully rot down. By doing this it will take nitrogen from the air and not the ground.

Another use for leaf mould is to spread a thick layer around shrubs and small sapling tress. This will provide valuable nutrients to these larger plants which won’t be so nitrate sensitive and it will smother any weeds that try to come through.

Leaf mould accelerator

Leaves are organic in the true sense of the word i.e. ‘carbon based and once living’. For any carbon rich material to rot down there has to be nitrate rich material. The process doesn’t require a massive amount of nitrogen but it does need some.

Depending on what your preferences are, a nitrate supply can come from a number of sources. One ready made source is ammonium nitrate which is available in small bags from Amazon. Make the leaves wet then add the ammonium nitrate powder. This way it will stick to the leaves and work it’s way in.

Another method of introducing nitrates into the mix may be considered to be rather Anglo Saxon but it is highly effective. This involves using your own urine. It’s a very rich source of nitrates and there is a guaranteed plentiful supply.

Leaf mould cage

What is a leaf mould cage? This is a very simple construction for those who want to be a bit more industrial about gathering leaves and turning them into something useful. It’s much better to load leaves into a large container rather than fiddling around with lots of plastic bags.

All you need is a place in the garden where it’s out of the way but easy to get at. You will need some chicken wire and a minimum of four wooden stakes. You will need a hand full of nails to nail the chicken wire to the stakes and a large hammer or something heavy enough to knock in the stakes.

This is what you are aiming to construct.

Compost bin for leaves

When complete you will have plenty of capacity for lots of leaves. Depending on how much leaf material is available, year after year, you could build more than one cage. This way you can leave a cage undisturbed for two to three years and allow the contents to rot down completely.

Leaf mould allergy

You need to be aware of this. We are looking at mould when we make leaf mould. It’s a very beneficial medium to have in the garden providing soil nutrients and it’s certainly something that shouldn’t be wasted. But the mould in leaf mould is a fungus that produces microscopic spores.

When we handle or disturb leaf mould, as we do just by using it, the spores become airborne and it’s difficult to avoid breathing them in. Some people with any type of breathing condition are likely to be effected by this.

A similar problem use to occur in years gone by on farms when making hay. In a wet and difficult hay-making season some hay would be stored with a higher moisture content than would be desired.

This would cause the hay to turn mouldy. When this was taken out to be fed to livestock the spores from the mould would, unavoidably, be released into the air and those handling it would breath it in.

Some where effected quite badly with, what came to be known as, ‘farmer’s lung’, a condition for which there appears to be no cure.

So when you handle leaf mould that’s been forming for several months, expect to see mould dust. Do what needs doing on a breezy day and do what you can to avoid breathing it in.

What leaves make the best compost

It doesn’t matter what type of leaves are available to you when the autumn/fall season comes. They can all be easily swept up into a heap.

When they are chopped and put through a composting process, fast or slow, they all have the ability to produce a usable organic fertilizer.

Pine needles can be considered as a separate entity. It may be better to process these in batches on their own as pine needle mulch and pine needle compost tends to be acidic. This is ideal if you have ericaceous plants. These are plants that prefer acid soil e.g. rhododendrons and heathers.

Composting with leaves

How to compost leaves quickly

There are more things you can do to accelerate the process of turning dead dry leaves into organic fertilizer. This involves adding other components which complement leaves to make for a good balance.

The problem with trying to make good compost from just leaves is that there aren’t enough nitrogenous compounds for an effective balance. Making compost from just leaves can take 2 years or possibly longer, see more at

Compost activator

There are compost activators available that will move things along. These are a potent nitrogen source which can be used if all you have are leaves. It will compensate for any absence of green material e.g. kitchen waste or lawn clippings. You can also get ready made compost activators from Amazon.

Composting leaves in plastic bags

Here’s something you can do if you have a useful surplus of leaves in a productive year and run out of bins, boxes and tumbler space.

Get some plastic waste bin sacks, preferably strong plastic, and load them to being almost full but you can tie off the neck. Saturate the leaves with recycled water, tie off the neck and make a few holes in the base of each bag for free drainage.

Place the bags on bare earth to allow worms to get in. Depending on the local conditions you may be lucky and find the best worms for compost making turn up naturally. Microorganisms living in the ground beneath the bag will find their way in and help with the whole process.

A refinement to this would be to mix the leaves with green nitrogenous material like lawn clippings or add a compost activator.

You could also add a small quantity of ready made compost as a starter because this will contain a helpful amount of micro-organisms to get things going.

Does bagged compost go off?

If the concern here is that it may smell then this will be due to kitchen waste that has become acidic. At this stage the material has become preserved rather like pickling.

You may also see a lot of flies. A really effective way to stop this and produce a quality compost is to add lots of dead leaves. It will make a big difference if they are chopped and thoroughly mixed with the green waste.

Aim for a mix of about 25 parts chopped leaves to 1 part green waste. This way you will be swamping the green waste, which contains a high level of nitrates, with enough carbon-based material to get the job done.

Do this and there will be no smell, no flies and a near perfect balance will be achieved. A good quality compost is guaranteed if you can get the ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen right (25 Carbon : 1 Nitrogen).


Worms for compost

You will know if your compost is forming well if you see worms in it.

Sometimes they turn up from the ground around and find their way in. If the conditions in your compost are suitable they will take up residence in a big way and start to breed.

It’s quite possible that the first you will know of worms in your compost bin will be masses of them appearing when you open the lid. The most suitable breed of worm is the ‘Tiger worm’, named so due to the distinctive striped-hoops, they breed very quickly and they know what they like.

The only down side of using a compost tumbler is that worms can’t find their way in from the ground very easily. The only way to overcome this is to find some worms and physically put them in. The exception to this is the Rolypig (see more at this is because the Rolypig sits on the ground and the worms easily find their way in.

If you do intervene and add worms make sure that the compost in the tumbler is well rotten. Worms aren’t happy in material that isn’t rotten, they can’t eat or digest fresh food.

Dead leaves are free,

so make the most of them”



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How long does it take to compost leaves?

how long does it take to compost leaves

How long does it take to compost leaves?

The answer is from 3 months to 2 years and more.

To speed things up;

The first thing to do is to gather up all the leaves into a large pile, or into a large container, whether a pallet-framed setup, or some way of holding a heap together

Any composting container can be used for composting leaves, for example, our Rolypig Composter is well suited to smaller volumes of leaves. It maintains the best conditions for composting inside. This is speeding up the composting process by keeping things damp inside the barrel. There are many types of composters at Amazon, that are good for composting leaves.

Composting leaves in plastic bags is a good method, this keeps the moisture level high, but composting needs air, so be sure to shake the bags up, from time to time. Keep the tops left open all the time.

Oak leaf compost.

Oak leaves can be tricky, because of the natural preservatives in these leaves, so, oak leaves need mixing in with a larger pile of other leaves.

The compost that is produced by oak leaves breaking down will be OK to use, by definition, the preservatives (tannins) will have been reduced for any leaf breakdown to have happened..problem is- this would be several years for this to happen with a pile of oak leaves, only!

Pine Needles Compost.

how long does it take to compost leaves

Pine needles and waxy leaves are more problematical than broadleaf leaves.

Best to chop them in some way, maybe a shredder or some other means of bruising the leaves as much as possible. An example of a garden shredder on Amazon.

It is always best to mix these waxy leaves with other types of leaves if possible.

Leaf compost, in general.

How long does it take to compost leaves?

Leaf compost is a bit different from compost made from general green waste. This is because leaves are drier at the point of collecting them. So dry, that a good watering is needed to allow the bacterial and fungal organisms to get to work on them.

It can be a good idea to store up dry autumn leaves to add to the wetter green waste from the kitchen, so that the mix aids good composting right through the year.

Store the leaves in a dry condition, because, if stored loose and just damp, there are many rotting fungi that will just rot the leaves. Just rotting, going mouldy, is not going to produce a useable compost material. Far better to mix in with the green wastes mentioned above.

The waxy leaves, from evergreen shrubs and cypressus-type trees, are a different story. These leaves just do not break down very quickly at all, unless you macerate them (chop them to the point of a mush!).

It is better to just heap these types of leaves up, and cover the pile with soil. Leave the pile to rot over a number of seasons, it will rot eventually, and while it does so, it will be a home for many invertebrates.

The term ‘leaf mould’ is often used in connection with dead leaves on the forest floor. Usually undisturbed from the time they have fallen from the trees, these leaves start to make up a humus-rich layer. Sometimes this layer builds up, and, exhibits a profile of rotted dark material underneath, with still-recognisable leaves sitting on top.

Leaf mould is not a product of a composting process, as we would, normally, recognise it.

This means that we would not aim to produce leaf mould by the natural process on the forest floor.

It is far more efficient to stack up the dead leaves in autumn to compost them, or, store the leaves dry, for use all year round to add to the wet vegetable waste in the compost bin or pile.

Consider leaf mulch.

Leaf mould in the making

It could well be a better option for some leaves from ornamentals, to use them as an open mulch around shrubs and other perennials in the border.

This is a good way of suppressing weed growth, retaining soil moisture, and, returning nutrients to the soil, all in one go!

The only thing to worry about, is, a possible safe harbour for slugs, who will live in leaf litter in some situations.

My experience is that songbirds love turning over leaf litter..and discovering the helpless molluscs hiding within!

Using leaves as a mulch is, pretty much, mimicking nature on the forest floor, and usually gives great results.

Dead leaves could be the best mulch for raised bed vegetable garden, as long as the leaves are not from a known diseased shrub or tree.

If the leaves have senesced early, that is, died off during summer, and dropped from a very sickly tree, then it is best to burn these leaves as soon as possible.

A healthy leaf mulch is a very useful way to suppress weed growth around vegetables, with the added bonus of retaining moisture in the soil.

Some care has to be exercised on heavy (clay) soils, to prevent excessive dampness around the base of crop plants by having too thick a layer of mulch.

Too much fresh mulch can increase the risk of fungal diseases attacking the crop plants, and also it can prevent air from getting into the soil.

As always, there are mechanical devices to make leaf muching easier and quicker. There are a number of leaf mulchers on Amazon.

How long does it take to compost leaves


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What goes in a compost bin?

What goes in a compost bin?

Vegetable trimmings, stale bread, food leftovers, apple cores, orange peel, wetted newspaper,banana skins, coffee grindings, to name but a few.

Egg shells are good, but wash them out first to avoid smells.

NO fish, meat or bones.

The exception for fish or meat, is where you have a large established compost heap, and it is possible to bury the meat or fish deeply into the pile.

For a normal compost bin, the food waste and vegetable trimmings should be chopped as much as is sensible. Find a great garden shredder/chopper on Amazon.

What goes in a compost bin? Think variety!

Add a good variety of materials, and try to soak up the moisture by adding torn up newspaper to any really wet vegetable or food waste.

Avoid adding too much wet waste at once, and just mix the new waste into the surface of the existing material if possible.

Too much wet grass clippings can become slimy, purely because of too much moisture and the nutrients in grass ferment very quickly to make a bad smell.

For grass clippings, add torn up newspaper or dry sawdust, if available, even if you have a large existing compost heap.

If you can get a nice level of moisture (no more than 75% by volume) the compost will heat up better because some oxygen can percolate through a drier material more effectively.

There are many types of compost bin, to suit all tastes and budgets on Amazon.

Creating great dark compost

What goes in a compost bin

Both hot and cold composting can be effective in producing a dark black compost that is great for the garden soils.

Any organic matter can be composted, in theory, but the level of dryness or wetness is a main consideration.

There are a few materials, like glossy magazines, that will not break down and compost easily.

Egg shells really should be crushed after washing them, just to distribute them around a bit. The calcium in egg shells is good for the general mix, because it reduces local acidity where some smells could arise from.

A good supply of dry wood sawdust is very helpful, so you can add a bit with every fresh amount of composting material.

If you just leave the waste materials on the surface of the soil, for long enough, then, the nutrients will, eventually, get taken up by the soil and the plants growing around there. But, it is more useful, to the gardener, to have a soil conditioner material to place in particular parts of the garden, to help crop plants to grow well. This is where the art of composting comes into its own!

Many times, there is never enough black compost, or leaf-mould, to dig in to cropping beds. This is always a frustration of gardening…knowing that your plants need a friable crumbly rooting zone in order to grow best.

One answer is to get hold of bulk supplies of stable manure, sawdust or similar materials. The same principles of composting apply to large quantities, as they do to the smallest pile of autumn leaves.

The compost pile always shrinks terribly, but the benefit of whatever amount of black compost you have, is enormous.

The C:N ratio

Quite often, there is an over-supply of ‘free’ nitrogen in things like grass clippings and vegetable waste.

This should be balanced by adding things that are high in ‘carbon’.

Things high in ‘carbon’ are usually the more brown and dry materials, like dead autumn time the brown, dead leaves are great to load in with grass clippings.

There is a recognised ratio of carbon-rich materials to nitrogen-rich materials.

It is around 25 carbon to 1 nitrogen.

This means quite a lot of dry brown materials, like sawdust, need to be added to the grass clippings, which are, usually, wet or moist.

When you get this mixture correct, the hot composting process will start very quickly, and you will know because the compost will start to heat up.

Checking your compost

You can tell a lot about the state of your new compost by what type of smell is coming out of your bin, or heap.

If the smell is bitter and is more of a stench than a more pleasant sweet fermentation smell, then you know that more browns must be added by mixing in, if you can.

Browns and greens are the easy way to think of the wastes that you add to whatever bin or heap that you use.

Your shrinking compost!

It is surprising how much your various waste materials will shrink during the composting process.

This is because if, say, the vegetable waste is only 15% Dry Matter (DM), then it follows that the remaing 85% is just water.

As the composting gets going, (whether hot or cold composting) most of the water is lost by evaporation or chemical breakdown processes.

A number of processes occur including both physical effects of small invertebrates, eg beetles and nematodes, and biochemical effects which release gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Some sulphurous gases can be released if the mixture is not balanced well.

Turn your heap or bin, if possible.

Compost usually benefits from some form of aeration, eg the Rolypig turns the material to allow air to get in properly.

Turning or disturbing in some way, will accelerate heating and will speed up decomposition even if the heap is just a cold heap.

Often, a nice open texture compost will allow air through without much turning, but the general rule is turn every 2-3 weeks if you can, and do this with the batch amount.

Start another batch in another bin, or as a new heap, so that new material does not come out with older compost that is nearly ready to use.

How do I know when it is ready?

Normally, compost is ready when you see no more changes in colour or consistency.

Heating will have finished, and the smell will be a slightly sweet, fermenting sort of smell.

It pays to cover an outside open compost heap as it comes to this point of a stable (hopefully nice dark) colour.

This prevents rain from washing away nutrients, and also makes the compost easier to handle, as it is moist rather than wet.

The role of worms in compost

As soon as your compost is cooling down and becoming darker in colour, this is when the local redworm population will find and colonise your compost, whether in a bin or an open heap.

These little red worms are completely harmless, and, are a welcome sight, because they are telling you that your compost is highly suitable to improve your soil.

You will, often, find redworms in only partially composted material, as long as it is not too hot.

Redworms are a real benefit to your composting operation, and if you keep some old compost around, these worms will live in there for some time, until they have eaten through it several times and then move on to the next fresher compost bin or heap!

You really know you are doing composting right, if redworms are all over the outside of your bin.

Knowing what goes in a compost bin, now, you are ready to start!

Making Compost can be interesting.

what goes in a compost bin

Don’t forget that composting is not what happens, as a general rule, in nature. Normally, green waste material or leaves, that end up on the surface of the soil, are just a thin layer.

So, there is no build up of any heat, or anything like the conditions we find in a large pile of compost.

Consider in a grassy field, or forest. Leaves and twigs drop to the ground in a thin layer and just decompose where they are.

Worms pull leaves into their burrows, so that they have some food stored for later, when the leaves go soft.

Composting in a large pile is something that humans have developed.

It could have started in the old ‘Middens’ , the waste piles that built up outside the early mud huts.

Middens contained all sorts of waste, and would, of course, be seen to heat up, and give off well as other interesting smells, not always welcome right next to the occupied hut!

Maybe the occupants brought in a bunch of wild lavender, or mint, or…just something to mask the smell! If Amazon air-fresheners were around in prehistoric times, they would have had ready customers!

By piling up organic matter, we cause the middle of the heap to become anaerobic, that is, short of oxygen.

This causes the bugs that don’t need oxygen, to live, to grow in the centre of the pile. Anearobic conditions favour the ‘pickling’ bacteria. Organic acids are produced by anaerobic bacteria, so, we get a ‘fermentation’ that preserves the organic waste pile, in these acids.

Lactic acid, butyric acid and propionic acid are the main ones.Fermentation is not good news in the compost heap. The way to avoid this is to turn it all over, and allow air to get through the whole heap.Letting air in, results in the heating of the pile, if the mixture of ‘free’ sugars and other nutrients is at the correct level to feed the heat-loving bacteria in the heap.Not too wet, and not too dry, is always the requirement for the composting bacteria to work well.

This means about 25% Dry Matter…and, conversely, 75% water!

As the water is lost from the pile during composting, it is no wonder that the volume shrinks..a lot!

Handling precautions

As with any waste materials, it is wise to wear rubber gloves, in case any harmful microbes are present in the fresh waste.

Composting will destroy most pathogens, but always make sure you wash your hands before eating after handling any compost or food-waste.

It is extremely important to avoid uncooked meat, or any material that has been in contact with uncooked meat or juices of meat.

It is just about possible that the best hot composting methods will destroy the dangerous bugs that can live in raw meat, eg Salmonella dublin, but we must assume otherwise, to avoid spreading disease to vulnerable individuals.

Under no circumstances should uncooked meat get into a compost bin or heap.

Such diseases as Foot and Mouth in cloven-hoofed animals, are a particular concern, if biosecurity is lax in respect of the handling of raw uncooked meats.

Backyard chicken are often fed leftovers of all and any sort. Whilst this practice is highly efficient, since chicken will eat almost anything in the way of wastes, it should also be undertaken with some care as to the contents of the wastes fed. Chicken will, of course, rummage into an open compost heap, and this does present a problem in some cases.

Generally speaking, good composting methods involve keeping chicken off the compost heap!

So, we ask, what goes in a compost bin?  

Answer; Everything detailed above, but, most of all, it needs a little bit of you! Your time, in thinking about recycling resources and reducing waste.