Composting questions answered

Is garden compost the same as bagged 'multipurpose' compost?

No. Sowing, potting and multipurpose composts that you buy in garden centres are mixtures of various materials such as shredded bark, sand, coir and fertilisers. These are used for raising seedlings and growing plants in pots. Many contain peat, which should be avoided. Look for 'Peat free' compost.

Will a compost heap breed pests?

Compost is made by a host of small and microscopic creatures. These are not pests and will not overrun your garden. Slugs are often found in compost heaps – some species feed on decaying organic matter and are a valuable part of the composting process.

Do I need any special equipment?

A garden fork is the only essential item. A compost bin keeps everything neater but it is not essential.

Will a compost heap attract rats?

Rats may visit a compost heap if they are already present in the area but composting does not generally attract the rats in the first place. If rats or mice are nesting in your compost heap, this is a sign that the heap is too dry. Add water until it has the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. For more information, Garden Organic Members can see our factsheet, Rats and the gardener.

Is compost safe to handle?

Yes, if the usual garden hygiene rules are followed. Keep cuts covered, wash hands before eating and keep your anti-tetanus protection up to date.

Does a compost heap have to get hot?

No. A medium-sized compost heap can heat up to 70°C in a few days. The heat helps to make quicker compost, and to kill weeds and diseases. But your compost may never heat up, especially if it is made over a long period. The compost can be just as good, but it will take longer to be ready for use.

Does compost spread weeds and diseases?

Some weed seeds and plant diseases will survive in a slow, cool compost heap - if you add them in the first place.

Do I need a shredder to make compost?

No. A shredder can be very useful where there is a lot of woody material to be composted, but it is not essential.

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