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Compost, composting and compost making

Help solve your gardening problem. Here are the answers to some commonly asked gardening questions about compost, composting and compost making with hints, tips and advice.

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Can I add paper and cardboard to my compost heap?

Both materials make useful additions to compost heaps - especially those made predominantly of grass clippings or other wet products.

Cardboard should be torn up into small pieces to help it rot down quickly. Paper should simply be screwed up into fist-sized pieces.

Do I need to add a compost accelerator to help make better quality compost?

If you find your compost heap takes a long time to rot down or doesn't produce good quality compost, then an accelerator is a good idea. You can buy products sold as accelerators, but I find a good sprinkling of garden soil, manure or a granular fertiliser just as good.

I'm considering buying a shredder to help me dispose of garden waste. But are they really worth buying?

If your garden produces a lot of woody waste then it is definitely worth investing in a shredder. Even brassica stems and old flowering stems of herbaceous perennials can be put through a shredder.

Shredding all sorts of large garden waste will ensure that your compost breaks down faster and, as a result, is better quality.

It is far better to compost woody waste than to put it straight onto the garden as it can rob the soil of nitrogen when it breaks down, and many conifers contain a resin that can damage plants when used fresh.

I scarified my lawn and removed barrow loads of moss. After stacking for 18 months very little has rotted down. Can you suggest a quicker way to compost it, as it obviously has good water-retentive properties and therefore helpful in dry summers?

Moss takes years to rot down - which is why it has taken moss peat centuries to develop.

There isn't really a quick way to get it to rot.

I suggest you use the moss in two ways. First to line hanging baskets and second to line trenches over which you grow plants. Good uses include filling in pea and bean trenches, leek trenches, as a planting medium for long-term shrubs etc.


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