Browse Tag by compost
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How To Make Your Garden Completely Cat and Dog Friendly

All pets use the garden. Like us, it gives them some breathing room to get outside and really be let loose. Yes, sometimes they do tear up the garden, but most of the time they’re doing us favours. Cats and dogs are great at keeping furry pests away from the valuable vegetables, we want them to have the freedom to roam free and let loose their wild side.

But letting your pets out can be problematic. Although most pets will naturally love the outdoors, various complications like allergies and other animals. Not to mention what they might do to your plant beds. So what’s the best solution? It wouldn’t be fair or right, to keep any pet cooped up inside all day, even if it’s for their own good. But there are things around the garden that we can do, to make it a friendlier environment for our beloved pets.

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Clear Paths

Just like us gardeners, we would prefer a clear and solid path to follow. Gravel is certainly a dog’s worst nightmare and cats aren’t much of a fan either, so try using pavers instead. If they still like wandering off and tirading around the place, get down to their level and look at what they see. Maybe there’s an obvious path for them through all the shrubbery, you just simply haven’t noticed.

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Give Them Plenty Of Shade

During the summer months in hot weather, animals need to be outside. It’s the prime time for them to exercise and feel the benefits of being outdoors. However, for animals with thick or black fur they can get too hot and overheat. By giving them just a few spots of shade, it gives them an opportunity to relax but still enjoy the weather. It should also stop them from burrowing into any bushes.

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Know Which Plants Could Be Poisonous

It’s not a common issue, but some cats and dogs are vulnerable to certain plants. Not many chew on garden wildlife, however, some younger animals do, and this can lead to big problems. It’s worthwhile just doing a check around your current plant life, seeing what could be harmful. When buying new plants it’s also something always worth considering. If you find out that some of your plants could be harmful, move them out of reach it would be a shame to have to rip anything out!

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Don’t Use Pesticide (Or Go Natural)

Although pesticides aren’t usually deadly, they can be troublesome for your pets. They usually make most animals sick. The problem is, they’re a lot lower down to the ground and have much less body weight, so any chemical effect is concentrated. Going natural with all your pesticide is a much better solution for your plants alone, but it won’t have any harmful effects on your pets. If you have to use pesticide, then try limiting its use and keep your pets away from the applied area for a couple of days.

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Try Keeping A Good Space Of Grass

Although having less green and grass is begining to pick up in popularity, it can be quite limiting for your pets. Animals need a space to run, they need a space where they can be free and chase after others. If you keep just a small space available, it will stop them from running riot and shredding up your beds. If you invite friends and family round who also have pets, it can act as a ‘mini park’.

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Toilet Habits

To protect your own horticulture, it’s worth setting up an area where pets can do their ‘business.’ You might not think it’s an important issue, but dog and cat urine can brown your plants and actually cause damage. If you’re going organic this is the last thing you want on vegetables. There is a simple solution, it just requires time and patience. Try training your dog outside, so that they have regular spot to go too. Some pets, especially dogs tend to ‘mark their territory’ and usually it is your plant pots which take the brunt of it. As well as training them, use taller pots to shelter your shrubbery from any possible harm.

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Be Careful With Your Mulch

Mulch is a hugely beneficial product for your garden. If you create it yourself, it’s filled with natural organic ingredients which are full of nutrients and are great for your whole garden. However, for some pets elements of mulch can be harmful. Coffee beans have just as much of an adverse effect on dogs as chocolate does, so just make sure you’re careful.

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Make Sure Your Garden Is Secure

If you live in a city or close to a busy road, it can be worrying letting your pets out. Apart from changing where you live, the simplest solution is giving your garden some protection. If you can, put up some fences and always make sure that gates are securely closed it’s a great start. Some animals might be able to find a way out, but generally it gives them a good perimeter.

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Giving your pets the freedom and space to express themselves in the garden is essential. It has so many health benefits for them, which will make them happier animals.



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What Are The 25 Garden Trends To Live By In 2017?

You can’t force something to grow quicker, which often leads gardening at the back end of the trends list. This, however, does not mean that there will be no new gardening trends in 2017. With the economic and political climate constantly changing around us, gardening has to keep up. So what can we expect to see in the New Year?


1. City gardening

Rented accommodation, micro apartments and bohemianism has led to an influx of indoor plants. Pinterest and Instagram have become a platform for users to boast about their use of Feng Shui or combat pollution. But the bottom line is that there simply isn’t enough garden space for urban freewheelers.

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2. Upward growth

With garden space becoming a bigger problem, plants are headed the same ways as architecture, vertically. Taller plants have become increasingly captivating, serving as a great alternative for urban gardeners. Wall planting is set to be a big feature of 2017, with hanging shrubbery creating vertical gardens.

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3. Garden houses

Bringing nature indoors will be the gardening strategy of a new generation. The ‘iPhone generation’ are due to start an urban jungle.  Expect to see house plants boom and garden balconies spread across city tower blocks. With renting amongst young people growing, there is a dwindling number of garden owners.

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4. Going vegan

Veganism is on an upward trend. Over the last decade, the number of vegans in Britain increased by 360 percent. With backing from Hollywood A-listers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, more people are trying to reduce climate change and cut out the meat. So expect more fresh veg available, when preparing your home cooked meals.

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5. All-weather protection

Climate change is set to have an everlasting effect on our gardening. It has become essential to prepare for all manner of weather changes. 2016 was the driest year on record according to the Met office. But with flooding a constant issue, expect more plants set to combat both droughts and water flooding.

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6. Authentic looks

2017 is set to be a year of back to basics. Instead of the clean-cut modern look, landscapers are going back to the DIY image of the 1970s. Going organic and producing fresh veg is a big part of modern culture. To keep gardens on an organic path and to maintain a natural look, expect more running rivers and wooden decor.

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7. Hyperlocalism

Plants or vegetables with a local connection are set to see a boom. During the past decade, foreign imports have been a big hit, with exotic plants taking centre stage over home grown. After the referendum in June, and following uncertainty surrounding potential trade agreements, locally sourced plants are set to come back into fruition.

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8. Staying healthy

The mental and physical benefits of gardening are at last being recognised. Stress is a major problem for the NHS, 37% of sick days in 2016 were down to stress related issues. There is a huge benefit of mental wellbeing found in the garden. Thrive, a mental and physical disability charity, made note of the improved social connections that gardening brings. The physical bonuses are more noticeable, with gardeners regularly seeing improvements in joints and fitness. With more cutbacks to national trusts, the governmental parks inquiry are set to produce their findings on the role of health in parks.

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9. Smaller shrubs

Lack of space and time for the everyday worker has left gardeners in need of low maintenance plants. Horticulturists are still in love with growing, but finding the time and energy is difficult. Small shrubberies give the best alternative to 20 years’ worth of unnecessary pruning

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10. Homemade pesticides

Much has been made of the potential health hazards surrounding chemical pesticides, especially the effects on ‘good bugs.’ Natural remedies are far cheaper and give you total control of what is going into your garden. Ingredients such as garlic, nettles, cayenne or even green tea, diluted in water have been deadly to destructive bugs.

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11. Containers

Following the trend of city gardening and reduced law space, an influx of containers is likely to come. You can virtually grow anything anywhere as long as you have a container. Expect to see more pre-prepared vegetable pots like tomatoes and herbs, could we see entire ready-made vegetable plots?

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12. Price comparisons

Foreign plants are already feeling the effects of Brexit which could trigger price wars in the market. A higher demand for local plants will also see competitors going pound for pound against each other. It’s great news for the everyday gardener, a drop in price could see plant and veg sales boost.

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 13. Winding patios

As gardeners focus on the authenticity of a garden, winding patios have come back as a feature. A straight and narrow walkway has too much association, with urban parks. A winding path, which has curved edges, provides a natural organic look which gives the impression everything is handcrafted

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14. Outdoor lighting

Having a garden, fresh with wild flowers and vegetables is no longer enough for modern society. There is a big focus on garden design and furniture, with trends pushing for an area of socialising for summer months. Lighting schemes are being used to big effects, not only to highlight horticulture but also to serve as mood lighting for social areas

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15. Water growing vegetables

Having a constant supply of fresh organic vegetables is extremely difficult for any gardener. If you’re working with limited space and only have potted veg, then it becomes even more problematic. Re-growing vegetables in water is quickly becoming a time and waste solution. Plus you can continue to have growing vegetables around your garden. Putting the roots of various vegetables, such as celery, green onion and cabbage in a water bowl you can re-grow the food. It requires nothing else and simply grows just from the water source.

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16. Epsom salt  

Epsom salt is the home remedy of gardens. When people first started using the salt, it failed to pick up much traction, however, its benefits are clear for all to see. Just by simply sprinkling a few table spoons of the salt across your garden, will hugely enrich the soil. For the city gardeners who need quick results, it is a great alternative to plant fertiliser.

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17. No compost no problem

As we see more garden’s move onto balconies and indoors, creating a full batch of compost is just not viable. But there are some great things that you can do with the same wasted food bits. Instead of creating a full batch, adding crushed egg shells, banana skins or coffee grounds have all been beneficial to soil.

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18. Preserving your herbs

Garden herbs are so readily accessible from supermarkets that you don’t even need to buy any seeds. Purchasing the entire herb ready to use has been a hit amongst urban cooks. However, preserving them is a different issue. Sticking your herbs in an ice cube tray is a quick fire way to make sure they stay nice and moist. If you want to have your herbs readily available, freezing them in oil, allows you to stick them straight in the pan.

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19. New plants on the scene

Last year it was a long-standing Calendula, along with the mountain pepper and Golden Duchess. Finding plants that can stand up to tough weather is what gardeners are already pioneering after this year. Fleuroselect have already mentioned that 2017 will be the year of the Zinnia and bean, whilst the begonias is set to be a hit

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20. Getting shapely

Shearing and clipping into geometric shapes is not something new for 2017. But it has been a continual trend which shows no sign of slowing up. The progression is more in shaped beds, with right angles and asymmetric geo-shapes taking development. The Chelsea Flower show proved, that sharp shapes can add that extra boost, so expect more in 2017.

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21. Outdoor living room

Outdoor seating has never been more comfortable with a huge emphasis now put on indulgent garden sofas. Gone are the days of upright, hard wooden chairs, hosting a garden party requires, lazy, soft, lounging chairs. The trend started with seating areas, but has since progressed to day beds and egg swings.

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22. Less paving

Paving has been adapting for the past few years and has now transformed into something completely different. Paving is now a mash-up between grass and gravel, or lawn slabs. Winding patios, with granite setts interspersed between lawn and shrubbery, is the latest trend.

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23. Outdoor kitchens

An outdoor kitchen very much comes along with the outdoor seating territory. If you have such a beautiful place to lounge around and relax, there must be food services available. Garden kitchens are much more than a BBQ on wheels, fridges, work surfaces and sinks have made their way outdoors, following fire pits. This is a trend which will only continue to grow.

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24. Clean gardens

With a push on small gardens and reducing waste, there is set to be an emphasis on ‘tidy gardens.’ Gone are the days of strewn tools lying around or unkempt shrubbery. Gardeners are emphasising on a natural, organic look with low maintenance.

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25. White plants

The more common use of white plants is more of a returning trend than a new one. The flowers give off a glow at night, which compliments any outdoor seating or living areas. Flowers such as the English marigold and Calendula have shot up around Europe, finally making tracks back to the UK.

 What Are The 25 Garden Trends To Live By In 2017?




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Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Studies and first-hand experiences have shown the potency of compost in bringing vitality to the garden soil and plants. And the good news is that making compost is easy and environmentally-friendly. It could be made from kitchen scraps such banana peelings, wood ashes collected from outdoor barbecue grills or worn out pieces of age-old garden table and chairs. There are indeed a great deal of compostable pieces you have lying around but fail to notice. The now damaged parts of your once comfortable rattan outdoor garden furniture may well be used as plant food if processed properly.

This guide will help you or any beginner to create a compost of your own, rather than purchase from the store. Here you will learn what compost is, how to make compost, what materials to add to your compost and how to build a compost bin. Also, there are helpful reference charts on how to fix common composting problems.

With the right choices of materials and following expert tips on composting, you’ll get the most of the benefits from this organic fertiliser.

What is compost?

Compost is an organic material produced from heaps of decomposed plant parts and manure of plant-eating animals. With the help of soil-dwelling microbes, the decomposed materials generate nutrients that plants need for healthy growth. It is basically nature’s way of recycling.

How does compost help the garden?

Aside from providing nutrients to plants, compost also improves the soil structure by producing rich humus to nurture the ground soil and increase its ability to retain water. It also helps moderate the soil’s pH level.

Most importantly, compost feeds soil organisms. These soil organisms are essential for plant health and continual soil improvement. It includes fungi, protozoa, nematodes and earthworms that depend on organic materials to supply their daily food.Learning about all these

Learning about all these will also help you and even young minds appreciate the world of microbes and how it wonderfully transforms a soil into a productive gardening site.

“Under the surface, a complex web of dirt, roots, microbes and fungi transforms plain old dirt into a superior growing medium. But that intricate web will exist only if you boost your plain old dirt with nutritious amendments, such as homemade compost.” Heidi Hunt, Editor – Mother Earth News

What can compost be used for?

As a soil fertiliser on:

  1. Flower and vegetable beds
  2. Houseplants
  3. Lawn top dressing
  4. New planting areas
  5. Around trees

What to compost?

Almost anything made from organic material can be made into compost. See the tabulated list below:

Alfalfa meal and hay Cottonseed hulls Grass clippings (in thin layers) Peanut hulls Soybean straw
Algae (pondweeds) Cowpeas Greensand Pea pods and vines Sphagnum moss
Apple pomace (from cider making) Cucumber vines Hay Peat moss Sugarcane residue
Bean shells and stalks Eelgrass Hedge clippings Phosphate rock Tea leaves
Broccoli stalks (but not cords) Eggshells (crushed) Hops Potash rock Vegetable peels, stalks and foliage
Citrus rinds Farm animal manures (plant eating animals) Kelp Potato skins and vines (unless diseased) Vetch
Clover Flowers Leaf mold and leaves Rhubarb leaves Weeds
Cocoa hulls Fruit peels Lettuce and other greens Rice hulls Wheat straw
Coffee grounds Granite dust Melon vines, leaves and rinds Shells (ground clam, crab, lobster, mussel, oyster, well buried in the pile)
Corncobs (chopped) Grape pomace (from wine making) Oat straw Sod


The right balance of carbon and nitrogen

Carbon and nitrogen are two of the most important elements in a compost. Composting occurs fastest when about 30 parts of carbon are used to 1 part of nitrogen.

Sources of Carbon:

  • Straw — Includes oats, barley, wheat and rye. They are composed of hollow stalks, which are good for the decomposition process.
  • Cornstalks, pea and bean vines — They are most useful when dried out.
  • Autumn leaves — Mix in few leaves only as leaves tend to trap air from entering the pile.
  • Hay — This may contain weeds, which may be killed in the heat of composting.
  • Wood shavings and sawdust — These materials decompose more slowly and have a lower pH level than the rest of the pile.

Sources of Nitrogen:

  • Any type of fresh or wilted plant matter
  • Grass clippings and non-pollinated weeds
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Seaweed and kelp

For a better mix of organic materials, make sure to blend in proportional amounts of quick and slow rotters. These will give your home compost an ideal texture throughout the heap.

What NOT to compost:

  • Diseased plants — Some plant parts are likely to carry diseases that should not be composed at all.
  • Some kinds of manure — Pet’s manure such as that of dogs or cats may contain diseases or parasites that are harmful to plants and man.
  • Some lawn clippings — Some lawns are treated with herbicides and should not be added to your compost pile.
  • Meat and dairy products — These will decompose but will only attract pests.

Tools needed for composting:

  • Compost Thermometer —This thermometer allows you to check the temperature of your hot compost pile so you can tell if the pile needs to be turned or when the compost is full.
  • Six-tine manure fork — This is more like a pitchfork to help you turn the compost pile.
  • Lawnmower — This helps you shred leaves and other compost material. Add the shredded materials to the compost and use rake to mix in.
  • Watering hose — You’d want to water the pile as it needs to be moist at all times.

How to build a compost bin:

There are several types of bins you can make for your compost. There’s the wooden compost bin, the free-cycle compost bin, the straw bale hot bin and others. All of these will create a nutrient-rich compost. And although a compost bin isn’t required, it makes the job a lot faster and easier.

Wooden compost bin shutterstock 191684348 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Most compost bins made of wood uses white cedar, which is naturally a rot-resistant wood. Other woods that will work are redwood, tamarack and oak.

This bin is good for hot composting and is portable. You start the compost pile by filling one or two sections with organic matter and then stack the next sections with more organic materials.


straw bale Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Straw bale hot bin

If you have a source of old straw bales, this can make a functional compost bin. The straw bale will hold together longer if the baling is wired. If not, tie twine around it. After a couple of years, the bin will decompose, and you’ll have to create a new bin.




Trenching bintrench bin Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

For this type of composting, you dig a trench or pit about 8 inches deep. You bury the organic matter below the trench until it decomposes.

Nature will do the rest of the work, and all you need to do is build a garden above the compost. The trenching should be done at least two months before you wish to grow any vegetable or fruit.





shutterstock 105558779 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Do-it-yourself (DIY) trash bin

This is one of the easiest and most affordable way to build a compost. Buy a rubber trash can with a secure lifting lid. Use a drill to create 5 to 6 holes in the lid, the sides and bottom of the can. This creates proper air-flow that’s essential for the breakdown of organic materials.




Rotary-style composter bin

shutterstock 141498154 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

This bin can be placed anywhere, and it keeps all the materials organized and off the ground. This method of composting decomposes materials quickly because it’s easy to turn and aerate the organic material. But the material does tend to dry out more quickly, so you’ll need to monitor and water it more often




shutterstock 269776142 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Worm bin

This is ideal for gardeners who don’t have the outdoor space for compost bins. You can create a worm bin from a plastic tub. You’ll need shredded newspaper, food scraps, and 10 to 15 dozen worms to eat your garbage. Use only red worms (Lumbricus rubellus) or manure worms (Eisenia foetida).

This method requires a lot more attention, but you will get the most fertilised and nutrient-rich soil.


Raised Bed

raised garden bed month e1460971844164 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

If you want to get more serious about composting, then go for the hugelkultur beds or mound culture. This method uses large pieces of wood for long-term decomposition. The humus building process takes place below the ground for years, whilst allowing you to cultivate the raised bed.



Choosing your compost method: Hot or cold?

Hot composting:

A hot compost pile is the best way to produce large amounts of compost in a short period of time. The hot compost has the advantage of killing off many pathogenic organisms and weed seeds that may present themselves in the compost. A hot pile works best if it is made up all at once with mostly nitrogen materials. This is called a garden lasagna because of the multiple materials stacked on top of each other.

Materials needed for a hot compost:

  1. Start with a layer of straw about 3 inches deep.
  2. Add 1 to 6 inches of nitrogen material.
  3. The looser you make the material, the thicker amount of layer you can add.
  4. Leave room for air to circulate throughout the pile.
  5. On top of each nitrogen material layer, add about 1/2 inches of soil.
  6. Add another straw layer and keep building in a “lasagna fashion” style until the pile is about 3 feet tall.

How to succeed with hot composting:

  1. Make layers of straw, nitrogen materials and soil in a lasagna-fashion until the pile is 4 feet high.
  2. Spread the layers and allow spaces for air to circulate through the pile.
  3. The compost will need moisture just as it needs air.  
  4. Add water to the carbon layer, which is the driest, as you build the pile.
  5. After you’ve finished the pile, cover it. This reduces evaporation from the top and prevents over watering from rain.
  6. Check the hot compost pile regularly and use a compost thermometer to check the temperature daily.
  7. The pile should reach 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. If the temperature starts to drop then turn the pile.
  9. With each turning, wet the pile as needed, and move the material from the outside to the center.

Cold composting:

Cold composting takes longer and it doesn’t kill pathogens or weed seeds. But the advantage of cold compost is in its use over time. This kind of composting is ideal for recycling small materials.  The bacterial presence in cold piles do all the work and usually don’t heat up past 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to succeed with cold composting:

  1. Pile organic materials together such as grass, leaves and manure (plant-eating animals only).
  2. Once the cold pile is constructed, you can leave it for a while.  
  3. Monitor the moisture level and add water if needed.  
  4. After a few months, turn the pile and add water again if necessary.
  5. It takes about a year or more for the compost to be finished.

Some common problems with composting:

Symptoms Possible Causes Solutions
Unpleasant odor Lack of air because of compaction Aerate
Lack of air because of overwatering Add carbon and aerate. The carbon will absorb moisture.
Too much nitrogen (if it smells like ammonia) Add carbon and aerate.
Too wet Add straw or other carbon materials.
Pile doesn’t heat up Lacks moisture Poke holes in a pile so you can water.
Less turning Use fork to bring materials from the outside to the center of the pile
Hot pile cools off Less turning Use fork to bring materials from the outside to the center of the pile
Pile is damp and warm only in the center Too small pile Gather more materials and make a larger pile.
Lacks nitrogen Add nitrogen such as grass or manure.
Animals and pests get into the pile Meat or dairy added in the pile Avoid using meats and dairy products.
Some material isn’t breaking down Lacks nitrogen and moisture Add water if it’s dry and cover the pile. Add grass clippings or manure.
Less mixing Turn pile
Pieces too large Chop material that is cars before adding it to the pile.

Using your compost

After you’ve successfully ‘cooked’ the compost, it’s now ready to be added to the garden soil. Mix or sprinkle it on top of your flower or vegetable plots, rake gently into tree beds, blend with potting soil for indoor plants, or spread among your lawn.  

Also, be sure to save a bit of the compost for the next batch of garden beds you plan to make.