How to Compost: The Complete Guide to Making Compost

By Rochelle on Jul 08 2013 | 1 Comments

Compost is what you are left with when all of your kitchen scraps, garden cuttings and other organic degradable materials have completely broken down into a rich, dark, crumbly material. Throwing away all garden and household refuse which could be used to make compost is wasteful and unnecessary.

In the UK we are a very wasteful country; the Home Composting Helpline discovered the following statistics about the British:

  • 3 million eggs are eaten in the UK everyday – eggs are perfect for adding calcium to the soil.
  • Each year, on avg. each person consumes 130kg of potato, equivalent to 500 medium spuds.
  • 30% of household waste is organic and could be turned in to compost.
  • Nearly 60% of people who use peat-free compost say they did it for the environment.
  • Regular composters send an avg. 70kg of compostable food waste to landfills each year.
  • Britain spends £290million a year on carrots – perfect addition to the compost pile.
  • The avg. UK woman will vacuum 7300miles in her lifetime (Bosch Survey 2007) – dust and lint is compostable.
  • Around 43% of Britons own a pet – hamster and gerbil bedding and dry food is compostable.
  • Britain is a nation of coffee fans with approx. 70million cups drunk each day – ground coffee is perfect for attracting wanted critters to the compost pile.
  • Composting all suitable material produced by UK households could avoid the equivalent of 2million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year

There are many types of techniques to make compost, both at home with the basic equipment from your garden tool shed and on a commercial level if you don’t have outdoor space or use for compost. For those that live in an apartment or only have a concrete yard, contact the local authority to find out where the nearest composting centre is.

There are two types of popular commercial composting techniques; these are open windrow and in-vessel. Some companies choose in-vessel which is the process of using ventilated in-ground bunkers that are monitored by probes, and pipes are used to extract the air from the bunker and filter it before releasing it back in to the atmosphere. This is used more for agricultural and landscaping soil improver.

Other companies use the open window method which involves spreading the organic waste into long, semi-circle shaped piles which are mechanically turned to maintain even decomposition. This is the method used by YorWaste:


Source: Steve Worsley, Yorwaste

Steve Worsley from YorWaste composting centre servicing Yorkshire and Northampton advised: “We handle over 200,000 tonnes of green waste each year.

“From the areas we manage Yorkshire councils, particularly Leeds and Bradford, are the most efficient for the collection of waste and delivery to Yorwaste sites.”

At home composting is a lot less mechanical. It can be effortless or arduous dependant of the level of commitment. Below are a breakdown of the most popular home composting systems and their pros and cons:


This is as basic as the name. It is low cost and low maintenance once the whole is dug. This works well in a vegetable patch; dig the hole around 10-12 inches deep throw in your organic refuse and add a layer of soil on top. However, it is not suitable for large amounts of waste and the ground and compost may freeze during the winter months.


Again this is very basic but can take a little longer for decomposition as the temperature does not get high enough to encourage microbe activity. It is inexpensive and very low maintenance as it is a case of piling up organic household waste. Very prone to attract unwanted pests and tends to expand quickly.


There are places around where pallets can be picked up for free which also saves them from ending up in landfill. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find pallets of the same size to make a box and they can be very unattractive. The pallet box is good for large amounts of waste and is useful for the aeration process due to the slats.


These are available from most garden centres but can be relatively expensive depending on the size. Plastic bins are great for deterring unwanted pests and locking in needed moisture but they can sometimes be difficult to open especially when the compost becomes compact.

How to Compost

Virtually anything that has once lived can be put on the compost heap. Woody things like shrub cuttings should be chopped finely to encourage quicker composition. Things like pine needles and evergreen trimmings tend to rot and should perhaps be avoided.

Other things to consider are:

YES to Compost Pile

NO to Compost Pile

Coffee Beans/Filters/Tea Bags

Human/Animal faeces

Human & Pet Hair/Lint

Cooking Oil

Paper – in strips and wet if pile is too dry

Baked Good & Pastas

Garden Cuttings/Waste

Walnuts – they contain juglone: toxic to plants

Citrus Rinds

Personal Hygiene Products

Cotton Swabs (not the plastic)

Diseased Plants

Kitchen Waste

Stubborn Weeds

Vegetable Trimmings

Paint, Motor Oil etc.

Leather Products: garden gloves, wallets etc.



Milk Products

Toe/Finger Nail Clippings

Meat Products

Pencil Shavings

Treated Wood/Sawdust


for more info & ideas visit: Marion Owen “The Compost Queen”


It is important to provide a balanced diet for micro-organisms; a mixture of organic house waste and garden cuttings should help with this. It is also important to provide enough moisture in the summer and protections from the rain. The heap should always be moist but not soggy.

To keep the compost sterilised it needs to reach temperatures of 60 degrees in the centre. To achieve this temperature in the colder months use carpet on the top and pad the side with straw or corrugated iron. However, it is imperative to maintain a good circulation of airflow as airless conditions encourage anaerobic bacteria.

During the summer compost should take around 12 weeks to make and should look dark, rich and crumbly when ready to use.  For more information please click here.

Further Reading

How to Aerate Your Lawn - Euro Fit Direct

How to Grow Long Green Grass -



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Cuckoo Migration: How you can Help

By Tess on Jun 21 2013 | 0 Comments

Every year, to escape shifting weather patterns, birds travel up to 24,000 miles. For the Arctic Tern – the furthest flyer to date – migration over a lifetime roughly amounts to a circumference of the Earth. Studies reveal that tremendous obstacles are overcome to survive the distance. Birds need nourishment, and without the right weather conditions, chances of food availability is significantly depleted.  Ecologists are now battling to discover how the unpredictable hailstorms, rainfalls and droughts of the globe can affect birds in their annual journeys. In the meantime, I’ve asked what research has revealed so far, and what we can do to make their voyage a little smoother.

Operation Cuckoo

Cuckoos are brown dove-sized birds that are sadly a rapidly falling population. Being on the ‘Red List’ makes them a cause for concern and it’s estimated that during the last three decades, over half of breeding cuckoos have been lost. This is why it is so paramount that in 2011, and every year since, British Trust for Ornithology Drs Phillip Atkinson and Chris Hewson have worked day and night to physically tag and track migrating Cuckoos.

A sonar-panelled tracking device allowed them to follow every flap, starting in Scotland and taking them all the way to Africa. In doing so, we now have access to a vast amount of previously unfounded information in how the birds – now named everything from John to Mike - manage their journey. Not only does it reveal their precise path, it equally helps to provide reasons for their suffering numbers by revealing where and how they perish.

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Source: BTO

What do we know now?

In 2011, luckily all tagged birds made it to their destination. However the same cannot be said for the ‘class of’ 2012, where some turned back and others could not survive conditions. Although the study is still early in its years, there have already been some significant findings. Professors were surprised to find, for example, that a completely unexpected route through Spain was chosen by a select number of Cuckoos.

Revelations like this change of path all tie in to Europe’s unpredictable weather. As the study is still so young, conclusions are hard to make just yet. Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology claims that to make informed judgments or find patterns they “would need a decade of data”. Nonetheless he did inform us of some key weather-related aspects of the migration seasons so far. Paul points out that “weather is very different every year. Sometimes localised weather is the problem”. A problem for the Cuckoos of 2012 was a serious drought in Spain which led to forest fires that destroyed much of the Cuckoo’s diet. “Equally” said Paul “rainstorms can have different effects. Rainstorms can last just half a day, in which case the birds can shelter. But then there is the problem that invertebrates are washed from the leaves”. Of the Cuckoos of 2013, all we can analyse as of yet, is the fact that there has been bad weather in much of southern Italy, which meant a late return from Africa.

What can you do?

Whilst your garden may just be a pit-stop for migrating birds, Paul argues that “it’s very important that we garden in a bird-friendly manner”. Currently many species are forced to leave the UK because our gardens are simply not habitable. Bird watching in your garden summer house is highly enjoyable and you can get involved and Paul gives some advice as to what we should be doing to help.

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Source: Ark Wildlife

Should we be putting food in our gardens?

“In terms of providing food; mealworms and possibly fatcakes. Many small species however have an invertebrate insect diet, so providing food ourselves is not the best help”.

Do bigger birds put smaller birds off? 

“Not necessarily. Wood pigeons do tend to come in to domestic areas during the summer months because they run out of food in rural areas. Magpies can pick a brood to attack, so in the short term they can be a problem but not a huge threat”


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Source: Neil Bromhall

What is the best way to help?

“Planting shrubs and flowers that invite invertebrates in is by far the best method”. Here are some of the best plants to keep;

  • Nettles; in pots to avoid them growing too large
  • Long grass; just a patch of unmowed grass in the corner will invite caterpillars
  • Dead plant stems; caterpillars will use these shoots to leave their lava
  • Roses; Sawflies lays eggs in the leaves
  • Garlic mustard
  • You can also buy caterpillars and then release them into your garden


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Bat Friendly Gardens

By Mychal on May 14 2013 | 1 Comments

Bats are a fascinating and diverse group of species, it is important that we protect them and try do our own little bit to help them survive the damage we have caused to their natural habitats. We spoke to Professor John Altringham, a leading bat expert at the University of Leeds to ask him some questions about the current situation with bats and advice on how we can do our own bit to help:

“We should protect bats for no reason other than the fact we should. They are fascinating creatures whose pure intrigue makes them worth protecting and have every right to live without even considering any of the other advantage they provide.”

Bats make up a part of several ecosystems and the knock on consequences of the removal of bats could be disastrous to biodiversity. In addition to this bats even provide economic advantages; a 2011 study gave an estimate of bats contribution to the US economy through pest control of $23 billion a year.

The largest factor effecting bats at the moment are those caused by humans. “Destruction, degradation and fragmentation of their habitat are the main pressures acting on bats. We are constantly chipping away at them, reducing the area and quality of habitat available to them.” As a result of the damage we have caused some species of UK bats are down to only a few % of the population that existed a hundred years ago.

It is often thought that individuals can’t have much of an impact on issues spanning such wide areas however studies have proven that a diverse urban or sub-urban habitat can have great beneficial implications on helping maintain biodiversity and conservation of species. So, how can you do your bit to help?

Make your garden a haven for insects

To help bats you need to provide them with food, by attracting a range of insects to your garden, not only will you help increase the biodiversity of your garden, it will provide a range of potential food for bats.

  •  Use a range of plants including night scented species to attract night flying insects.

Evening Primrose:

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·         A water feature or pond is also great for encouraging insects to settle in your garden as many insect species require pools of water to lay eggs in. Do not have fish in the pond though, these will eat any insect larvae and defeat the purpose of having the pond.

·         Don’t use pesticides, this may seem obvious but they reduce the available prey for bats and some pesticides can harm bats if they eat insects that are affected by the pesticides.

Keep it dark

Bats are primarily nocturnal, so use light in a sensitive way. Try to keep light levels low and not pointed at areas the bats are likely to use. Obviously you will need a bit of light to be able to enjoy the garden yourself but try to make it a compromise between you and the bats.

Bat boxes

In urban areas bat boxes are very difficult to get to work. The bats have plenty of options for places to roost in the surrounding buildings. If there aren’t a many buildings around to act as roosts then the best option to try is a large multi-chambered bat house that is positioned as high up as possible.

If you incorporate these features to your garden the most likely bats you would attract in urban areas would be the common and soprano pipistrelles. These are the smallest bats found in the UK weighing somewhere between 3.5 to 8.5 grams. Even though they are tiny bats they can eat up to 3,000 insects each in a single night. They fly very erratically close to buildings and trees.

In more fringe urban and suburban areas you may find other bat species like brown long-eared bats, natterer’s bats, noctule and Daubenton’s bats. Potentially others of the 18 resident British bat species could visit your garden but these are the most likely.

So let’s get gardening and doing our part to help with bat conservation. Let us know how your attempts at making a bat friendly garden go!


Boyles, J. G. et al. (2011) Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture, Science, Vol 332, Pages 41-42.                                 


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Garden and Flower Shows Guide 2013

By Danielle on May 13 2013 | 0 Comments

Here is the Tiger Sheds Guide to some of the best Garden and Flower Shows in 2013.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Date – 21st – 25th May 2013

Venue – Royal Hospital, London SW3 4SR

Ticket info  click here

Description –  The Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous flower show in the UK and 2013 sees it in its 100th year!  With 550 exhibitors displaying everything from garden furniture, to natural swimming pool construction, there really is something for everyone.

Find out more about RHS Chelsea Flower Show  

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Hertfordshire County Show

Date – 25th & 26th May 2013

Venue – The Showground, AL3 7PT

Ticket info click here

Description – Herefordshire County Show is a family fun day out, comprising of a wide range of entertainment. There’s plenty to see and do for children, from the ‘Festival Circus’, to ‘Imps Motorcycle Display team’. Also, Jason Smyth will be bringing his ‘Adrenaline Tour’ to the show, expect dangerous, awe inspiring aerial tricks from the former Championship Moto Cross rider.

Find out more about Hertfordshire County Show

Country Fair at Bicton College

Date – 15th June 2013

Venue – Bicton College,
East Budleigh,
Budleigh Salterton,

Ticket info click here

Description – This country show is an excellent fun-filled event for all the family, with a large range of activities taking place throughout the day.

There’s live music, hovercraft rides, a dog show  and much, much more!

Bicton College County Fair is the perfect mix of education and fun.

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Find out more about Bicton College

Gardeners’ World Live

Date – 12th – 16th June 2013

Venue - NEC Birmingham, B40 1NT

Ticket info click here

Description – Also incorporating the RHS Flower Show Birmingham, Gardener’s World Live, fuses show gardens, well known experts presenting and live music.

Food options are extensive, including the ‘MasterChef Restaurant’, where a pre-booking will ensure you are treated to a high-end lunch and also the ‘Food on the Go’ sections which can be found throughout the show. If a picnic is more your style, ‘Picnic Hill’ is the perfect place to take some time out for a relaxing family meal, overlooking the show gardens.

Find out more about Gardeners’ World Live

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Woburn Abbey Garden Show

Date – 22nd & 23rd June 2013

Venue – Woburn Park, Bedfordshire MK17 9WA

Ticket info click here for 10% online reduction

Description – A garden show for gardeners of all levels and interests. Well known gardening personalities, Diarmuid Gavin and Pippa Greenwood, have been invited along to demonstrate and take part in a Q+A panel session.

Other entertainment comes in the form of live music and refreshments.

Find out more about Woburn Abbey Garden Show           

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Date – 9th – 14th July 2013

Venue – Hampton Court Palace, KT8 9AU

Ticket info  – click here

Description – Hampton Court Palace is a fabulous setting for a flower show and is an exciting alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show. Tickets are easier to get hold of and you’ll see a completely different variety of flowers in bloom to that on display at the CFS, which is held in Spring. Another bonus is that gardeners can actually buy flowers at this event.

The Hampton Court Flower Show is now the World’s largest flower show!

Find out more about RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

Date – 13th – 15th Sept 2013

Venue– Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG2 8NZ

Ticket info click here

Description – Harrogate Flower Show occurs both in Spring and Autumn and is often regarded as the most prestigious UK offering. Held at the Great Yorkshire Showground, it plays host to show gardens, garden shopping, garden art, an extensive food and catering area and much, much more.  There’s fun for children in the shape of nature trails, quizzes and colouring workshops, with a photography competition for adults.

Find out more about Harrogate Flower Show

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Landscape Show

Date – 24th & 25th Sept 2013

Venue – Battersea Park, SW11

Ticket info – register for free tickets

Description – This is a trade event for professionals working in the landscaping sector; architects, interior designers etc.

The event displays cutting edge techniques and new technology, relevant to the sector and is a must for anyone wanting to keep up to date with immerging practices.

Find out more about Landscape Show

RHS London Harvest Festival Show

Date – 8th – 9th October 2013

Venue – RHS Lindley Hall, Elverton Street, London SW1P 2PE

Ticket info  – click here

Description – This is a festival for growers to show off their produce. There’s competitions, tasting and live music. There are also plenty of opportunities to pick up your seeds for the next planting season.

Find out more about RHS London Harvest Festival

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Let us know in the comments if you have plans to attend any of these events, and which ones you're looking forward to the most!

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Ash Dieback Resource Guide

By SimonH on Apr 15 2013 | 0 Comments

Ash trees were first recorded dying in large numbers from what is now believed to be ash dieback in Poland in 1992; from here it quickly spread to other European countries. Despite this rapid spread it took until 2006 before Chalara fraxinea, the fungus’ asexual stage, to be described by scientists. The sexual stage of the fungus, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, was only described as recently as 2010.  Originally the disease was thought to have entered Britain on plants from nurseries based in Continental Europe; but older trees that appear to have no relation to trees supplied by nurseries have been found with the disease in East Anglia, Kent, and Essex. This could mean the disease made its way to Britain by natural means; such as spores being carried on the wind, or birds flying into Britain from Europe; the infection could even have been spread unwittingly by humans carrying it on their clothes or vehicles, although the probability of this is low.

In February 2012 a batch of trees coming from the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire was confirmed to be infected. In October of the same year it was confirmed a small number of cases in Norfolk and Suffolk had been found in the wider natural environment, including woodland with no ties to supplied nursery stock. From here the disease rapidly spread throughout woodland in Britain, with 462 confirmed cases as of April 2013. However in late March scientists from the John Innes Centre teamed up with a group of Danish researchers to try and quell the disease by breeding two seemingly resistant trees found in Denmark, providing a glimmer of hope for the future of British woodland.

General Information (List of pests and diseases in the UK) (Ash dieback spotters guide) (Wrexham County Borough Council's advice on the disease) (New Scientist’s introduction to the disease) (Dr Robin Sen of Manchester Metropolitan University highlighting the seriousness of the disease) (Information about the disease, including European distribution information) (News story about the government’s plan to plant 250,000 ash trees to help find a resistant gene) (The Royal Forestry Commissions reaction to the £1.5 million research project to identify chalara resistant trees) (The discovery of two trees that are seemingly resistant to the fungus) (Images of the fungus and how the symptoms manifest themselves in ash trees) (The website of a multinational group of scientists sharing knowledge to help understand and sustainably manage the disease) 

(Information from the European Commision about a new detection system) (Edinburgh Scientists predict the disease could destroy enough ash trees to fill Wembley stadium 16 times over) (Background into the disease, as well as tree planting and the plant trade) (The implications for lichens as ash dieback spreads)

The Governments Management Plan (The Woodland Trust’s reaction to the management plan)

Nordic and Baltic Information (Translated from Danish) (Article detailing how the disease has affected Polish forests)

Videos (A history of ash dieback) (Life cycle and symptoms)

Information and Genomic Resources (A hub for crowdsourcing information)

Smartphone App to Report Infected Trees


Check out Simon over on Google+

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Categories: garden science , Pests , Trees