AgribusinessAgri-LinkGainCountryLifeglanbia plc
Home    Gardener's Corner    News    Locations    About    Contact twitter facebook facebook pintrest

Welcome to the CountryLife Gardening Blog, written by our horticulturists
to provide you with the best tips & advice for all things gardening! 

Here to help! Remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at:

view all blogs   what to do in the garden by month   how to care for specific plants   Our horticulturists top tops for around the garden   Browse our other categories in the menu below

Composting: An Introduction

by User Not Found | Sep 19, 2013

Composting an introductionComposting is constantly gaining popularity in Ireland and rightly so. Whether you are a kitchen window herb grower or an aspiring horticulturalist everyone can benefit from composting – read our introduction to find out what is it and why it’s worthwhile!

What is compost?

Compost is the rich, dark, end product when organic matter such as egg shells, grass cuttings and tea bags decompose. It is high in nutrients and therefore is used to fertilise and improve soil.

Compost Bin or Heap

Why should I compost?
There are many benefits to composting –
  • Free fertiliser – improve the quality of your soil without having to spend money on composts and fertilisers
  • Reduce the amount of waste going in your bin – if you are composting you can greatly reduce the waste your household produces each year
  • Chemical free gardening – creating your own ensures organic compost

What exactly does composting involve?

Composting is a naturally occurring process involving organic matter, moisture, air and micro organisms – all you need to do is ensure all of the above ingredients are in place and nature will take its course!

1. Organic Matter

This is your waste – grass clippings, tea bags, dead leaves etc. Ideally you want a good mix of what we call green waste and brown waste. 

Green waste – self explanatory really – garden green waste includes things like your grass clippings, cut flowers and unwanted garden or house plants. Kitchen green waste is a little broader – vegetable and fruit peels and leftovers, tea bags, coffee grinds and even small quantities of breads or pasta and cereals can be composted.

Brown Waste – Garden brown waste includes items like twigs, leaves, straw and hay. Kitchen brown waste that can be composted includes paper towels, shredded paper (as long as it’s not glossy) shredded cardboard and paper plates.


There are also some items you need to be sure to avoid adding to your compost pile.
  • Diseased or infected plants – this will infect your compost
  • Invasive weeds – composting may not break them down and they will grow where you use your compost
  • Meat, fat, skins and bones should be avoided as they will create a bad odour as they decompose and may attract rats, flies and other pests.
  • Chemicals – will not break down and will be present in your compost
  • Coal or BBQ waste – this will not break down in a compost pile and needs to be disposed of correctly.

2. Moisture

Composting requires the right level of moisture – too dry and the micro organisms you are depending on will go dormant; too wet and your potential compost will end up a slimy gooey mess. A good guide line is to think of a sponge – moist but not dripping!

  • If your compost heap gets too dry – spray it with water to moisten it up
  • If you go with a compost heap ensure it is well covered to keep the rain out – a composter should do that job for you.
  • Keep your compost heap or composter in a cool shady spot so it doesn’t dry out

3. Air

One of the most common mistakes the novice composter makes it not ensuring there is enough air getting through the compost heap. Without oxygen the heap becomes compressed and cannot “breathe” – this prevents the breaking down of the organic matter.

  • Add some larger chippings or coarse straw to your heap to ensure little air pockets
  • Don’t over pack your pile or composter – this drives out the air.
  • Turning your pile can help to aerate it – it’s up to your how regularly you turn it.

4.Micro Organisms

There are micro organisms present on everything – and these micro organisms will break down your compost heap once all of the above conditions are right. Adding a layer of garden soil to your heap will ensure the right organisms are present but this is not strictly necessary. Depending on the type of composting system you use all sorts of organisms will be involved in the composting process – worms, insects, fungi and moulds. Compost is really an eco system all of its own!

That’s our brief outline of what’s involved in the composting process – soon we will have a follow up blog to show you exactly how to get started making your own brown gold!

Creepy Crawlies

Angela's Bio

I've been a Horticulturalist with CountryLife Tullamore since April 2010. I am passionate about all things gardening and have been involved in the gardening industry from a young age as my family had an export plant Nursery and Garden Centre, where the seeds of my garden interests were sown. I have a National Diploma in Horticulture from Merrist Wood College, Surrey, UK. and a Certificate in Training and Continuing Education from National University of Ireland Maynooth. My experience has involved working and managing various Award Winning Garden Centres from 3 to 5 star grades. I also have delivered FETAC courses in Horticulture and evening classes at Athlone Institute of Technology – if you have a question or query on anything gardening related I would love to help! Angela

- See more at: