Advice on making compost

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I wish to encourage you to discover the fun and interest of making compost!

Compost varies enormously, and homemade compost is the most variable and interesting, thanks to seasonally-changing ingredients and everybody’s variable-sized heaps and varied methods. Making compost is a fascinating hobby and if you never tried it yet, do have a go. You are turning wastes into something valuable.

Facebook 13.8.18 Richard Loader on UK Here We Grow:

Since visiting Charles Dowding garden and seeing his composting system we have started to see our compost heaps very differently. Previously weeding, trimming, mowing seemed like chores but now these activities have become harvests of food for what we now call ‘The beast’. We gather the ‘browns and greens’ and blend them so as to satisfy the appetite of the beast and enjoy monitoring the process of decay and heating with a long probe thermometer. It’s like having a new pet to care for.

A compost heap transforms even persistent perennial weed roots into food for soil organisms and plants. Don’t believe everything you may read about what you “Can and cannot” compost – see this from Stringfellow in forum topic, horsetail 16/06/18:

I had a lawn of Horsetail covering my plot. Being a total beginner back then, and paranoid about horsetail growing through concrete bunkers etc. we mowed the top growth and skipped the lot. Now wish I’d composted it all. Just keep an eye on the heap, you’ll get little if any regrowth – I’ve found they quickly wither and die. It all ends up back on your plot to help grow veg.

For further advice, see my You Tube video on how to make compost.

I had this lovely comment to the video in August 2019, from Devdas:

I have been collecting coffee grinds from petrol stations cafes etc. Waitrose Morrison all give it away for anyone wanting it. I used to throw away grass clippings now I am growing it for compost😁. Before mowing was a chore now I am looking at it in a totally different manner.

Plus there is a lot about making and using compost in my no dig, online course.

Why compost, not just a mulch of undecomposed matter?

Compost is organic matter that has decomposed, from leaves and manure to weeds, wood and paper. Compost feeds soil in a slow and steady manner, allowing soil to feed plants. In gardens, a compost heap speeds up nature’s process of decomposition, resulting in less slugs than from mulches of undecomposed matter, and stronger plants.

  • Organic matter enables soil to aggregate into crumbs, for stability and aeration, and is food for soil’s billions of mostly unseen inhabitants. Organic matter is carbon, and more in the soil means less in the atmosphere.

Fresh manure is organic matter, so far so good, but compared to compost it contains less living organisms such as fungi, and its nutrients are more water soluble. Hence the worries over nitrate leaching from slurry (pure and fresh cow poo), which confusingly have been transferred by legislators to include compost.

I write ‘confusingly’ because in compost, nutrients are not soluble in water, so they do not leach in rainfall. And compost is about way more than nitrates/fertiliser/plant feeding. Its stimulation of soil biology ensures increasing and maintained fertility.

Why compost and not fertiliser

I have always felt that using fertiliser is a dangerous short cut in terms of soil health, and our health. See this recent and extensive study Synthetic fertilisers hurt soil life, and ultimately marine life as some of them leach away. They short circuit plant growth and are a reason for foods becoming depleted of minerals.

I rely on compost because it’s not a fertiliser in the ‘modern’ sense of the word. Instead it’s a biological stimulant, which feeds soil life and enables soil organisms to help plant roots find food and moisture. Think of it as enabler, more than a primary source of food.

Compost quality

Ripeness means that a heap’s warmth has mostly gone, because the processing is finished. Often brandling worms arrive at this point, and heaps become wormeries of reduced quantity, increased quality. It can take up to six months before worms appear in my heaps at Homeacres, which are too warm for worms until that point, except in winter.

Contrast this with municipal compost which looks fine and “finished” after just a few weeks, from being shredded and then turned, regularly. However its blackness is from carbonisation caused by high temperatures, up to 80C, because huge numbers of thermophilic bacteria are encouraged by the regular turning and introduction of air.

I take deliveries of such compost and measure temperatures of 60C, even though the appearance is ‘like compost’, black and crumbly. I have tried spreading this compost and then planting through it, with poor results compared to when I spread it after six further months of fermentation.

You can plant/sow into green waste compost once it has cooled down and ripened. Check its heat when delivered, perhaps your supplier has kept it for enough time that it’s ready to use.

In 2016 I invested in a shed for my composting area, to keep the rain off. In the UK, water is often changing aerobic composting to anaerobic, by excluding air. Anaerobic compost is black rather than dark brown, more smelly and less crumbly. Hence a polythene sheet over heaps is worthwhile to keep rain off – to keep air in, not for preventing leaching!

Some of the below are extracts from my article in Which? Gardening July 2017. Their magazine is worth subscribing to, see this offer. 2019 had a no dig feature every month, and 2020 is Homeacres small garden, which they call Family Garden.

Ingredients, green, brown and moisture

    • Green ingredients are soft, leafy, high in nitrogen, usually moist, and are low in fibre. Kitchen peelings and food wastes are mostly green. They lead to high temperatures.
    • Brown ingredients are fibrous, drier and more woody than leafy.
    • Some materials are both green and brown.
  • Some green ingredients such as coffee grounds and horse poo (both 3% nitrogen) look brown.

Why differentiate? When you achieve the desired balance of about 50:50, or a perhaps a little more green than brown, this contributes to a correct level of moisture, warmth and structure/aeration. See more in this video.

Quantities of green and brown are hard to compare – greens are often voluminous, browns are dense. So 50:50 means that a layer of say 3in/7cm green leaves equates in compost making value to 1in/2.5cm brown materials such as old wood chip and cardboard.

In the British climate, air is often damp and so are the materials we add to the compost heap. As they decompose, their moisture becomes free to seep into the heap and if it cannot either drain out, or be absorbed by drier materials, the compost becomes soggy and airless, or anaerobic. This slows or halts the process of breakdown: adding paper, soil and other brown ingredients is a remedy.

In contrast during the dry summer of 2018, I actually watered the compost heaps. Especially when we were turning them and many dry pockets became visible. Moisture levels are hard to assess.

Photos below are Homeacres October 2018, the year’s fifth heap 1.5m/5ft2

Good to compost

    • Weeds (green) include some soil (brown) on their roots, so you can make fine compost from them alone. You can compost perennial weeds too: I add roots and leaves of bindweed, docks, nettles, buttercups, dandelions and couch grass. They break down even in winter’s cooler heaps, and regrow only if left exposed to light. You can save much time by not separating out perennial weeds.
    • Fresh leaves are green and older leaves become more brown, so autumn tree leaves are mostly brown.
    • Rhubarb leaves and citrus peel are good to compost, I know from experience. Eggshells bring structure to a heap but decompose slowly, often ending un mulches on top.
    • Diseased leaves are good to compost, such as mildewed courgette and lettuce leaves, rusty garlic and leek leaves, blighted potato and tomato leaves and also tubers/fruits with late blight. Blight spores for example need living plant tissue to survive in, hence they die in a compost heap, and likewise in soil. I spread compost which was made with blighted leaves, around tomatoes in the polytunnel, with no ensuing problems. Likewise blight spores do not survive in soil and there is no need to empty greenhouses of their soil.
    • Most shredded materials are woody (brown), and their speed of composting depends on size, and whether crushed or simply cut: crushed is best. I keep a pile of shredded branches near to the summer’s compost heaps, for adding to any large additions of grass mowings and fresh leaves.
    • Other brown materials are paper, best crumpled, cardboard which you can add in large pieces, wood ash (in winter my heaps are up to 10% wood ash), soil, and straw, which gives good structure and aeration.
    • Fresh manure from any animals is green and is excellent for speeding decomposition. Should you have large animals such as a cow or horse, their manure and bedding will ‘take over’ the compost heap, volume wise, meaning your compost heap has become more of a manure heap. Old manure is compost, just of a different quality.
  • Beware adding too much wood-flake bedding, often kiln dried and very slow to decompose. Not the end of the world, but your finished compost risks looking woody!
Compost thermometer
12 inch thermometer shows good breakdown is happening

Choice of bin: solid or open?

A bin with plastic or wooden sides keeps materials together, increases warmth and moisture, plus you can keep rain out if there is a lid or cover. It’s said that wooden bins need slatted sides to allow entry of air but I find this makes little difference: my heaps with plywood sides make great compost: they conserve both heat and moisture. I screw them onto corner posts, then it’s simple to unscrew them when turning and emptying heaps.

Homeacres 7 bays and a video to see my method

  • The posts are 6x6in (15cm) pressure treated softwood, and set in 12in/30cm concrete. The posts are 8ft/2.4m long, about 1ft/30cm sawn off the back ones to create the roof slope.
  • All the roof is treated softwood timber, and many sides were half inch plywood. But now I am moving to planks of Douglas Fir.
  • Everything else is what you see. Steel roof.
  • We dug the holes, builder erected the structure for £3k/$4k.
  • Each bay is 1.7m deep and 1.8m wide, roughly 6 feet square, and the base is soil. So all materials sit on the base of earth.
  • After filling to say 1.5m/5ft high, the materials sink to half that within six to eight weeks.
  • Therefore each bay contains about 2.1 cubic metres/2.7 yards of compost, or 1.5 tonnes depending on moisture content.
  • The first bay we fill is no.2, then turn to right into number 1. Second bay to fill is no. 3, etc.

Plastic bins from the council are small, which restricts the heat they can maintain. My trial with a Rotol “dalek” bin saw temperatures rarely exceed 45C, and many weed seeds survived the process. Nonetheless it was good compost, and the sides are easy to lift off when you want it.


Soil is best, for drainage, and for organisms to enter from below as heat subsides, or before it happens.

Making a heap-enclosure with pallets

This can be simple, quick and cheap. The pallets do not need anchoring to the ground and we simply wire them together at the corners, top and bottom so two wires only, on each corner. My preference is to knock the bottoms of each pallet so that you just have the top frame which is lighter and easier to handle. The photos explain it, and the cardboard you see is only around the edges not underneath. It’s to prevent weeds growing in from the sides at ground level.


Building a heap

Add your garden waste as it happens, in level layers rather than a mound in the middle, to have uniform spreads of different materials as you add them. Sometimes you need “balancing materials” in terms of green and brown.

In much of the growing season there is a surplus of green, so keep a pile or some sacks of paper, autumn leaves, cardboard and twiggy materials, especially when adding grass mowings. In winter there is more brown, and some fresh manure or coffee grounds make for a good balance.

When to stop adding more material

    • Small gardens generate less material and may struggle to fill a bin, even over a whole year: use the smallest bin you can find because a fuller, small bin makes better compost than a half empty, larger one. After perhaps a year of filling, lift off the bin to a spot adjacent and fork the undecomposed, top part into it, then use the compost in the bottom part.
  • In large gardens, heaps may rise to four or five feet high within a month. Continue filling even after this for another 2-4 weeks as the heap will keep sinking, then cover with straw/carpet/polythene, preferably polythene to keep rain out, while you make a new heap. For best results, turn the finished heap after 1-3 months and leave another 2-4 months.

Turning compost: is it necessary?

Turning is worthwhile for larger scale compost-makers with several heaps, to mix and aerate and speed decomposition. At Homeacres we turn every heap once, to the right as you look at the bays. You need an empty space or bin next to the heap you are turning, andthe compost being finer and more even will repay the time taken.

Use a manure fork with long prongs, be sure to shake out any dense lumps: turning involves mixing, shaking and also allows you to check a compost’s quality. If you discover many dry lumps, add a little water, or conversely add some dry paper if it’s soggy.

For a small heap that perhaps barely fills up in a whole year, turning is not worthwhile.

The law of diminishing returns applies to compost turning. I never do a second turn as gains are marginal, compared to one turn.

Finished compost

Within a year you should find a crumbly texture of variable quality. If there are large lumps they need breaking up with a fork while loading your wheelbarrow. A dark brown colour is better than black, which would suggest some lack of air and too much wetness.

Sieving compost before use is not worth the effort and time needed. Simply pull out larger pieces of undecomposed materials, including roots of perennial weeds which are white and noticeable. There is nothing to fear from such roots because even if you missed them while spreading, you have another chance later when you see them start to regrow. Such visibility and easy removal are advantages of no dig with compost on the surface, instead of incorporated.

  • A quality of mature/ripe compost is that carbpn/organic matters has been transformed into humus, now known as glomalin. 


During 2022 I am developing this method of compost-making at Homeacres, and shall have more to report before the end of the year.


This was discovered only in 1996, by a scientist Sara F. Wright while working for the USA Agriculture Research Service. She discovered how to extract this sticky material which binds soil particles together, giving structure and tilth. It accounts for perhaps a quarter or more of soil carbon and exists for decades in undug/untilled soil, unlike most of soil’s short lived, non-mineral constituents.

It transpires that glomalin is almost certainly produced by mycorrhizal fungi, as Sara Wright describes:

“We’ve seen glomalin on the outside of the hyphae, and we believe this is how the hyphae seal themselves so they can carry water and nutrients. It may also be what gives them the rigidity they need to span the air spaces between soil particles”.

During plant growth, as roots extend further into soil, fungi close to the original roots die off at the same time as new fungi colonise and work with the developing root extensions. The decaying fungi shed their glomalin, and it remains in soil as a glue-like sheath around nearby particles.

This raises the intriguing point that plant growth helps build soil organic matter, as long as soil remains undisturbed.

“In a 4-year study at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Maryland) Agricultural Research Center, Wright found that glomalin levels rose each year after no-till was started. No-till refers to a modern conservation practice that uses equipment to plant seeds with no prior plowing*. This practice was developed to protect soil from erosion by keeping fields covered with crop residue.”

“Glomalin went from 1.3 milligrams per gram of soil (mg/g) after the first year to 1.7 mg/g after the third. A nearby field that was plowed and planted each year had only 0.7 mg/g. In comparison, the soil under a 15-year-old buffer strip of grass had 2.7 mg/g.”

It’s reckoned that brassicas and beets* do not increase glomalin levels, since they do not work with fungal threads in order to grow. But most of our food crops, including cereals, do cooperate with fungi and scientists are now looking at fungal encouragement as a way to reduce dependence on phosphate fertilisers.

*Charles says, I doubt this. On my dig/no dig comparisons, I observe how the no dig brassicas and beetroot consistently outperform the same plantings in dug soil. I remember how in the early eighties I would read that mycorrhizal fungi were used by trees rather than vegetables. The ‘scientific’ view keeps changing because it’s a ‘snapshot’ of current understandings.

Compost and fungi

The new knowledge about glomalin ties in with older work by Albert Howard ninety years ago, on the value of compost. He taught farmers his recipes developed at Indore Research Station in India, and then he discovered how small applications of compost could transform the soil of tired tea plantations, enabling plants to rediscover their vigour. Howard had trained as a chemist and initially thought of compost in terms of chemical foods such as NPK, that it was recycling nutrients.

Then the results from using it, coupled with his knowledge that nutrient levels had barely increased because he was adding so few, helped him to see compost as a broad game changer. That was when he acknowledged the role of compost and soil fungi, and the ability of compost to help fungi multiply.

For fungi to grow and multiply in a compost heap, they need fibrous (woody or stemmy) materials, and not too much heat. We see them more around the heap edges when turning, as it’s been too hot in the middle. Then they colonise heaps as cooling occurs.

At the time of Howard’s work in the 1930s, mycorrhizal fungi were being noticed and appreciated by scientists such as Dr Rayner who worked for the Forestry Commission, on Wareham Heath in Dorset.

Which brings us to the value of transforming manure and other wastes, into compost. I notice at Homeacres how crops grow better where the compost applied is fully ripe. It is dark, crumbly and the smell is sweet, not the ammonia or sulphur smells of manure stacked in an airless state.

Then to use your precious compost most effectively, the best method is surface mulching. Soil organisms are waiting, even in mild, winter weather, to eat and excrete surface organic matter, for example as wormcasts. When you give soil organisms high quality compost, the results are wonderful.

*Learn more about compost in this module from my online No Dig course – ‘Fertility, compost and soil‘ *

496 thoughts on “Advice on making compost

  1. I have a large meadow, and i would like to cut all the the grass long (around 50cm and flowering) and put all of it on the compost immediately (wet and green). Would this be a good idea, or should i mulch it or dry out first?

    1. I would cut it and add green, and add some soil as you add the grass so that you have by volume about 80% grass and 20% soil.
      Or, old woodchip, paper, woody waste of any kind and in small pieces, etcetera

  2. Hi Charles, me again from North Wales with the homemade polytunnel. I have acres of Juncas (soft rush) which I use as bedding for animals but I have acres of it left. If I cut it when it s green, is it ‘green’ manure and if I cut it when it has died and is dead and brown, is it ‘brown’ manure?

    1. Hi Daffy and yes partly. But it is quite fibrous so even when it’s green it has some brown qualities.

      1. Thanks, I foresee me having to start my 70 yr-old Allen scythe for compost making purposes! Thanks again.

  3. Hi Charles
    Bought a load of “city” compost in December. It seemed fine. Let it sit for a few months and thought it seemed a bit dry when I put it onto new No Dig raised beds (10cm onto cardboard) but didn’t think much about it as it has been a very dry winter/early spring (20mm rain compared to normal 90-100mm+ melted snow).
    Just had first rain for a month approx 30mm steady drizzle over 2 1/2 days. Noticed that only the top 1-2cm are wet atm and it’s bone dry after that. Raked the top dry stuff to the top and it got damp but dried out very quickly.
    Any ideas on the issue and possible solutions? Got a greenhouse full of transplants waiting to go out next week or so after final frost.
    PS love the CD 60s. Literally used them for seed sizes and transplant quality best I think i have ever had

    1. Hi Jem
      That is nice feedback on the trays.
      It’s frustrating though about the compost and some batches are more prone to that and just take forever, maybe they get them even hotter than usual and they’re empty of life 🙁
      Some kind of microbe solution would help, also a little chicken manure and a few nettle tops for a nitrogen boost. A good soak too if you can.

  4. Hi Charles. We bought a new house in Belgium (same climate as the UK) with a decent-sized lawn that I’m keen to transform into no-dig vegetable beds. I ordered a few good tons of commercial compost from the local facility, but unfortunately it arrived steaming hot. How poor exactly are the results from planting in such compost? Should I just give up on this summer’s planting and wait six months before putting anything in? 🙁 If I fill the beds now and wait for the last frost date in mid-may to plant, would that make a difference?

    1. The timing is difficult for this with hot compost. Yes make beds now, and spread 2-3cm on top of potting compost, and keep it all moist. Plant in May should be ok, growth will be better by late summer

      1. Thank you for the quick reply!
        What about using this compost as mulch in my fruit garden? I was intending to use some of it to mulch around my fruit trees, berry bushes and strawberries that have already been planted earlier this spring. Can I do it now, while it’s still hot, or would that risk hurting the plants? (of course I would keep the compost from touching the plants themselves)

  5. Hello Charles!
    I’m very excited to make my first ever compost, the area I would like to put it in has a cement pad, should I still do cardboard as the base or should I prep it differently? Does it need to be lifted off the ground? I’ve also got a large plastic bin available to use in the set up- would that need holes on the underside? Do people usually do that for air flow or is it to let the excess water out? Thank you!

    1. Nice you’re excited Nadaa.
      If your cement pad is horizontal, level, then water cannot drain away and you would need to lay something like a pallet on the ground first, with thick cardboard on top of it which water can drain through.
      If the cement has a slope, the ingredients can sit on it without cardboard.
      Yes if using any kind of container, there must be drainage holes at the bottom and they are for letting water pass out, not for letting air come in which it simply does not do, through all the ingredients.

  6. I’ve just taken on a new allotment and there are large amounts of fresh manure and fresh conifer chippings available. What would be the best use of these materials? Could I layer these up to build my heap quicker?

    1. That sounds too good to be true!
      Maybe ask other allotmenteers about the manure and whether there have been any problems from weedkiller in it.
      And those wood chips will be good for pathways but always on the surface, not dug in and likewise in a compost heap, they would take 2 to 3 years to break down so I would not use them fresh for that.

      1. Hello Charles. I just want to say how incredibly generous you are to give so much of your time and enegy to answering everyones questions and providing all this information. I am one of the countless disciples you have around the world. I bought an old abandoned rural nucleus of stone houses and 4 acres of great land in Galicia in Spain, 3 years ago as a consequence of watching your videos and reading your writings. I am definitely the only no dig property for miles around. Thanks for doing what you do!

        1. Hello Hyde and thanks so much for your nice feedback.
          That sounds a great and growing adventure 💚

          1. Charles, I have recently started growing veg with your no-dig method having had raised beds for years (40cm high and had pretty poor results from digging and actually gave up on veg and turned the lot into herbaceous borders which we love and were extremely successful – my wife and I love propagating things.
            Having read two of your books we decided that we must give no-dig a go and are finding the combination of no-dig and module propagation to be a great success. Impatient to get started I bought a couple of m3 spent mushroom compost to get us going and emptied our compost bins onto the beds as well (pretty woody), sowed a load of stuff into modules, stacked them into a heated utility room for five days and then moved them into an unheated greenhouse with covers over the seed trays. Bongo, up they came and last week I planted the modules out into the mulched beds and and covered with fleece (supported by hoops) and they are all growing like the clappers. Fortunately the fleece tunnels survived the storm which took down some trees in the garden.
            Gearing up for some direct sowings of carrots, parsnips and radish and planting our first earlies.
            This is just to say that because of you my interest in growing veg has been rejuvenated – thank you

          2. Hello Hugh and I’m delighted to read this, thanks for writing.You are off to an impressively early start as well.

  7. I live in Michigan and would like to start composting in my garage because it is currently mid-winter here. It’s too cold and snowy for me to construct a compost bin outdoors. What would you recommend for creating a homemade bin which would be stored in the garage? Would a 5 gallon bucket work?

    1. Hi Adam
      I’m impressed by your keenness!
      5 gallon is pretty small and it’s too small for any warmth, but I don’t weather in your garage during winter and with the relative shortage in winter of green matter, but you will be able to generate much heat.
      Materials will decompose, but slowly!
      If you have sufficient volume, it would be worth constructing a box with wooden frame and some kind of insulation material around. In the UK they sell for quite a lot of money but one can make them at home, and they take food waste etc.

  8. Dear Charles
    Thank you so much for all you do and for generously giving your time and support to all of us growers :))))
    I’m wondering whether yourself or colleagues have done any further experimenting with municipal green waste, which as you say has that black carbonised/inert quality to it? I’m on a mission to find out more about its composition and am particularly interested in whether it can be broken down further, contributing to humus formation. For example, I wondered if perhaps it could be treated it as a ‘brown’ in the heap and/or fungal innoculants used to breathe some life back into it? I hope you can help me on my quest! Thank you so much again.

    1. Hi Emma
      Yes I find it makes a very successful brown in the compost heap, where it accumulates the microbes it was previously lacking!
      And also on my beds, for example where we spread some last spring the results were very good, but we use no more than 5 cm/2 inches which I feel is enough in view of its microbe hungry nature.
      One caveat I must mention is that the name green waste is umbrella for a huge number of products or variable quality. So if you’re not sure, I would still buy some and check it out, because the opportunity is there to do something good with it, if not immediately.

  9. Hello Charles,

    Thank you for your excellent advice, as always. Is plywood safe to use around the vegetable garden in the UK? I’ve been googling but I can find out how to tell whether it has been treated with CCA or not like you can with pallets. We’ve seen some sheets asking to be scrounged in a skip nearby, hence me asking!! I know you use some in your compost bays. We’d like to use it to line our compost bins made from pallets.

    1. Hi Danielle
      I think that we cannot be certain, manufacturers don’t always disclose those details. I have been happy to use them until now, but I’m moving towards using boards of Douglas Fir, but they are more expensive. I would be inclined to grab them since they are free!

      1. Thanks Charles! We’ll do that.
        We’re making a hotbed again as last years was such a success, with salads and peas by March and April, and 2 giant squash from 1 plant, weighing over 5 stone each! And then lots of lovely compost at the end of the year.

  10. Hi Charles,
    Wonderful information as always on your posts. I have been growing no dig and making my own compost. I live in Canada, Zone 5 and I start my seeds indoors in the special seed starter mix to avoid bringing in any insects or disease. I notice that you use your homeacres compost for seed starting in some of your videos. Do you have any problems with slugs or fungus gnats from the compost? I had a huge fungus gnat infestation in my growing area last spring.

    1. Hi Masuma, glad you like the posts.
      We do not have fungus gnats here, but we have quite a few other insects always buzzing around, for example in compost of the propagating area in the greenhouse. They are not harmful to plants, being interested more in keeping moist and living off decaying organic matter.
      I prefer to use a biologically active compost for plant raising but I do understand your desire to have few insects. You would I feel be very unlucky to suffer any disease problems from compost, and I never worry about that. It’s best to ignore a lot of the warnings out there, which often are associated with selling products.

      1. Would love to jump in and reply about fungus gnats. Don’t know where they came from exactly but they were really on some inside plants. I cut 4” squares out of yellow card stock, attached a long wooden skewer and covered the card with a VERY STICKY product called Tangle Trap. Insert into soil and the gnats will go toward the yellow and get stuck. We had to go on vacation for 2 weeks and when I got back-the cards were covered and no more gnats flying around!

  11. Hi Charles
    Love your work, it is so inspiring and I am hoping to make it work on a semi large scale here in NZ. We get a lot of green waste on our market garden and have a local wood chip and manure sources too. I’m just curious about kitchen scraps, would/do you add any and all left over food like bones, bits of things made with meat, bread, cheese, egg? I’ve read that bread, meat and cheese are not good to go into compost…

    1. Hi Nicky
      I’m happy to read this and good luck.
      In my experience it’s fine to compost all food waste, in moderation say no more than 1/5 of the total materials, so that there is good structure in the heap and air held there.
      With meat for example, you may end up with bones which slowly decompose on the surface of beds and this is an entirely natural and healthy process. It puzzles me why so many people make up difficulties, without giving sensible reasons. I read in a Soil association magazine how Eve Balfour in 1959, visited a compost making operation in New Zealand (Dunedin I think) where they had composted a whole horse, and glass bottles too! She noticed how everything had decomposed within a few months, and clearly that was hot composting!
      But hot or cold is fine, question of speed mainly.

  12. Hello Charles.
    I love following you and your brilliant advice.
    I´m going to remove the grass around a part of my kitchen garden and put on pebbles of some sort. The amount I will remove is about 40 square meters in total.
    Is this something that I should put in the compost or would it be to much at one time?
    My kitchen garden is about 200 square meters and I compost everything that is not used in our kitchen.



    1. Thanks Christian.
      Yes this would “overwhelm” the compost heap!
      I would make a separate pile and stack it neatly, it will become lovely soil you can use for adding back to beds, or in small amounts to compost heaps, or for potting with other materials.

  13. Hi Charles,
    I have some questions centered around producing a high-quality compost. We raise several types of animals…sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, and horses. They produce plenty of fresh manure to be used as green layers in the compost heap. Some can be pure manure, some is mixed with bedding. I am curious if adding one type of “poop” to be used as the green material creates a higher quality compost over others? Certain animals have higher nitrogen content in their feces, chickens for example, while others have a lot more fiber left over. Have you noticed any difference?

    And on a related note, when creating “green” layers in the compost heap do your recommend an assortment of green materials over just one type of green (i.e., garden waste + animal droppings vs only using animal poop)? Obviously, brown materials mixed in. Or can you make just as high-quality compost using only animal dropping alone for the Green material?

    1. Hi Lars, tricky questions because what does ‘high quality’ mean?
      It’s different things for different people, for example I’m happy with compost is that a little lumpy and has bits of wood in, whereas others prefer it more fine.
      My chief criterion is biological value and from that point of view, I would say not much difference between the manures, but in your case a mixture should work better, and some fibrous bedding too to hold air in the heap.

  14. Hello Charles,
    I’ve been using no dig methods on my Allotments for some years now, and Ive found this piece about composting very useful- I think I need to add more brown stuff to my bins for the fungi, though it’s actually quite hard to find in summer unless you have a ‘scratter’. My problem though is making enough compost overall for the size of the plot; do you have a very rough estimate of how much compost you use per square metre?

    1. Hi John

      It’s so hard to quantify this, thanks to the Difficulty of measuring. My wheelbarrows are quite love two of them suffice for about 17 m². Plus some woody material for paths.
      I hope you can find some woodchip, preferably quite old for making compost.
      Spreading around 2.5cm centimetre of compost every year on a full size allotment of 250 m², can sound a lot but its potential to produce food is huge and I reckon that with these methods no dig, any family will feed themselves and more. So the compost is very economical.

  15. Where can I find a building plan for a compost paddock like yours? I could not find a pdf out on the internet. Also I don’t understand how you access the side walls to move the compost over for the single turn that you do. You unscrew the front to access but do you unscrew the sides to move the compost between sections? I do aprreciate all the experience you share.

    1. It’s a unique structure and I never made a plan myself, just a sketch on an old envelope and discussion with the builder, then we dug the holes and he put in the concrete, and erected the structure. The side compartments are screwed on with just a few screws, which we remove as the heap fills so they are held against the pillars by the compost materials. Then we can slide them out to access heaps from the side, when turning. Good luck!

  16. Hello Charles,

    Thanks for all this wonderful info and for sharing it.

    Any idea if carob pods are good for compost or as a mulch?

    Thanks a lot.


    1. Alon, I love such an exotic question.
      No experience of them but surely yes, chopped in small pieces will be good and with some green leaves, fresh manure or whatever you have there.

  17. Hi Charles,
    I’ve just taken delivery of 2 huge bags of municipal waste compost. Their temperatures are 30C and 40C.
    For best results would you recommend spreading it on the allotment now, or removing it from the tonne bags and leave it over winter to mature, then spread it in spring?
    I’m in Edinburgh, so average temperature will be below 8C for the next 5-6 months.
    Many thanks

  18. Hi Charles,
    I created a large three bay compost heap on very soft, fecund river meadow soil in South Norfolk a few years ago, re-using old fence posts and screwing pallets to make the sides. Nettles, hemlock and bindweed quickly take over, even after clearing and pulling them out, and the compost heaps have just become places to get rid of cuttings and green/food waste. We’ve given up trying to produce any useful compost. Do we need to relocate the heaps to less fertile ground or rethink the design e.g. putting a roof over the bays? I’ve watched many of your videos and hope you’ll be able to help.
    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Francis
      Yes, compost heaps do you need looking after! And it might be easier for you to knock off the bottoms of each pallet because that creates less space for weeds to grow up between the two levels of wood.
      Also you can put cardboard under the pallets before installing them, and then it’s easier to pull out the weaker regrowth. You don’t have to relocate them in my estimation but it sounds like they need a thorough winter cleanup there before reinstalling. My heaps are on good soil all is good there.

  19. Hello Charles,
    Thank you for all the invaluable information.. you are a star!
    I am trying to make home compost for the first time inspired by your approach.
    As I live in Spain I have a lot of pine tree needles and brunches to hand.
    I read somewhere that it is not good to use pine material for compost as it is acidic and the result can negatively affect the croups’ growth.
    Whats your take on that?

    Thanks again!


    1. Thanks Alon.
      I do not worry about the acidity, more about the oils on pine needles in the wood make them slow to decompose. You could have compost in the end after 2 to 3 years, just be patient and make the wood very small pieces

  20. Hi Charles,
    What would you say well rotted manure should look/feel like? as I am looking to source this from a local farm to mulch my raised beds.This seems a cheap and easy way to mulch them as I have used up all of my homemade compost. Also what supplier do you use to get large amounts of compost?

    1. Hi Dan, it will be dark in colour rather than yellow or pale, hopefully more soft and crumbly than wet and lumpy. Much depends on the bedding used and moisture levels. I use woodland Horticulture near Glastonbury and the link is on my links page. Together with quite a few other suppliers.

  21. Just watched your you-tube video on making compost. Very instructive, but I do have a question. I have seen that you should not include dog feces into the compost because of the eboli content from the feces, is this true?

    1. Hi Jerry, glad you like the videos.
      Like all ‘rules’, it needs some understanding, and I do not worry about adding dog faeces, although currently I have no dog. Those organisms and all others we are told to worry about, including Weil’s disease from rat urine, decompose either in heaps, or on the soil surface through oxygenation and sunlight.
      It’s a big advantage of this approach, that compost is exposed to air and light on top of the soil. This is much healthier for dissipation of any harmful organisms, compared to the more anaerobic conditions when compost is dug in.

      1. Hi Charles
        Like you, I don’t have a dog at the moment, but I do have a visiting grandpuppy! I’ve tended to scoop up his poo and chuck it on the compost heap as he’s only hear occasionally. However I recently read something by Dave Goulson concerning the effects of chemicals used to deter fleas and to worm dogs on the insect population and this made me wonder if they would have a detrimental impact on the microbiobial life in the heap. I’d be interested to know your view on this.

        1. Interesting, worrying to a point.
          However I do trust the magic microbes of a compost heaps to break down a lot of this stuff, and if they can’t then we really are in the proverbial sh.t!
          For example the horses at my neighbour’s are given wormers regularly, and some people advise that the manure will not have worms in as a result, but I’m happy to say that we find a lot of worms in the compost, brandlings or Esenia foetida.
          I would keep adding the dig poo to your heap.

  22. Hi Charles,
    I have recently taken over a rather overgrown half allotment plot in Yorkshire. I am really excited about your method and thought the best place to start was compost. *As it is only half a plot but heavily covered in perennial weeds what is the smallest size compost heap I can use? I worry I won’t generate enough waste for a 3 pallet system but clearly need the heat to deal with bind weed.
    * I can either build this in the sunniest spot on one end of the plot or behind a hedge facing east at the other. How important is the sun in creating the heat for decomposition?
    Thank you.

    1. That sounds quite a project Kate!
      Compost heaps do not need to be in sunshine, and bind weed roots will die without heat generation as long as they do not have any light. It sounds like you need to source materials to compost from outside, other people’s wastes including coffee grounds, spent hops etc

  23. Hello Mr Dowding, this autumn I would like to build my compost heap. In your experience, what are the minimum dimensions for the sides to reach sufficient temperature for rapid decomposition?
    Thank you very much for your time and best regards.

  24. Hi Charles, I’ve recently gotten into gardening and think I’ve watched all your YouTube videos already. Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge with us. I’m curious as to how we might adapt no dig to vegetables or fruit trees grown in large pots or geotech felt planters.

    It would seem difficult to replicate the complex mycelium network in soil but would you know if there was a way to mimic this in large pots? Is it possible to create a mini-version within a pot that makes no contact with soil?

    With thanks,
    Denise (From Sydney Australia)

    1. Hi Denise, nice to hear your enthusiasm, and that is an intriguing question! I would suggest one of two things, one if you have some lovely local woodland, go and get a half bucket of soil from there, near the surface, and add a little to your planters, being sure to keep them moist afterwards.
      Or make a compost tea brew, aerated 24 hours (look up online) with best quality compost from yours or a local garden.

  25. Hi Charles,
    Any advice about “re-using” compost from pots, (originally a mix of shop bought “bagged compost” and home grown compost (and roots+++ 🙂 ), can I add it to the new compost bin within reason (I’ve three big indestructible plastic bins on rotation) , or some other action? Thanks

  26. Hi Charles! In love with all your methods. I’m north east USA. I get free horse manure/straw bedding mixture weekly and free fresh wood chips from a friend who has a business. I have a small tractor/loader to make and move piles. I started with letting manure piles sit over winter/summer turning once and then came spring added some green in and turned every few days. Didn’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds. Then I started mixing old sitting manure into fresh and adding greens and lots of comfrey and got well over 145F. I turn all piles every 3-5 days but it maintains temps over 120F for weeks. I try to keep moisture up also. My question is… I’m not sure if I’m adding enough of everything. If I have a pile of fresh manure (10 cubic yards say, which is my weekly average). And 4 wheelbarrows full of garden waste, do I need to add more or less? Or fresh or rotting chips into mix? And how do I know when I can spread and plant in?
    Background info: I am a small garlic and herb farmer with veggies also. I give produce to many families in area to help them. They in turn help me physically as I’m no spring chicken LOL Soil here is clay or silt depending on area. (low end of water table), I had to raise beds to obtain drainage and I laid card over paths with 4-6″ chips on top. In process of laying card over rows with 4-6″ of compost. Want to use 20 yards of compost for new rows this fall to plant garlic but not sure if that is wise as I can’t tell when it’s done or good quality. If this info is available in your classes, can you link me up? I just haven’t been able to decipher info. Thank you for any wisdom you have to share!

    1. Hi Cilenia, nice work.
      Horse manure with straw is already a good combination of green and brown, so you don’t actually need to add any garden waste to it. I would do only one turn as well, I see no advantage in all those extra turns and work. You should have compost ready to use within nine months, from horse manure plus straw and one turn and no other additions.

  27. Hi Charles, myself and a few residents in my area are planning to try and persuade one or more local coffee shops to give away their coffee ground waste to residents / community gardens / allotment owners for compost making, to get some circularity in the town’s businesses. I have, however, read that you have to be a bit careful with coffee grounds given their caffeine content. What would your advice be on this? (e.g. just add a little at a time?) Obviously don’t want to be setting up a system that is causing harm to people’s gardens and their eco systems potentially. Many thanks in advance!

  28. Hi Charles, Greetings from British Columbia, Canada. I have about 4 cubic feet of compost that would be called green waste compost ( made by the local municipal facility) . I have begun my very first compost pile using a 3 bay pallet system that you described in a video, thanks for that by the way. My question is whether it is advisable to mix the green waste into my home made compost as I make my new pile. I wonder if the green waste has been over heated, as you have described, as it is very black, not brown, and this would be a way disperse it . I also don’t have much woody bits in my new piles and this would be adding that component. One other quick question, do you consider freshly fallen autumn leaves (yellow and still reasonably moist and pliable ) to be a green addition or a brown one? We live on an orchard so leaves abound this time of year!!

    1. Hi Laura, sounds like you are in a nice place.
      You can indeed use that black compost as a ‘brown’.
      And the tree leaves are mostly brown, just that they happen to be moist.

      1. Thanks so much!
        Here’s hoping for ‘normal’ winter in the Northern Hemisphere for the sake of the many gardeners and farmers!

  29. Hi Charles:

    I would first like to thank you for being so generous with all your knowledge, expertise and years of hard work. It is like a breathe of fresh air and I have been re-inspired to garden again but in a total different way.
    I’m starting my compost using your method attempting to go hot and my largest source of material is weeds, grass clippings and raspberry canes, we have a raspberry farm.
    1. Are the grass clippings only considered green only when fresh cut and still are green in color?
    2. Are the stems of the raspberry canes considered brown and when I put the whole cane in the compost with both green leaves and stem is that considered 50 -50 green and brown.
    Thanks so much for your time it is much appreciated.

    1. Hi Glenda,I am happy to hear this and
      1 Grass is green whether fresh or dry. Is high nitrogen and little woody stem.
      2 Cane stems of current year and maybe 30 green to 70 brown, and adding leaves will make it 50:50 approximately. Be sure to cut or shred them, max 10cm/4in length, smaller if possible

  30. Such a revelation discovering No-Dig! All your videos are so inspiring and I’m now determined to have a proper go at compost making.
    I’ll shortly be getting large quantities of leaves arriving all over the garden. Mainly Sycamore and Ash. Can I add these directly to the heap or should they be shredded?
    Is it possible to use shredded white paper: post, circulars etc? (but not glossy, I assume.)
    Could a Builders bag (1cu m) be used as a “bin”?

    I live quite close to where Albert Howard was born.

    Many Thanks

    1. Hi John
      Nice to hear, and yes you can use those leaves in the compost heap. They will decompose more quickly if you can run a lawnmower over them to shred them. The paper you mention sounds very good, and none of it shiny, and a builders bag would work well. Line inside with card if you can.
      You are in a good place!

      1. I’ve been using builders bags as bins this summer and wonder how best to turn the contents. I’m hoping the bag will be flexible enough as the plant materials and horse muck rots down that I can manuipulate it via the handles. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  31. Hi Charles, like many people this year, I’ve suffered some blight with my tomatoes, and I possibly mistakenly put them in my compost heap. I’ve rescued a couple of plants but some I put in a few weeks ago and some tomatoes are still buried in there and I can’t really separate anymore. Would you advise that I dispose of the whole heap, or take the risk? There’s a good deal of warmth inside it at the moment so it’s working, but just not sure what to do.

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Ian
      It feels like I need to explain this one on every page of my website! Yes you can compost blighted material and well done for doing that, despite what almost everybody says, and almost everybody is wrong I’m afraid, which confuses so many people. Blight spores cannot survive in soil and Compost and yours is fine to use anywhere 🙂

      1. Thanks Charles, and sorry this comes up so often. I thought I’d heard you say in one of your past videos that it is ok, but got nervous when reading some comments on local growing groups! I’ll post your response to hopefully educate a few others too. Thanks so much!

      2. I think it’s the Americanisation of the world unfortunately.

        Americans get a lot of early blight which does stay in the soil and needs to be burned and they don’t really get late blight because it’s too hot/dry in most places. We obviously get the opposite but if people are reading American books or watching American TV then they will get the wrong idea and then tell everyone else.

  32. Hi Charles,
    I’ve just learnt how to make hot compost from one of your videos, unfortunately I have several tons of cold compost which contains lots of watercress seeds. Where I’ve used it on beds, it’s trying to take over, any ideas what I can do about that?
    Thanks in advance,

    1. I would spread it now, so the seeds germinate soon and then you can rake or hoe to kill the seedlings when just-seen, tiny, saves time pulling them

  33. Hello Charles,
    I have been engrossed in watching all your videos on making quality compost. I have learnt so much from you. I love your compost set up but I have a question as to how it works. How are the sides screwed in? I can see how the front is screwed in and can easily be removed. You have also mentioned that the sides can be removed so when the compost is relocated from one bay to the next it just needs to be spread over and redistributed. If the sides are screwed on the wrong side, you wouldn’t be able to access them. How does it work? Do you screw the planks of wood over the new bay to be filled with raw materials? This would mean the screws are exposed on the freshly filled bay with compost to mature. That would mean you have to make a pile away from the beams so you could fix them in place. I just can’t figure it out and want to know how it works before building our own similar system. Currently we use a big wooden frame in the chicken coop and once its full, we fork it into wire compost baskets with a plastic liner to mature.

    1. Hi Amy, and we do use screws, such as for the front planks simply screwed, then unscrewed as needed.
      The side wood is also screwed to the pillars on the left hand side as we look from the front.
      Then when starting the new bay to the left of the one just filled to completion, we remove the bottom screws of the side planks (on its right side) before they are filled over and lost to access.
      We have to remember to unscrew always, before any screws are buried!
      This allows the side wood (right side when looking from front) to be slid upwards when we want to turn the heap.
      Hope that make sense.

  34. Hello. What is the general ratio of green waste in to compost out, please?

    Many thanks


    1. I guess you mean green leafy material about two thirds by volume, and ‘brown’ materials including paper, soil, woody stuff one third.

  35. Hello,
    I have filled my compost bin recently and put some grass clippings on top that form black slimy cover. I would like to know how to use grass clippings in compost so they decompose well.
    Also i have found a lot of white shooting stalk mushrooms around the heap,some have caps but some don’t, not sure what fungi it is and could not find any image online to undetify them. Are mushrooms dangerous for my compost?
    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Dani.
      You can rejoice over any mushrooms you see because that suggests there are mycelial threads in your compost heap, evidence of fungal decomposition which is very healthy.
      The slimy grass is from lack of air and perhaps rain falling on it as well. You need something to hold structure among the grass and small pieces of wood are good, less than 10 cm long, also scrumpled paper could be mixed up with it.

  36. Hi Charles

    Do the nutrients for all your growing come purely from compost additions each winter, or do you also use liquid / other feed on certain plants? I’ve seen recipes in one of your books that I have for nettle/comfrey, and wondered if you use such feed on some plants. I’ve head many people say that additional, regular feeding is good for at least some of the flowering vegetables that turn into food.

    Many thanks in advance


  37. Hi all!

    I have a garden too small for a compost bin mostly used, I tried composting in a small black council bin (for collection) and have more green than brown waste and it’s filled up in 2 months. I also see lots of small flies have laid eggs and it’s crawling with smll white maggots. I am of the feeling that I should stop composting as it is not within my means till I move into a bigger garden or get an allotment. Shall I leave it out for the next council collection day?

    1. That is a pity but if you feel that way, it may well be best to do that.
      It needs to be something you feel enthusiastic about and have enough resources to make it work. The small flies and maggots are fine, all part of normal decomposition!

    2. Have you thought about a bokashi bin system? Its a way of using natural bacteria to acidify waste and almost pickle it. They can be used independently and the contents put into soil (admittedly not a no dig technique) every few weeks, where they then break down very quickly. I would be interested in Charles’ comments on bokashi. We use it for house food waste and then add to our normal compost bins.

      1. I see that bokassa is useful sometimes, but I do not like how it’s marketed with suggestions that you need to keep buying the EM bacteria, whereas you simply seed new waste with old acid wastes. And yes, don’t dig it in! Your method is better.

  38. Hi Charles, last season I tried to make compost form my vegetable garden. I made a mistake by putting some, for example, borage and phacelia flowers. Now my compost heap is full of seeds. Is there still a way to save my compost, like adding new materials to start the composting process again? I hope you can help me.

    Kind regards,

    1. Rick, you cannot heat that compost enough to kill the flower seeds. I would use it anyway except where growing say carrots & v closely spaced vegetables. Use trowel or hoe to scuffle weed seedlings, on any dry day (!)

  39. When you say any animal manure would that include cats? We use litter made from recycled paper if that makes any difference. And is there any weed/plant that you would not add to the compost?

    1. Normally Tish, one is using farmyard manure from animals which eat plants, such as grass.
      Cats and dogs eat meat and their manurew is quite different from that. Some people reckon it contains toxoplasma.
      If you can have a hot compost heap, that is where I would put it, it is still organic matter but needs some treatment

    1. Only if you are adding materials regularly, So that active decomposition is happening, which does not necessarily mean significant heat. I would myself edit and would check after a week or two that it is not regrowing.

  40. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for all the insights you’re sharing. I’m having a lot of fun going through your courses!

    As I’m about to start my beds, I got compost delivered which is 50% manure and 50% champost. While I was ensured it was ready to use, it still smells a bit and has a temperature of around 35 degrees centigrade.

    Would I be able to start using that straight away, or do I need to wait for it to cool down completely to say 20 degrees?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Ernst, glad you like the courses 😀
      35C is not too bad and if you have a few plants ready, I would pop them in to give you an idea how that compost is behaving. I expect that within a month it will be good to go, if not already. But results will definitely improve by late summer.
      Try making one bed with say a 5 cm layer or something like potting compost on top, to see the difference

  41. Hi Charles

    Firstly, thank you for all the quality information you provide, I have started this season, a no dig garden. In the last few days however, I managed to procure the use of a very substantial piece of land to use for free, which as far as I’m aware used to be a piggery (a very long time ago). My question is, the old open front barns are still full of old, very well rotted pig manure (several tonnes) some a bit dry and some very nice, since I’m on a budget to get this project going, I was wondering if I could use this as my compost? I am also waiting on 2 bulk bags of organic green waste, which I ordered for my garden before I had the use of this land, would it be best to mix this soil with some of the old pig manure and if so at what ratio would you recommend? I also ordered your grow diary over the weekend, I am looking so forward to receiving it. Thank you

    1. Cheers David. That sounds a great project!
      And absolutely fine to use that pig manure as compost.
      Also you can dilute it so to speak with the green waste, maybe 50-50.

      1. Thank you for your quick reply as I can appreciate you are a busy man. This has made my day and am glad I can use the pig manure, this will certainly help jump start this project. I would love to grow and supply organic vegetables locally, you have definitely been an inspiration.

  42. Hi Charles

    I’ve been making my own compost for less than a year, and realised that I have too many greens and not enough browns. I read that sawdust is a source of browns, and have been told that a variety of places in the London borough I live are likely to offer free sawdust. One place has told me it will be a mix of hard, soft and MDF wood, and wanted to check what you thought before I go adding it to my heaps.

    Many thanks


    1. Ian, I would not use any material with MDF waste, because of the glues in there. Normal sawdust in small amounts would be good.

      1. Many thanks Charles, I’ll be checking that carefully before I go adding any; likewise with regard to the amounts. I’ll also started adding some cardboard minus the sellotape of course.

  43. Thank you for sharing all your composting knowledge.

    I have loads of brandling worms in my compost which raises my question as to does it do any harm to use the compost with the worms still in it.



    1. I have brandlings in my older compost every year. Using the compost complete with worms has never cause problems, though I do harvest the worms themselves as fishing bait (they’re £15/kg to buy!).

  44. Hi. I live in the North of Italy and have an allotment that is exposed to the harsh fickle realities of the change in climate. An example is this year of hardly any rain in January- March, temperatures of 20° in early March where my plum, peaches, apricots and cherries all blossomed. Now temperatures have dropped to 2°, with cold winds during the night for the past 10 days and now freezing rain. Goodbye to fruit this summer.
    The plot is also exposed to strong winds of up to 80km for a few days at a time from October to January then the occasional blast of wind during the spring and summer months.
    I have read your no-dig website with great enthusiasm but I can’t see any plots lasting very long in the winter months with the wind. So I thought of digging at least 15/20 into the ground and building the beds into the holes dug. Would that work? A sort of big dig, then forget digging later!
    My allotment where I grow veggies has been covered up in winter with a weed control ground cover membrane (wcgcm) so there are few weeds but there are a lot of green areas full of the communal weeds.
    I am going to use the cardboard in a fairly protected area for asparagus which will hopefully be my asparagus bed.
    My neighbouring allotment user had the great idea of planting bamboo as a protection for his allotment. Unfortunately it’s evasive and has come through to my plot. Do you think the cardboard covered with plastic, or just plastic would kill of the bamboo or will I have to dig the roots out first? I have about 40m long by 0.8m strip of evasive bamboo again!

  45. Hi Charles.

    I’ve recently taken on an allotment half plot and am plodding away removing as many weeds (dandelions and dock mostly) as possible before removing the old wooden borders and mulching with cardboard.

    I inherited a compost heap which is nearly as tall as me in part because of the weeds and twigs that I’ve added in the last few weeks – and I literally can’t turn it. Any suggestions? I can’t really construct another heap, but would a plastic composter be ok as I’m a little limited on funds at the moment?

    1. Hi Morrey
      Sounds a big job. I reckon you could spread a lot of the compost from that heap. You need first to remove all the top and side materials which are less decomposed. Yes you could put them in a plastic compost bin, or four pallets tied at the corners and lined with cardboard.

      1. Thanks Charles. I’ve taken your advice and am starting small with around 3 beds in use so that I can finish prepping the other beds for autumn/late planting or next year if necessary.

        I’ve been looking at plastic composters like this one and was wondering if they are quicker in composting than an open heap and also if they are ok to be placed in sunlight as I don’t have much shade.


        1. If you have the space, using pallets lined with cardboard will be better, as those 330litre composters are really too small to work quickly.
          My compost bays are 1m cube & a bay started in late March is ready for spreading on my beds by October use old carpet/layers of cardboard to keep the rain off).

  46. Charles,
    Your videos and website are an inspiration in the last 18 months and growing my own at home has taken a real boost. A question for you as I begin my raised beds and no dig this year.
    My garden has a huge Eucalyptus tree which sheds large volumes of leaves, bark and twigs in late spring. Is it OK to compost these if I can get the compost hot enough? I am considering purchasing a hot composter to see if I can dispose of these brown materials usefully in the garden rather than putting in council green waste.
    I have heard that there are chemicals in Eucalyptus trees which inhibit productive vegetable growth. Would like to know your thoughts on this aspect.

    1. Thanks Elena. I would look to chop the leaves and woody bits as small as possible, to allow air into the cracks because leaves have oil on, which slows the decomposition. And I know nothing about how eucalyptus roots affect growth, but have seen good gardens near the trees.

  47. Charles,

    Thank you kindly for all of the information you provide. I recently moved to a larger piece of land for some privacy, and will be establishing my garden using no-dig principles. During my first 6 months, I managed to make a fair amount of compost. However, the compost was not finished breaking down before I created beds (though cooled off, it doesn’t resemble humus as this point…I’m thinking another turn and a few more months would have been prudent. Lesson learned).

    That being said, since the compost is still decomposing and therefore using nitrogen, is planting this year worthwhile, or a waste of good seed? Or should I focus on something like legumes this year (for example), since they are nitrogen fixing?

    Thanks for all of the inspiration and teachings! Good luck this growing season.


    1. No worries Eric, Compost does not need to be perfect when it is on top of soil because that mimics natural process of decomposition and when it is at least half decomposed, such as yours, it will be fine to plant into. I would make the most of the season with full cropping.

      1. Thank you so much for the quick response. I have a large variety of seeds started, so I will take your advice and transplant once they are large/strong enough to handle the planting. No matter the result, much will be learned (and hopefully lots will be grown and eaten).

        Kind regards,


  48. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for all the information and videos you share, it’s inspiring! I am in the Outer Hebrides and have a large plot of land next to the house which has been cultivated mainly for corn and sileage but traditionally, very limited use of fertilisers and mainly seaweed. I have twelve beds so far using the no dig method, but have now run out of compost. I had two trailers of fresh cow manure delivered and have made myself three compost piles using an old compost heap, manure and whatever green waste and cardboard I had left. I still have plenty of manure left, should I spread this across a new no dig bed and if so, could I plant veg into it, would potatoes be safe? Struggling for any green waste here at the moment as it still feels like winter!

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    1. Hi Phil, well done, and I would try that, will grow potatoes for sure, less probably than if ripe compost/manure

  49. Hi Charles,
    I have two bays on soil and wonder what my cycle of rotation could be. Zone 8a. Each pile for 6 months comes to mind.
    Do you see any problems with stopping to use bay1 in May, wait 3 months, turn and wait another 3 months to end its ripening cycle in November? This would turn one heap into a summer compost mainly and make the second one more of a winter compost. I kinda like the idea of having supplies of fresh compost in May to fill pots and Nov to replenish beds but the ingredients would be quite different due to seasonal changes in materials.
    Regards from Germany!

    1. Hi Marco, and that sounds absolutely fine, and the main thing is it fits with your garden system and how you want the compost and when

      1. Awesome, thanks for the swift reply.

        PS: I think I did a double posting here when I was looking for my post and could not find it. UK/DE time difference I reckon 😉 Feel free to delete the other one. Thanks again!

  50. Charles, having bought your book and watched countless videos, you’ve inspired me to 17m2 of raised beds in my garden. The beds needed to be quite high so will need approximately 35cm of filling.
    I don’t have any soil or compost already available.

    Do you have any advice on what to buy?
    My local supplier (JPR Farm Direct) can supply:
    * Screened topsoil
    * Matured cow manure
    * A soil conditioner (JPR Gold): “Produced from our Matured Farmyard Manure which is then blended to create a quality, peat-free, friable soil conditioner/mulch. Excellent for use on beds and borders. ”
    * A Border Mix which is created by blending Screened Topsoil with JPR Gold to produce a superb growing medium.
    Many thanks!

    1. Mature cow manure.
      I do not like the sound of the rest of those where they talk about ‘screened topsoil’, which will be dead material of variable and mostly lifeless quality.
      However you may need to put 6 inches of the soil at the base. It’s a problem with high beds that if you or when you fill them with Compost only, they sink quite fast

      1. Thank very much for your prompt reply, Charles. I’ll try to source some other soil for the base.

  51. Hi Charles
    Having just shredded a load of laurel into my compost heap, I see that in your Veg Journal you state that evergreen leaves cannot be composted. Does this apply even if they are shredded? On further investigation, I also see that Laurel has the additional problem of containing arsenic which will inhibit composting organisms. Do you think my compost heap is doomed to failure? Do you think I should try to remove it? I would be grateful for advice…

    1. Hi Tessa, I would not worry too much actually! Since I wrote that I have realised that a good shredding exposes sufficient surface to organisms which can decompose the laurel quite efficiently.
      Not sure however about arsenic, but my feeling is that these kinds of things are usually overstated, safety first etc

  52. Hi Charles

    Im about to embark on no dig over an existing weedy plot but with great soil. I have unlimited compost but struggling to get cardboard to suppress weeds. plot is circa 200m2 so rather a lot. Do you have any ideas of where to get bulk cardboard or if its needed if compost a certain depth?


    1. Hi Roger, it depends on what weeds they are. For example if couch grass and many perennial weeds, I recommend cardboard. If the weeds are less vigorous and maybe have been kept tidy, thus with smaller root systems, then just 4 inches/10 cm Compost

  53. This is all so helpful thank you!
    I am so sorry if this is already covered but the only/best place for our compost heap to go is underneath next door’s willow (about three-four metres away.) There is a ditch between the three and the compost heap too. I wondered if anyone knows about potential issues with willow roots or tree roots and compost heaps. I’ve read some tress go in search of nutrients and moisture. There is no lack of moisture in our garden. We are hoping to have a decent cover to protect from the top.

    1. Cheers Hannah and for sure for sure the willow roots will enter your compost heap and enjoy its moisture above all.
      This is not a problem because the heap is not there for very long, and you will simply cut the roots each time you remove compost

  54. Hello Charles,
    Can you help with my ambitious bed-conversion project?

    I’ve followed your advice in various ways. 2 years ago I created 2 large no-dig beds essentially by layering brown/green as I went for a summer and then covering with black terram fabric for a year – they have been beautiful to use and everything grew beautifully. I wasn’t sure, as the depth was only 6 inches, but it rotted down well. I’ve a new project and would appreciate advice.

    I’m covering an entire bed, about 10m x 7m, with compostable material. I’ve had the reeds dug out from my pond and am trying to fill the bed with them – it’s hard work moving them! Moved18 wheel barrows full yesterday and that is about 1/10 of the material I have. It’s covering the target bed to a depth of about 2 feet at present but of course will sink quite quickly. I have more than that but not sure how high to pile it. The reeds have a lot of brown material from last year’s growth, soft roots and come with a small amount of (non-smelly) silt. I’ve left them on the bank for some days and am now slowly shifting them in barrowloads to the bed. Also waterlily rhizomes and some iris rhizomes. The yellow flag iris is the only thing I think could survive and grow in the bed.

    Do you have any advice? It looks to md a reasonable mix of brown and green as it stands but I am not sure how it will go. I plan to use terram on top as I did before and leave it 2-3 years – it keeps it looking tidy and I can put pots of dahlias on it. I have access to garden waste, can probably acquire some horse muck, usually also add my wood ash.

  55. Hi Charles. Is it possible to start new compost heaps at any time of year? I started a heap 5 days ago with what I think is a well balanced amount of material but it is steadfastly refusing to warm up at all. Is it because the weather is too cold at the moment or is it because I simply haven’t got the proportions of brown/green correct? Many thanks

    1. Yes any time is good and at the moment you may be a bit short of fresh green material like new leaves, which make heat, so I would not worry at all. Your heap will probably heat up as you add more material. It needs a certain volume of material to make the heat so just keep going!

  56. Hi we recently moved house and now have a large garden with a veg patch and have decided to start the no dig adventure.
    My question is about compost, you mention that weeds can go in including bindweed however, we have a lot of ivy in the garden on flower beds and in shrubs that we want to clear so can we put ivy into the compost?
    We are investing in a shredder if they ivy was shredded would that make a difference?
    Many thanks for your time and advise.
    Regards Siân

    1. Ivy is a bit different because of the oils on its leaves which make decomposition very slow. Shredding would speed it up and it is ultimately a source of compost, just takes a long time, and will be faster if you can add any green materials like grass. Enjoy your adventure.

      1. Charles thanks for your reply.
        I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t grow in the compost and spread to the veg patch, so that good.
        Would the same be true for holly as well with regard to slow decomposition?
        Thanks Siân

  57. Hello Charles,
    Great videos, and course which I started today. Thank you so much you have made me so excited about this spring. I made a compost bin over lockdown in April for my very small garden. I realize now that I sent all my brown waste from the autumn tidy to the tip when I could have put it in my newly constructed bin. Nevermind! It is all a learning experience. After opening the bottom yesterday I noticed it being very dark and a few bits not being decomposed. I am sure I am being very naive, but my avocado stones are totally untouched by the decomposition process. I suspect I should try to crush them? Maybe I could simply bin them? What about the skin? Also, in the past I read somewhere that we could put egg shells in a compost bin but maybe that is another myth that needs to be debunked. Could you help clarify this? Many thanks in advance.

    1. Well done Sylvie, sounds fun, and yes avocado stones take years, unless a heap is warm, or you break them….
      Egg shells are fine to compost but also don’t decompose within one year. Then it’s still fine to spread them on your beds. Any woody material is better in small pieces, as far as is practical

      1. Fab, thank you for your prompt answer. I am keeping my newspapers too now to add to the mostly green waste we compost. Hopefully after a summer of growing vegetables I will have a nice balance of green and brown waste. I may also need a second bin as I will never be able to use what’s in my first bin if I keep on topping it up! So much to learn!

  58. Hello Charles,
    I’ve just discovered your website and am finding it very useful. I have a large garden with lots of grass which dominates all other possible composting materials in the summer months. Do you have any suggestions? If I leave a heap of grass cuttings, will it eventually turn into a usable compost or is it o good

      1. What if I can’t amass enough brown? If I leave grass cuttings for a year or two (or more?) will they turn into a useful mulch or compost?

        1. I should perhaps leave that answer to Charles, but yes, eventually that will absolutely turn to good compost. One turn of it after you’ve completed the pile will get it aerated and really shrink it quickly. You’re just encouraging different bacteria to colonize the pile, and they may get a little smelly and slimy at first, but that won’t last for long at all. Those are anaerobic bacteria, that can decompose organic matter when there is less oxygen around.

  59. Hello Charles,
    I am in Spain and I am starting my first compost heap made from meter square plastic pallets, which are much lighter than wood ones. I have a large garden with lots of pine trees and shrubs, the most prolific of which are Oleander. These are apparently very toxic and I wonder if you could advise me as to whether these could be safely made into compost. I have a chipper and the trimmings easily chip, but at this time of year I do have a lot of trimming to do. Also should I limit the amount of pine needles in the compost?

    I really appreciate your website and videos which have really inspired me, the result of which is a much rejuvenated garden!
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Deborah, nice to hear and toxic is a relative term. Not toxic to soil!
      So yes I will compost all that but it may take some time and pine needles are fine but same story, they take a long time to decompose.

  60. Hello Charles

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of experience and I find your videos calming and invaluable!

    My question about compost relates to oak leaves. We live on Vancouver Island on 8 acres of old pasture/grazing land which we are slowly beginning to garden. We have numerous old growth Garry Oak trees dropping tons of leaves and my husband loves piling them up! We accumulate so many leaves we are struggling to find a solution for the growing piles. I would like to compost them to use for our gardens and the local wisdom is to not even bother, as oak leaves “do not break down”. While i know they will break down eventually, I’m wondering if you have any tips on hastening the composting of oak leaves??

    1. Hi Chelsey and we use a rotary lawnmower to chop tree leaves, because they do break down when in smaller pieces. Mow them twice even, and I hope your husband enjoys that!

  61. Saw this report today about nutrition levels: ‘They use biointensive growing methods that go beyond organic, .. “Meeting minimum organic standards gives no assurance that the produce will be nutrient-dense,” they say. “The added dimension requires having available minerals in the soil in the right amounts and in the correct ratios, plus having an energized soil, with a soil food web that is alive and healthy.”
    I wondered if this ‘soil food web’ has anything to do with no-dig sustaining the soil’s flora and fauna?

    1. Thank you for this joanne, yes it is very equivalent to no dig, an active soil food web! I also agree about traditional organic which is pretty baseline.

      1. Excellent. I thought it was but was keen to have your opinion.
        On another note, following your clear video advice, I have started my first multi-sown veggies in modules on a homemade seed tray rack that just about fits on the windowsill of our heated conservatory. I am very keen to see how this method will steal those few crucial weeks to grow on later outside in our north-facing north Wales garden !

  62. Hi,
    Thanks so much for all of your fantastic advice and education!
    My question seems kind of pedantic in a way, but it is concerning me in taking up this approach this year… have responded to other questions here that you can plant directly into the compost layer, and that this layer only needs to be around 2-3cm thick. But most of the plug type trays that we use for growing seedlings are deeper than this – I have watched some of your videos with you planting out of such trays but I can’t quite work out if the plugs stand above the level of the surrounding compost…..and if so, is that a problem?
    Again, apologies if I am making it more complicated than it needs to be! I’d like to really totally follow your approach this year but this aspect is making me fearful. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
    Best wishes,

    1. Ah good and my plug trays the CD60 for example, are 1.5in deep modules.
      They do want to be snug in the compost. You can even plant them with the bottom through the cardboard layer below, if you are using cardboard, and I would only avoid that if the weeds below the cardboard are really strong. But even then you have enough compost for planting

  63. Hello Charles,
    when I make a new no-dig bed and put compost on top as mulch, can I then sow all seeds and plant all seedlings in the compost, also light feeders? Or do they die because of the nutrient rich compost?
    Thanks for your work!
    Best wishes from Germany

  64. Hello Charles,
    Thank you for your diligence and generosity in providing such important video content on composting. Coming back to gardening, after thirty years hiatus, I am keen on building compost this year with our newly started raised garden beds (4). We have nearly an acre total in land but have planted several trees throughout (total of fifteen). Two years ago in late May we lost fifteen old growth trees (mostly maples) to a series of tornadoes. The renewal effort to return lost trees has also renewed our efforts to return to gardening and tending to our bit of land. We are ever so thankful for your efforts and encouraging videos. We cut our yard and allow the mower to return the cut grasses back to the yard. Have not yet considered collecting it for the compost. That idea may change this year. Stay healthy and best to your continued successes with your gardens.

  65. Hi Charles,

    Greetings from Australia! I have a cool climate garden in the Blue Mountains about 2 hours drive from Sydney and because we’re so elevated our climate is actually not terribly dissimilar to yours in terms of average temperatures and rainfall so I’ve been learning a lot from your posts and videos – thank you so much for all the effort you go to! Our soils are much poorer than yours so I’ve been finding I need a bit more compost than your recommend (and of course also an additional surface mulch to deal with our summer heat waves and less regular rainfall pattern!) but otherwise it is surprising how readily your methods translate half the world away!

    I had a question for you about acidity/alkalinity in compost. The compost I buy in bulk and also my homemade stuff tends to be somewhat alkaline. Should I be worried about this or try to correct for it (by adding pine needles or pine bark, say, which are readily available in my area)? I get the sense you aren’t terribly concerned about this even though (as you say above) you add considerable quantities of wood ash to your winter heaps, which would tend to make them somewhat alkaline, surely?

    Thanks for any thoughts you might have about this!


    1. Nice to hear latin, from so far away.
      Yes I do not worry about pH, which is difficult to change, for those who want to. Small differences of compost pH, ash, wood chip etc are really not a concern in my experience.

  66. I am inspired by you, like so many others, to up my game on composting and no dig. Thank you so much for all you have put on the net. Its brilliant. I’ve been tinkering with compost making over several years resulting in very half hearted results, i.e compost that is more a weed distribution scheme than soil improver! So… can you say whether it will be ok for me to shove on the compost heap a whole load of rotting plant & shrub trimmings entwined with weeds which I normally leave in a heap near my bonfire and eventually burn them once things are a bit drier. It seems that as long as I exclude light from them they will eventually die? I am putting a tarpaulin over the heap to keep off the rain, which obviously will stop the light as well.

    1. Thanks Clare and yes fine, as long as you chop up all materials to maximum 10 to 15 cm, so that they can pack down in the heap and there is then more chance of serious decomposition. Clearly it won’t be hot at this time of year and a tarpaulin or cover over is an excellent idea, light exclusion! Best of luck

  67. Wonderful site Charles,
    In Autumn I put some (I thought) well-rotted horse manure on my raised beds here in Kent and – with all the damp weather – they’re now covered in Dung Cup mushroom – . What’s your advice? Do I try and pull it out or do I embrace their (ugly) presence and trust they’ll go as the weather warms and dries?
    Thanks, John

    1. Cheers John and maybe they are not so bad, all part of the decomposition process, if not pretty! I would leave them until nearer prep time in the spring, then remove any which are in the way

  68. Dear Charles,

    I found the article about how artificial nitrogen is stripping out organic from the soil absolutely fascinating. That along with destruction of the soil structure, making it anaerobic and unable to absorb water and then to top it all making it less able to actually absorb the artificial nitrogen being shoved into it. This is an absolute scandal and is an example of an activity which (and I don’t think this is too dramatic) is stealing our kids and grandkids future and lining up future famine. The research is 10 years old. I am going to look deeper into this, but do you have any updates on whether the soil scientists are telling the fertiliser industry they are killing the soil. Btw I live just up the road in Bristol and am about to engage in year 1 of the no dig odyssey after 8 years of killing mycorrhizal fungi like an idiot 😀. Your output has kept me going all autumn and winter. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Robert, nice that you wrote and interesting how you put it! You may well be right to phrase it so dramatically because it shows how we (generally) get used to things, such as plants ‘being fed’ with synthetic fertilisers, which is almost immoral.
      Big money is behind the fertiliser industry and money funds science. I don’t know of any further research but do keep us posted if you find some.
      I feel like I’ve spent my life promoting organic and lately more No-Dig, outside of the establishment, without much impact until recently. It is now force of numbers, us doing things not just talking (successful no dig!), which is finally causing some interest from even national media, in awful things happening.

      1. Hi Charles, I will certainly let you know if I can find out more. Within any industry there are always some who kick against the received wisdom, so I’m sure there must be further research out there. I’m looking forward to all the questions from my allotment comrades about what I am up to as I find most are 50+ and pretty stuck in their ways unfortunately, though I know one other person who’s doing it. I always struggled with getting enough compost, but I have discovered a reasonably priced community scheme and have been shipping it in all autumn and winter (cars a bit musty!). I think I’ve got a coverage of 3-4 inches and my plot was already reasonably weed free, plus I put down cardboard so looking forward to those early sowings in Feb. and getting them in the new look beds in March. I hadn’t done multi-sow before and that will be an exciting development and one of those suggestions where you think why hasn’t that been written in a gardening book. Again many thanks for all your videos and advice. It’s kept my brain active through this difficult time. Looking forward to joining in the no dig world in the mild west of England.

  69. Hi Charles,
    i am just starting out on the no dig experience! i watched your videos and made a few beds with very old horse manure and was able to plant straight away (broad beans in dec)
    My only worry is that the compost in remaining beds waiting for planting in the spring are still very black and heavy, the more i read the more i am concerned that the beds made with this need something extra to help break up the clods. What would you suggest?

    Many thanks Chrissie

    1. It should be alright Chrissie, because at this time of year everything is wet and soggy. Maybe the quality of compost was not brilliant but without seeing your site it’s hard to be sure but I would not worry, see how it looks at the beginning of March, maybe run a rake lightly through the surface to check.

  70. Hi Charles,

    I have been following you for a few years now and wondered if you might help with a compost dilemma?

    We have a no dig veg garden in front of our little house – it gives us approx 10m2 of growing space and means we have more space for small child to run around in our back garden. I started it after finding your site two or three years ago and it is amazing to have it.

    Our back garden is riddled with horsetail so we grow tomatoes and cucumbers in pots in our small £25 gumtree greenhouse. And we have a raised-bed strawberry patch and a few herbs. We use separate tools for the front and the back because we were warned of spreading the horsetail (the front doesn’t have it).

    We want to get into hot composting because want to make as much of the compost we spread on the veg beds as possible. If we use a purpose made hot composter bin and use the grass which is full of horsetail, will we spread the horrible stuff to our veg beds when we use the compost?

    Terrified beginner….


    1. Hi Ellie, all good to hear and I would not worry about the horsetail in Compost, it is not invincible to decomposition! Even bits of root will decompose, given enough time, but you are putting mostly top growth and that will actually add minerals to your compost!

      Plus a big advantage with No-Dig is that compost on the surface means that should there be any roots of perennial weeds in the compost, you will notice them while spreading the compost and can pull them out. Just keep an eye out. Most of the horror stories are from diggers who dig in the compost and manure, and they are not well informed horror stories, so stay calm!

  71. Hi Charles

    You got me into No Dig and never looked back. Thankyou!. I now have access to unlimited fresh manure with straw off a safe source ie no chemicals. What do i need to mis this with to ensure i hit the right heat and remove any weeds that are in it?. Issue is I dont have enough grass etc compared with tonnes of compost? Also I have access to tonnes of three year old manure but not sure it ever go hot enough. Its perfect looking but can I rid it off weeds in any way by recomposting?##Thanks!

    1. Cheers Roger and no, I would not even attempt to get it hot again now because you will lose a lot of microbes. Weeds are not the end of the world because they can so easily be pulled or hoed in dry conditions, when very small.
      I would spread the compost any time between now and early March, then you have time to hoe or rake before planting many things later. One thing I would not do is sow carrots or plant close spaced veg eg lettuce et cetera in March

        1. Fresh manure can compost on its own when there is a decent balance of fresh poo which is green in composting terms, and bedding which is brown. I can’t quantify the conmposition because there are too many variables, for example the type of bedding.

          1. Ah ok, understood. Thanks again. I still cant believe it took me 20 years to learn on No Dig. Having lived it for three seasons im totally converted!


  72. Hi Charles, I was wondering if it would be alright to use moldy straw in compost. Usually, people recommend against adding diseased materials to compost piles, but you mention it is safe, though I understand your piles are hot composted. I will add very rotten vegetables to compost, no problem. I bought some equine bedding straw for mulching the vegetables this year. I was only able to use a small portion of it before other things took priority over the garden. It was very clean at the beginning of the season but over the course of almost a year, I didn’t get to covering the bale from rain and there’s a lot of black I’m assuming mold all over and throughout the bale. Can I throw that into the pile or should I chuck it? It doesn’t seem to smell but I wonder if it’s not so good to breathe near it. My small, cold composted pile breaks down bad food molds pretty well with a few good turns and good green to brown ratios, but normally the stuff that goes in it is fresh, dry, or very minimally moldy, so I’m not sure how safe or even beneficial this stuff is.

    1. Hi Tiffany, thanks for your question and the good news is that mouldy straw, whether black or grey mould, also mildew on leaves, any diseased material is fine to compost! In fact it will compost more quickly because moulds and diseases are a first stage of decomposition. There is no need to worry about adding adding only-fresh materials to compost heaps, although that is also fine.
      The heap does not have to be hot for this the decomposition to happen safely, but it will take longer. Well done on your success so far!

  73. This is such a fasinating topic Charles. And so well covered for us smaller no-dig, no-till gardeners and growers to understand the ramifictions.

    Spreading compost as mulch keeps the carbon in the soil and gives us  great growing conditions when we spread it on our growing beds..

    There is a tradeoff.
    We can buy in compost materials and/or we also can make it ourselves. One is  an investment in money and one is in our time. Some of us have more of one  than the other. Some of us like a challenge.Making compost can be an investment in time, not money. I need more than I can make.
    Your article and  some readers comments made me reassess the amount of  compost that I could make.

    Thinking about my locale I can look at collecting  compost materials from:
    Greengrocers trimmingsFlorist’s waste productsHair from the hairdressers which could also be used as mulch and nesting materials for  birds which our pests down.Coffee grounds from the deliCardboard from the ironmongers, petfood shop, post office, gift shop and the above mentioned  establishments  They all have deliveries.Field droppings of horses, sheep in fields with public footpaths or farmer’s permission.Muck from pigeon and poultry keepers.Wood ash from  domestic heaters from people who still use them.
    Some places that get   bigger deliveries will have both black and clear plastic “shrouds”  as pallet coverings. that they give away. Garden centres, horse food establishements etc.

    I’m sure there are more compost and growing  resources that your many readers will no doubt share.

    1. Thanks Suella, and yes for me the best part is how one converts waste materials to something valuable.
      Thanks for your ideas!

      1. I’m hoping to get my thoughts as an article into the various local-to-me gardening groups I belong to. May I “borrow” some of your photographs to illustrate please?

        I thought these might be the clearest and the best:
        The thermometer
        The browns with some greens
        You with wheelbarrow emptying on no dig bed.


          1. Can do. They like the Browns and Green one best.
            Thanks for permission. I’ve sent it to I think 5 localish horticulture groups. I think I’ll send it on to the main U3A group editors in this area.

            Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

            I hope all your family and volunteers are keeping well.

  74. Hi Charles,

    I’ve been following your work for years as a city dweller who doesn’t have a garden, in the vague hope of one day being able to put it into action. The good news it that I have just been granted a small allotment! So what has been an intellectual curiosity is now turning into concrete action – I’ve been cramming lots of information from all your web content recently, as well as your How to Create a New Vegetable Garden book… Feels a bit like preparing for an exam 🙂

    Because I’m new to this and the site is small (8m x 8m), I’m not sure how much compostable material the site will generate so my plan is to trial one of the 330L dalek compost bins in year 1. I think is considered to be a cold composter, as it doesn’t fulfil the minimum one metre cubed criteria for a hot composter. Nonetheless, I plan to purchase an aerator to speed up the process. I appreciate that you advise that you can compost pretty much anything (diseased plant material, weeds, etc.), however because temperatures won’t get so high in the dalek I wonder if there is anything I shouldn’t compost in this situation (e.g. weed seeds)?

    I look forward to hearing from you and please keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. This is exciting James.
      Yes I would use something like a Dalek in your situation and they can still make decent compost for sure. I would indeed not add too many thousands of weed seeds! I wish you success.

  75. Hello! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, it’s impressive! I have access to worm compost and wonder if I can use it on it’s own to start a no dig garden bed. If not, what is the right percentage? Thank you!

    1. Hi Gaby, thanks, and yes worm compost is the royalty of compost so you are fortunate indeed. You could use it to make a hotbed but I think it would be better value spread as surface mulch over large areas.
      However by all means make a hotbed with worm compass it can be done! Or use it as a top layer, having put less superb compost below.

  76. Hi Charles
    This is our first attempt at no dig, so thank you for all the useful information.
    We made two new compost heaps on our allotment, which we were very pleased with. However, today I find that a rat is also very pleased with them and has made itself a nice home.
    Any advice on what to do – should we do everything in our power to get rid of it or should we allow him/her to turn over the compost for us?

    1. Thanks Jane, and I would not worry because they are not evil and are difficult to remove.
      See my latest video on You Tube, from this morning.

    2. Hi Jane, regarding the ‘rat’ issue, we found that building a compost on top of a sheet of rabbit wire fencing (as well as around all sides if making the compost from pallets) should keep them out.

  77. Dear Charles
    You have inspired me to make lots of compost as I have a lot of green waste to get rid of. I am following your advice as much as I can. My questions are; firstly, your compost bins have lids, how do they not dry out? Often when gardening for others I take a lid of a compost bin to find bone dry plant matter which is not decomposing. I always make sure my composts get some rain in the year and it rots down well.
    Secondly, I always have a wire mesh or thick layer of gorse at the bottom of my bins and never put things like bones, fat or very carbohydrate rich ingredients like potato peelings in yet I still find rats often move in. What do you do to stop rats?
    Best wishes

    1. You are going well Liz!
      Ah yes rats – I have no answer, they are there most of the time but also that interests a neighbour’s cat, who patrols, and they stay not too numerous.
      Perhaps the added materials are too dry, and not chopped so they sit on top and dry out. We chop or cut everything and tamp it down. Water only if lots of dry added at once, which can happen.

  78. Hi Charles,

    I’m wondering, do I must replace compost (take out the old compost layer) after a few harvests?
    Or just cover the old layer with a new one? (It makes the bed become higher).

    And my soil very solid (hard), If just cover it with a 2-inch compost layer, Can carrot trees grow well?

    1. Compost levels sink all the time as compost is eaten.
      We never remove any.
      Hard soil becomes softer under the compost surface, as organisms move up and down while feeding on compost. It can take a year with 2in compost before carrots will be long, other vegetables fine.

  79. Hello Charles,
    Very happy to have found your site!
    I live in Dordogne (France) and have many varieties of non-edible (maybe even toxic/poisonous) mushrooms growing in my garden. I hesitate to add them to my (100% organic) compost heap. However, I read above that you recommend mushroom compost. Do you think I could add these mushrooms to my compost even though they could be toxic to eat?
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Helen
      Nice to hear, and lucky you living in the Dordogne! I lived in Lot et Garonne.
      Yes I would add those mushrooms, they are not toxic for compost and soil!

      1. Many thanks for your reply Charles. I’ll add them from now on!
        Yes, we feel very lucky living here. Neighbouring Lot et Garonne is another beautiful area of France.

  80. Hi Charles!

    I’m currently working on making no dig beds for next year and I found a local source of green waste compost. The coop collects all food waste and yard waste, including cooked meats and dairy, turning it all into compost. The smell is peculiar and not what I expected and I’m wondering if it smells different because of the variety of materials. It’s not that earthy, mushroom-y, forest floor smell that I expected. My first impression was a chocolatey smell and it does smell somewhat like dirt, but it also sort of smells like garbage, which in a way, I suppose it is garbage. Doesn’t smell of ammonia or sulfur or anything like that.

    Anyway, I wonder if you’ve encountered various smells in compost? I’m concerned that maybe this compost isn’t of great quality. Thanks for all the great information. I’m thrilled to be starting a no dig garden.

    1. Hi Dan and this sounds unusual, however from what you describe it sounds fine to use.
      There is something miraculous about the transformation of waste to compost and then the older it is before use,, the more similar each batch becomes.
      I expect this is still a little ‘fresh’, but should be ok to use now as it will continue to ripen in new beds through the winter, and be ready for spring.

      1. Thanks for the response! I wonder if I could bother you with one more concern that has come up. Have you heard much about Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in composts? In researching compost, I have been made aware that certain disposable dishwares labeled “compostable” can contain these substances, named “forever chemicals,” for their inability to break down. They are designed to repel grease and oils in food containers and can accumulate in the plant tissues and subsequently the human body. Apparently the substances disrupt hormonal functioning in the body and has been linked to a variety of ailments including cancer.

        The site where I picked up this compost allows for certain restaurants to deliver some of these products to be composted. I’m just not sure whether to scrap the two cubic yards of compost I’ve imported or to go ahead and use the compost.

        1. Does not sound good, buddy. That mixture will for sure have non-organic food scraps which will be your choice to recycle in your body. But then, not everyone can be a purist, so some people are destined to overlook that concern. In my opinion, if I am making compost, I will make it from the best, organically grown plants or bought food that I can and then I know I am not consuming someone else’s growth hormones, headache pills or anticonception chemicals.

  81. hi Charles,

    I’ve composted ever since having a garden as a teen, so like a million years ago. One thing I noticed watching your videos is the quantity of life in your piles. My piles average 4x4x4′, heat up to 140-150 degrees, and are for the most part properly moist. The outer edges of the pile are a bit dry. When I designed the bins, I used a plastic coated metal fencing for the sides with 4×4″ posts being the support for the cube, working with the idea that the open to air sides would allow the pile to break down aerobically rather than anaerobically. I use a tarp to cover the top of the pile and prevent evaporation. From your videos, I’ve been using cardboard for the tops recently hoping that attracts more life. The pile that I have sitting to age, I’ll see an occasional centipede when I move the carboard, The center of the pile is warm but not hot, maybe like 90 degrees F. The pile is moist. But the outer edges are dry when you look through the fencing. With the next pile I build, I’m going to try standing some cardboard up in the bin along the sides to reduce exposure to the air and increase moisture.

    Wondering if you might know of any other ideas why I’m seeing limited signs of life in the pile that’s sitting for spans of months?


    1. Not an expert here but what I have noticed in one of my heaps (which is a big heap on the ground)- in the centre where it is hot, (but presumably not too hot … don’t have a thermometer yet) are a lot of woodlice. However, this core tends to be very minimally moist, bordering on dry. Is your core perhaps too moist for creatures like woodlice? They seem to like it only where it is quite warm … I don’t find them in the cooler periphery. I have another pile that I have watered more often, bordered by pallets) and I have not seen woodlice in there yet … just annoying flies after manure.

      Speaking of wildlife, yesterday I was breaking down clumps of compost in the wheelbarrow with my hands when I found myself about to squeeze an enormous toad (looked pregnant). What a fright the poor thing must have had. I need to watch it with that fork!

      Happy composting.

      1. Hi Janika,

        I don’t think it’s too moist. It’s as wet as a sponge or normal compost. Outer edges is drier of course. I actually dug into the pile to add some to a raised bed and the pile is not hot at all. As I said, this pile has heated twice and is in cold pile stage where I let the pile sit and further break down.

        Just realized that I don’t see any micro-organisms, creatures, insects, etc in the warm piles either. I wouldn’t expect to see them in the hot piles, but I thought the cold pile would be a perfect place for micro-organisms to live.

        I’m going off Charle’s compost videos where he pulls back the cardboard and there’s a ton of insects, worms, critters actively running around his pile.


  82. Hi Charles – after years of producing anaerobic muck, I discovered your wonderful website and have a new approach to making compost, and to no dig gardening. I live near Toronto, Ontario and use a council-style bin. I’ve obviously had a poor mix of material over time, and the important addition to my process was a garden shredder to increase the volume of small browns (woody prunings are the dominant brown in my mix). Two weeks into the new system, I have a regular temperature of 50-55C in the centre of the pile, which is only around 40 cm in height. The temperature drops off steadily towards the edge, but I’ve never had that sort of heat before.

    One Turn Compost and No Dig Gardening – fantastic stuff!

      1. One question for you – I haven’t seen anything on your site regarding coffee chaff. While there are claims online that it is both carbon and nitrogen rich, the more credible seem to be that it is a green. I have a local coffee roaster that is happy to give it away by the bag, and it is unusual in that it is a dry green. Do you have any views on using it?

  83. Hi Charles,
    Having got into gardening and your no-dig methods during lockdown, having some successes and a lot more in the way of ‘learning points’, to put it kindly, this weekend I tackled the forlorn contents of the compost daleks we inherited when we moved in to our house in North Somerset 11 years ago. We’d fed them some kitchen waste the last couple of years, brambles, twigs and grass cuttings but being a bit clueless generally neglected them, not entirely sure what to do with the strange mix of half-de-composted, smelly, wet stuff inside. A recent inspection revealed that a nearby bamboo had snuck in and set up a hefty root system inside and there was a mass of flies having a feast on the foody contents.
    Armed with your YouTube channel, a couple of your books and eager reading up on your methods, and a better appreciation of this marvellous thing called compost, I’ve now lifted the daleks, sorted and turned the contents, re-mixed them with a lot more browns, air, adding a smidge of moisture to some dry layers and re-filled two of the bins in a proper layer cake. I’m feeling very pleased with my efforts and become a home composting fan – thank you!
    I’m hoping you can give me your advice please, firstly on when to give the bin contents their first turn. I’m thinking it’s Sept now, so maybe 6-8 weeks, or is that too soon? And then, assuming I will be doing most of next season’s outdoor sowings from about March/April onwards, would it be ok to spread the not-yet-ripe, and probably gone-a-lot-cooler compost onto the seed and transplant beds in Dec or Jan, ahead of those plantings? I’m thinking it could act as both mulch and soil enricher as it continued to compost. Or would it be best to leave it all in the bins until just before sowing, to finish the process? Does it make any difference?
    Oh and – one last question – (sorry for being cheeky) – do you include green kitchen waste bags in your compost?

    1. Nice to hear Rachel, sounds thorough.
      Yes time is short and I would spread contents say December, without a further turn. Break up any lumps while doing that.
      I find those green bags slow to degrade and suggest lining a compost bucket with paper to keep sides mostly clean, it’s what I do here

  84. Hi Charles, do you know whether the increasing amount of plastic packaging that specifically says it can be home composted (not industrially composted) is suitable / a good idea to put on the compost heap?


  85. Hi Charles.

    Thank you for your very helpful website and wisdom.

    We’ve just moved to a new house in Somerset – so same climate to yourself.

    The previous owners had a large growing bed which we plan to grow on using the no dig approach. Nothing has been grown on the plot for over a year, possibly even longer as the house was empty.

    There is a lot of self made compost here, but we don’t know how it was made or the quality of it – it looks great fine and a nice colour. I hope to follow option 2 and use this compost to cover the growing beds in 15cm compost and paths with cardboard. Should I also buy cow manure? Or will this compost be enough?

    Look forward to hearing back, thanks in advance.


    1. All sounds good Claire, and I would use that compost only, if there is enough of it.
      If you notice many tiny green leaves of weeds, say oil autumn after spreading, use hoe or rake to disturb them, lightly. Two or three times.

  86. Dear Charles,
    I am looking at covering de-weeded ground with black plastic until Spring. I am not intending to plant until then. Can I put fresh pig manure (straw heavy – I can get for free) underneath or should I invest in mushroom compost to go underneath and rot down the manure for a year?

    1. Hello Charlotte, sounds organised and with 7+ months until planting, it’s feasible to spread some of that manure, say 2-3in, because it will feed worms and soil life while the ground is covered, should mostly “disappear” by spring, then pull back poly and spread a little compost.
      Nice project.

  87. Hi Charles
    Please advise . Can I use my old compost which is brown and still has leaves and small pieces of manure , sugar cane mulch, small sticks and some Lucerne which has not broken down completely and has dried out ? This was my first attempt at composting
    The pile about 0.4 cubic meter originally got up to 65c ,turned it a few times and then it cooled it’s about a month old. Can I Put this Into my new bin which is 1cubic meter as i need more material ? Will this old stuff still allow the new pile to heat up and is it a brown ? I will also be adding a new batch of dry winter leaves to it.
    Also, what thickness layers do you recommend?
    Kind regards

    1. Hi David, I would spread the 1 month old compost as mulch, now. Soil organisms will enjoy it.
      And it would indeed slow heating of your new heap, which will have enough brown with those winter leaves, which I would mow first to “shred” them, so they decompose more quickly.

  88. Hello Charles,

    Matthew, North Somerset.

    I just got started in my garden at the beginning of lock down. I have found your videos to be entertaining and educational (Edutainment?). Your written lessons are a great resource. I’m working on generating my compost now, ready for next season. Lots of landscaping happening and my back is killing me (please develop NO-DIG landscaping….please?) I am currently working on a 3-bay compost bins made from recycled from pallets. I have the whole cul-de-sac collecting green waste for me. I know i will need a lot of compost so I will be in the local parks filling bags with leaves in the Autumn. I also have well aged horse manure available.

    I never really took interest in my garden until this year. Something clicked inside me this year(not my back thankfully) I was really lazy, always looking for the shortest, quickest and least amount of effort. Often I just left it to mother nature. My reward? Weeds. Couch grass and Blackberries. Lots and lots of Blackberries. Lesson learned quickly. Lots of lacerations from the thorns(serves me right).

    Living in the same climate as you makes your garden timelines easier to follow.
    The No-Dig philosophy has got my attention. I’m going to be a very busy bee over the next few years but i dont fear the work ahead anymore. I really am great-full for you guidance. Its helped me fall back in love with being outside again.
    I have the likes of yourself, Lovely Greens, Epic Gardening, Gardener Scott and Self Sufficient me to thank for the great encouragement.

    Thank you.

    1. How lovely to read this Matthew. It warms my heart that you are feeling good about all this “work”, which is of course the wrong word, yet can also be a good word in its best sense.
      Which is that it’s fine to be creative alongside natural principles.
      Even the landscaping, because it’s a one-off job 🙂

  89. Good morning from the Algarve in Portugal, here I can growth most anything outdoors providing the plants get plenty of water. Sadly that is also true of the dreaded weeds. So the idea of producing compost which is virtually weed free is very interesting. It rather detracts from the pleasure of producing your own produce when you need to spend a lot of time on your hands and knees pulling out weeds. Just about all the ingredients you use are available here. You mention that it´s not good for compost to be too wet as this excludes the air, however, here during the summer when we have little or no rain (we last had rain here back in April!!!) is it a problem if the compost is too dry? Should I perhaps be “wetting down” the heap occasionally just to keep a little moisture in the heap? The bins I´m making are circular about 1mt diameter and 1mt deep constructed from wire mesh which is then lined on the inside with a woven weed guard to stop the material falling out through the mesh. Your thoughts would be most welcome. Kind regards Stephen

    1. That sounds good Stephen and yes, you need to wet the heaps in summer, unless most materials are fresh green leaves, which I doubt!
      If you are not no dig already, you will enjoy the reduction in weed growth.
      And even if compost has weed seeds, they are easy to hoe or rake when tiny tiny, so they die in situ.

  90. Good Afternoon Charles,
    Debbie from the U.S. My husband and I are beginner composters and I have seen your wonderful videos on the no dig method. Absolutely fascinating! My question is, we have mint growing in a couple of our borders that has gone to seed. Can something this invasive be properly composted?

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Debbie and Randy

  91. I have taken on a garden that has two compost bays that have concrete bottoms. Taking them out would be incredibly hard as they are attached to the side of a shed and share the same base. Before reading your articles, which I am now avidly reading and watching, I put in mostly 1 year old horse manure, which was in a huge pile and quite wet in the middle. I have now added paper and cardboard, although probably not enough as there is not a 50 50 mix at the moment. I have way more poo available but not so much brown!
    This lead to two questions:
    1. Any advice on what do differently as my bays are not on soil?
    2. Should I take out some of the horse manure and add more browns for a better mix? I can probably source cardboard.
    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Marie, and yes the concrete base is a pity, but can work as long as it’s sloping, so that excess water will drain out.
      Hard to assess your manure question but it may be ok if no new rainfall enters. Or yes paper and cardboard may help, or make holes with crowbar.

  92. Hi, we have just taken on a large allotment which hasn’t been worked for 6+years. It is covered with willow herb and groundswell + a few stinging nettles/Bindweed. We are clearing the site ready to cover – plan to do no dig. I have made some pallet compost bins 1.2×1.2m and was hoping to compost all the weeds. My concern is that most have gone to seed. Some are dry/brown (we have also Pulled some and collected Into piles which have dried in the sun.
    My questions- is it ok to compost mainly weeds especially if heavy in seed? I am unsure re: mix of brown/green – if they have turned brown/dried in sun – are they brown? If half brown but top green are they a mix?
    Do I need to add anything else to the pile?
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Charlotte, yes you can compost those weeds, but only if they are chopped fine enough to pack down (say lawnmower), then watered. They sound about half green half brown.
      If you had a mower there, some fresh grass cuttings would speed it all up.
      Many seeds will remain but it’s still good compost, would need hoeing after spreading, or use at bottom of a new bed.

  93. Hi Charles,
    I’m a fan of all your youtube videos.
    I have recently been approved to have a polytunnel on my new allotment. Can ‘No dig’ apply on a Polytunnel with a floor covering? Thank you Caroline

    1. Hello Caroline. No dig is brilliant in polytunnels, in exactly the same way as outside.
      I don’t know what you mean by floor covering and hope it’s not gravel or anything not organic material – don’t do that. Tunnels are not sheds.

  94. Hi Charles
    I asked (on one of your YouTube videos I think) about using large amounts of shredded cardboard & your answer gave me food for thought.
    On reflection, I’ve decided to conduct an experiment, as I also, currently have an overabundance of grass clippings (300m² of lawn over two properties).
    I intend to mix the (mostly brown, corrugated & shredded to 50mmx5mm) cardboard into each weekly harvest of clippings in a builders merchant’s, 1m³ porous “dumpy” bag, aiming for a “not too wet, not too dry” mix, keeping the bag under cover from precipitation.
    It’ll be interesting to see if I can produce a viable compost from these ingredients alone.
    If not, the resulting product can always be added to my regular bays next year.

    1. I’ve found those cubic metre builder’s bag or ‘dumpy’ bag as you call it makes a great worm-composter – I bought two last year for that purpose as an experiment.
      Two things I’ve tried so far both worked really well:
      1 – the contents of a Hotbin – quite well rotted but still lumpy and sometimes a bit too wet. Worms love it, much more than purchased ‘wormeries’ and feeding them straight kitchen waste which they don’t like nearly so much. I find they prefer to be the end of a natural chain!
      2 – because I had an excess from local businesses, a 50/50 mix of wood shavings from a furniture maker (not MDF) and coffee grounds, worms added. They were also very happy in this, and between autumn and spring turned it into an unrecognisable blend of pure worm compost.

      I think these bags make great impromptu composters and worm holders. They seem to allow drainage, they can be moved around, instead of turning you can haul up a corner or side and give it a shake (or turn the compost within it). Worms seem to like the environment – I’ve had them escape containers they don’t like, especially plastic. Plus they can become ‘storage’ and your finished product can sit there till you’re ready to spread it.

  95. Hi Charles, growing food and following no-dig for the first time this year, and found your books , videos and on-line advice of enormous help, as well as really enjoyable, so thank-you. Few questions have started popping up, if I may. If wood chip is ok as a mulch but not in roots then is it ok to put annual spreading of 50mm compost on top of wood chip mulch each year? Does it rot down in time?
    Also, what plants do / don’t you suggest cutting at the base when harvesting and leaving in the ground? (broad beans I know)
    Many thanks!

    1. I never suggest laying wood chip with compost over.
      I don’t recommend wood chip mulch for beds either.
      Cut or twist any plants, no rules on that, most roots stay in, it’s question of time avialble too.

  96. Hello

    In a week or two I plan to trim my hedge, removing all the years fresh sprouts. My hedge is made entirely of arborvitae. I haven’t been able to find a clear answer to this – Can I compost the trimmings?
    If yes – is it green or brown? Any advice is welcome!

    Jakob, Sweden

    1. Yes if the prunings are say mown into small pieces, and not more than about a quarter of the total material to compost

  97. Hello Charles,

    I have just came across your website and youtube channel. We have a big garden with fruit trees mostly apple,plum and pear and in these days we get a lot of fruits falling from the trees. I wonder if I may put those fruits in the compost?

    Thank you so much for your kind interest in advance.

    Didem, Sakarya Turkey

    1. Hello Didem and yes I would. They will decompose more quickly when you add also plenty of other materials.

  98. Hi Charles,
    I have made some awesome compost bays based on yours and we have started filling and I have some questions. The back of my bays and the sides of the ends are corrugated iron, and the in-between walls are rubber sheets.
    – Across the internet, it says the best compost ratio is 25:1 C:N but I’ve read on your website you do 1:1. Can you explain this?
    – I am unsure about adding normal soil? We have some pots that have plants that died (sunburn) and I would like to add them. Can I do that?
    – I saw that you add woodash. How does this impact the C:N ratio?
    – Finally, should put sticks or something as the base layer for drainage?
    So excited! Thank you, Georgia, Australia

    1. Sounds good Georgia, well done.
      There is confusion between C:N and brown:green, not the same, I use the latter.
      It’s often quoted as 32:1 parts carbon to nitrogen.
      Which is pointless to most people as they/we don’t know how much of either is in anything!
      It’s practice and trying things. Half and half is approximate: more brown just takes longer to compost. Wood ash and soil count as brown, both can be added.
      Sticks at the bottom makes no difference in my experience. On soil is good.

  99. Hello Charles. I recently had delivered to my allotment a large quantity of organic material. A tree surgeon trimmed branches a few days ago from a very large Atlas Cedar at the back of our house and also cut down a small, dead pine tree (not sure of type). All the branches from both were put through the surgeons grinder and he kindly dropped off the entire batch to my allotment, all 26 heaped barrowloads!

    I’m now wondering what I can do with this organic material. I have plain dirt paths (with lots of weed seeds ready to germinate when it rains!) so my first plan is to put down cardboard and then a few inches of my new material as a mulch. My second plan is to use some of it in my new wooden-pallet compost heap.

    However, before I make what could be a costly mistake, I wondered what your view would be on using the material for both of the above tasks, bearing in mind it’s exclusively conifer wood/bark/needles and, perhaps more significantly, has a very large quantity of the fresh needles from the cedar. I reckon I’m fine for the path: cedar apparently (from googling!) takes longer to degrade and also slightly inhibits germination/growth of anything underneath – both of these would be advantages for paths! Not sure about using it in the compost heap though due to the time to break down, maybe I should instead put any left over from the paths in a separate pile that I leave for a year or two to break down on it’s own before using as compost?

    I thought hearing your view might be useful for others as well as myself as it’s becoming clear that it is a low cost (or free) source of quite large quanitities of organic material – only problem is that you take whatever the three surgeon has been working on that day 🙂

    Thanks in advance for any feedback you might be able to provide.

    Ian Bennett

    1. Yes Ian a free resource, needs care to use.
      Can be used fresh on paths but not say more than 2in/5cm deep, unless you have wooden sided beds.
      Use very little in a compost heap, best heaped first to decompose for a year, moist if possible, then if possible run a lawnmower over small batches to chop it further before adding to a heap, say 10% by volume.
      More details in online course 1

  100. Hi Charles,
    My allotment and others on our site have been contaminated with herbicide in the horse manure sold and delivered to us from a local farmer, he claims never to have heard of aminopyralid which I find pretty unbelievable. All my tomatoes ,potatoes ,beans and flowers are badly affected ,corn, pumpkins appear untouched. What I need your help with is can I put any of the plant material in my compost bin or do I have to dig it into the soil to try and break down the herbicide.
    Thank you from one very unhappy gardener.

    1. Ah Gail this is so sad.
      The farmer’s product package has a description that he should not sell or give any products treated with this poison.
      But who reads labels small print? Its
      It’s not legally enforceable.
      Leave it on top for microbes to dissipate the poison, better than digging it in, which kills microbes!
      If pumpkins are ok, dose may be small.
      See July post on my site for emails to report this. Everyone must report it.

      1. Thank you for your reply, l have read your post and reported the contamination,shall encourage all plot holders to do likewise.

  101. Hi Charles

    We’ve been looking at starting a compost at home, but we have a mouse problem in our yard and sometimes in our garage, we’ve mostly managed to keep them out of the house. This has really discouraged my parents, since we have long, relatively cold winters. My parents don’t want to create a warm habitat for mice throughout the winter and potentially attract even more mice than we already have.
    Any suggestions would be very appreciated.

    1. Hi Maddie, can you see what the mice are eating in your yard? There must be a reason for them being there, perhaps you can remove it.
      Or set mousetraps.
      They would not necessarily live in new beds, if no food.

  102. You make composting look like an art form 🙂
    Very excited to get my compost cooking as my garden flourishes without the spade. Question : Is hay considered green or brown? It is not as stiff and dry as straw, yet does not behave as most green components. I have a couple xtra bales of hay so have been using as brown.
    Thank you for all your inspiration and expertise, and for all the videos that archive your success with the keeping the entity of the soil undamaged. So very logical. All blessings*

      1. Thanks Charles. I have been adding aged wood chips and wood ash from our wood stove for more brown since finding out the hay is more toward neutral. I have a question about what green materials are ok to add to the compost. I recently cleared out an area which is woodland edge (Pennsylvania, USA). The pile of green materials include Virginia creeper, cinquefoil, goldenrod, ferns, stiltgrass, creeping Charlie, creeping loosestrife, and a small amount of poison ivy. Can this all go into the compost? Should I remove the poison ivy? Or would it be best to just move the whole pile into the woods and let it decompose there? I am hopeful to get usable compost for my garden this next season and do not want to jeopardize quality with questionable wild additions, although it seems green is green regardless. Thanks again for sharing your experience and knowledge. Be well*

        1. Thanks Cheryl.
          Yes green is green, whatever its origin. I would add those materials to my heap. Chopped up if long and slightly woody stems.

          1. Oh, wonderful! As I eyeball the pile sitting in the yard, it seems a bit disrespectful not to honor all that formerly vibrant life with the opportunity to be “reborn” as nutrient dense material to feed the garden and us 🙂 Since it is very wet – we just got a real soaking here on the east coast – would it be best to let it dry a bit before moving it over to the compost bin? I suppose I could add xtra paper and drier brown to make balance. Thanks! This is getting exciting!

  103. Charles
    I’ve been refreshing my knowledge on compost heaps by reading my notes from the weekend workshop and re-reading this page on compost making. All very helpful. A couple of questions:
    1. I grow quite a lot of tulips and other plants in pots – mostly using potting compost – when I need to repot is it OK to put the spent compost in my compost heap?
    2. I seem to recall that you thought that the reason my compost was a bit weedy was that I had quite a lot of soil in the heap? Am I right about this? Should we try to exclude all soil or is a bit OK?
    3. I still have a couple of compost heaps that have quite a lot of soil in them – would it be best if I avoided using this on my No Dig beds?
    Otherwise all going well on the No Dig front. I’ll send some photographs soon………

    1. Well done Emma.
      1 You can use such compost as mulch on beds
      2 Weed seeds in soil, probably yes and use say 5% max of soil or less if heaps not hot
      3Fine if you can hoe before planting. Fine to use for new beds as bottom layer.

  104. Hi Charles I have made a mistake and put all the bindweed waste that I dug on my allotment in my small round council style compost bins. Your article says it won’t get hot enough to kill it. Should I abandon it all to the councils garden waste collection and start again? Thanks

    1. Hi Fiona – the roots will die in the end if kept dark and more stuff is repeatedly added over say a year. It does sound a big hit!
      I would persevere along those lines. When eventually you spread the compost, if you maybe see some white roots. just pull them out to recompost.

  105. Thank you so much for your website and videos, you are now my guru. I’ve just bought three of your books and can’t wait for them to arrive.
    I have never been successful making compost but now I will definitely put more thought into it.
    I only have the Council plastic bins (4 of them) and have an almost inexhaustible supply of weeds and old tree leaves. The weeds are mostly dandelion, docks, nettles and comfrey.
    Would it be okay to mix these weeds with the brown leaves if I cut off the roots and any seeds.
    Many thanks

    1. Thanks Margaret and that sounds promising, enough to fill all those bins even, and put everything in including weed roots and seeds.
      If any weed roots survive, you just pull them out while spreading the compost.

  106. Hi Charles,
    I have started composting with the view of creating a no dig veg garden over the coming winter (North England). Would like your advice regarding making compost as batch production please.
    My grass cuttings normally amount to around 20+ wheel barrow loads every two or three weeks in the warm, wet spring months which I mix with a heap of chipped woody material (old branches and hedge trimmings) and old Barley straw. The heaps I create amount to around 2m x 1m x 1m which I then cover with plastic but I fear its own weight is causing compacting issues at the bottom of the pile. It heats up quickly and maintains its heat but often dries out; I keep adding buckets of rainwater and have turned one heap about 6 times in 3 months to find material either dry and dusty or matted together.
    Is batch production suitable for small scale gardens or should I withhold separate materials and add small amounts but more frequently? Am I right in adding water?
    Many Thanks

    1. Grass has loads of moisture so this is strange, hard to diagnose remotely. Maybe your layers of grass are too thick, a little at a time of all ingredients is good. Water at that pint if using say dry straw.
      Extra turning is not worthwhile.
      Perhaps you are aiming for too-perfect compost, I would spread on the garden at 6-10 months and after one turn.

      1. Thank You for your reply.
        I shall try and refrain from turning (curiosity of whats happening underneath is hard to resist) and just keep adding small amounts.

        1. Hi Charles,
          Been watching your videos with interest. You are inspiring! Your books are now on my Christmas list. I have a medium size London garden with 3 compost bins I made out of pallets, lined with chicken wire. My composr quantity has been underwhelming. I use mainly kitchen scraps, pruning, paper and cardboard, and occasionally spent hops and horse manure from a local micro-brewery and stables. I only ever manage to produce enough compost to cover 3 veg beds, which is disappointing. In a 3 bin system should I be filling the middle one first, then turning it into bin 3 and filling bin 1? Also, I am covering my bins with old weed surpressing membrane. Is this ok or should I use polythene or plastic as you suggest. Anything else I can do to increase my supply?
          Many thanks in advance for your help.

          1. Cheers Ali and perhaps you can find more wastes locally, to increase the volume, such as tree leaves and coffee grounds.
            Maybe line the bins with cardboard to retain warmth and moisture, and cover with polythenes/plastic/sheet of metal or whatever, to keep out excess rain, perhaps not all the time.

  107. Hi Charles
    Firstly, your videos and website have been an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge.
    I thought I would try making some compost. I live on a ranch with access to lots of cattle manure and chicken manure. If I use 80% manure as green would my compost heap become more of a manure heap. What ratio of manure can I use to get the best compost material. I have a 1,000 sq foot garden so I will have some green waste this summer. I have also been adding kitchen scraps and weeds but in a 4’x5’x4’ space it would take me ages and I am keen to get the process going.

    1. Thanks Joanna and a good project.
      The manure will make better compost for any fibres added. 1000sqft is not huge and perhaps some neighbours might have waste material.

  108. Hi Charles, just starting to set up a new garden to no-dig. Very exciting but also daunting! I have just had to dig out some thistles however and wonder if they are ok to go on a compost?

  109. Hi Charles, Thanks for your no dig starting small garden video, which inspired me to get started,
    3 bags organic compost I bought from a garden shop in Auckland. I got to work, laid my cardboard boxes and spread compost on top and planted 15 silverbeet(chard) shoots which I received from a friend.(date planted 10th May 2020)
    Extended 18th May 2020 another 3 bags organic compost, and planted, seedlings which I bought from garden shop, ( NZD1.97 ) 6 beetroots, 6 kale, 6 red cabbage, lettuce and some flowers on the side.
    I am really excited about my no dig garden.I cover my plants with fleece cover as little pests are eating the chard.

  110. I have started a compost pile 2 weeks ago and have turned it once and today I turned it and found a lot of ants and little insects how do I fix this? It’s also not heating much? What do I do?


    1. Ants suggests too dry, insects is good.
      Moist is good, to the point that you squeeze it and no more than 2 drops of water come out

  111. Hi Charles,

    I’m currently planning setting up a 60 (6×10) square metre vegetable garden. My initial plan is to make 1x3m beds. After watching your amazing videos I’m inspired to make it a no-dig garden. My question is about layout of the garden which will be located in a slope which I estimate to be about 10 degrees, maybe a little bit more . In your opinion, should I make efforts to create small flat terraces for each bed or am I better off just running them up and down the slope?



    1. Hello Jakob, sounds good and I would run beds up and down. It will be much less work and with fewer materials needed. I hope you have some good harvests.

  112. Hi Charles
    Please advise I have quite a lot of aged horse manure it won’t heat up past 100 Fahrenheit so now I want to add spent mushroom compost and garden trimmings and veg scraps. Can I use this old manure and to what ratio with the others ? Must the manure be fresh to get the heat?
    Kind regards

    1. Yes exactly David. Heat comes only from the decomposition of fresh manure. The fresher the hotter, and straw adds heat as well.
      Or fresh wood chip make a pretty warm heap

  113. You mention that any animal waste can be composted ! Does this mean dog and cat poo can go in the compost as well ? I have read that it should not go into the compost that is for the food garden ? Your opinion please !

    1. Yes carnivores.
      Can be hot composted, otherwise risk of parasite worms etc but depends on the pets’ health 🙂

  114. Hi Charles, I’m in the process of setting up a small organic no-dig vegetable/cut flower plot in my garden in chilly Norway where we had snow last week…. I do not have enough compost myself and need use compost from a local commercial supplier, but I am worried about the pH level which is 8,7. Can I use this compost/soil mix (It is 30% compost) ? Can I bring down the pH by adding some organic material? What is the ideal pH in your view? I have access to sheep and horse manure, fresh sea weed and my own small quantity of compost which is not fully composed and on the black side – perhaps due to lack of brown material. My seedlings are ready to plant out soon, so I hope I can make it work. I am planting french beans, romano salad, butternut squash, leek, kale, onions and potatoes plus flowers to attract bees & wildlife. Hopefully these plants can get going in this commercial compost/soil if enhanced, and hopefully I can sow seeds too? Thank you very much for your kind assistance and inspiring presence 🙂

    1. Hi Linda, thanks and sounds cold!!
      I would not worry about that pH, more that it’s only 30% compost! But ok if only option.
      Yes you should be able to plant and sow in it. Good luck.

  115. Hi there, what is your opinion on the hotbin? i was thinking of purchasing one for composting all kitchen waste and then decanting it to a traditional wooden slated one to finish the composting process, what is your opinion of this?

    thank you.


    1. That’s exactly what I do. They are expensive (I broke down and bought when heavily marked down). I’m in a small urban garden without room for big composting bays – but with foxes, rats and fruit flies in abundance so I decided it was worth it to have a vermin-proof, rapid first stage. If you manage it properly it heats up brilliantly. Less concern over proportion of green/brown but more concern about managing wetness and air pockets – with shredded paper and something like composted bark or pieces of stem to create air pockets so it stays aerobic without turning.
      I haven’t put the product straight onto the soil – it’s still quite sticky and hardly a crumbly product. I put it into a different bin or giant bag and let worms break it down a further level. The end product is great,

  116. Hi Charles,
    I’m excited about my first compost bin, a friend built it and it’s 3.5 ft tall x 5ft long and 3ft wide, split into two bays (so two 3.5×2.5x3ft bays, presumably to fill one side and turn into the other). However I have filled one side nearly full in less than a month, a lot of plant material with soil and roots, grass clipping and leaves, some kitchen scraps etc. I just received my compost thermometer today and the temp is running around 100F. I’ve put quite a bit of weeds in there so I’m worried it won’t get hot enough to kill them. Do I just need to be patient and wait for the heat to increase or would it help increase if I began filling the second bay, (they are only separated by chicken wire)….? Or any other suggestion for increasing heat? I don’t have much access to horse poo but do to grass clippings. Thanks!

    1. Edit: the compost bin is made of plywood except for the inside middle divider which is chicken wire. So three sides of each ‘bay’ is solid and the fourth in side fairly open, could the chicken wire side be letting out too much heat?

    2. Hi Wendy
      You are doing well but also you are right that 100F won’t kill weed seeds.
      Main reason I suspect is that your heap is not quite big enough to hold the core heat.
      If you have plenty of clippings, running just one heap would heat more. Then you need more space obviously.
      I reckon 4×4 is close to minimum size for steady heat to 125F or so.

      1. Hmm, so maybe I should try removing the middle divider, fork it into one 3×5 ft heap, add plenty of grass clippings and hope for the best?

  117. Your website is so helpful and inspiring. One question, can you put Portuguese Laurel leaves on a compost heap?

    1. Hi Olivia, hope you are well.
      Yes they decompose eventually, best thing is to break them with say a rotary lawnmower, otherwise the oily coating keeps them intact for a long time.

  118. Hi Charles. Love you videos and can’t wait for the books I’ve ordered to arrive.
    My beds are ready, seeds are down and I’m good to go.
    My problem is that the only space I have for my compost bins is in a very shady area under the canopy of an ancient beech tree. Will they actually work here?
    Also, said massive ancient beech tree drops thousands of small round woody bits (nuts??) all year round. Just checked my 3 year old leaf mold and they appear as hard as ever. Is it okay to add them to the heaps of nay?
    Very many thanks, Gabby

    1. Well done Gabby and yes that is ideal for making compost, dark and moist, can heat up from green matter added. Or not, heat is not vital.
      Those nuts sound rock-like but should be ok, will decompose in the end esp on the surface.

      1. Thanks for the reply Charles. I can get composting now.
        And yes- they are hard as rock !
        Best regards, Gabby

  119. I apologise if this is covered somewhere else.

    We have problems with lots (I mean LOTS!) of weeds growing in the compost we have spread. Just to be clear, this isn’t weeds growing up from the ground through the compost but it must be from seeds that remained viable in the heap.

    The compost is beautiful, friable matter from a good mix of greens and browns. We spread it in February. It’s fine to hoe the weeds out but in some beds we sowed parsnips, carrots in late March. There were very few weeds when we sowed them as I’d gone over it with a hoe when they first appeared. But they have kept growing so it’s now difficult to keep on top of the weeds without disturbing the seeds and small seedlings.

    For the future, we’ve made bigger compost bays to hopefully increase the heat and therefore kill off more of the weed seeds. Also I’ll try to spread the compost in the autumn and winter so that we can hoe the weeds off earlier. But I’m still concerned about the same problem for early direct sowings.

    Any advice or thoughts about this?

    1. Sounds difficult Stuart.
      I would use a bought compost for those first direct sowings.
      And yes look at larger bay plus add less seeds if possible, should happen as your garden becomes tidy.

      1. OK, cheers.

        Not sure our allotment will ever be that tidy!! Both work full time, we have a child and go away for holidays in spring and summer all of which mean we produce a lot from the plot but we’re not always on top of the weeds.

  120. I’m new to composting so I’m starting small with a 100 litre plastic box as I’m in my arthritic 70’s & am unable to cope with turning a large amount. I’ve ample material both green & brown & I filled it easily. But I’d also added a couple of layers of 3month old wood chip which came from loppings off a plum tree. I then read online that wood chippings decompose too slowly & shouldn’t be used. So yesterday I emptied the entire bin just to get rid of them. Now better late than never, I’ve only just found your website with so much good advice! I’d be grateful of your guidance on the best use for the wood chip as I have a big pile of it. Also I’ve garden waste in large bags that is no longer moist green but not yet brown, is this still ok to compost as green or is it best mixed with fresh green? Lastly I have good surplus top soil & wondered how much of this I can add to the compost? Apologies for all the questions but I’m keen not to make mistakes!

    1. Hello Rose
      A few wood chips in compost work well, say 5% roughly, and they will still be there after 6-12 months, as good food for fungi.
      I would leave any larger amount to decompose in their own heap, and water occasionally if dry.
      fine to use the other material as half green and brown!
      With soil I find 5-10% is possible but it always has weed seeds, can be hard to get enough heat to kill them.
      Happy composting

  121. I noticed in your videos that your heaps are covered. Is this necessary? My bin is open but i could cover it if you think that is beneficial? Thanks!

    1. It depends – my roof is to keep excess rain off, otherwise the compost goes rather soggy and loses air. Try a cover to see any difference

  122. Hi Charles, what is your advice about rats sitting on top of the compost, in cold weather to keep warm. They unfortunately also leave urine and faeces.


    1. Ah wow, that is bold, here I never see them except their tunnel exports.
      It’s not nice, but what can one do?
      In no dig the compost goes on top and I read that sunlight dissipates Weil’s disease.
      All I can say is it would not worry me, though I prefer not to have rats.

  123. The knowledge in these comments is outstanding so I am hoping someone will be able to assist. I built my first compost bin a few weeks ago and have been doing my best to get it going with a mix of greens and browns. I have bought a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature (as I have been chucking the weeds in as advocated by Charles). I am struggling to generate and sustain heat. Yesterday it had gone up to about 30c and I was encouraged as that was up from 20c yesterday. However, today it is back down to 10c. From other reading I have done I am wondering if the bin is too small at 12 cubic feet. Would I be advised to take out my middle section that I built to have a bin for turning in to to double the size? Or do I just need more green material to really get the heap going and let it take care of itself?

    Any feedback and advice from anyone in this community is most welcome.


    1. Edit. I had the thermometer in a corner of the bin for adding kitchen scraps. When I put in the centre it went back up to about 28c. Perhaps I just need more green to fire the heap?

    2. Hi Brian, nice to hear, and yes I reckon too small in volume, say 30-50 cubic feet will give you heat! Not all filled at once but steady additions to maintain it, hope you can find more materials.

  124. Hi Charles,

    I’m tearing down my home and rebuilding. I’m intending to ask the builder to rip out all of the Ivy and some bamboo that is encroaching on what I call “My Little Forest” which has a natural Spring cutting through it, so I can plant an edible perennial forest undergrowth. Do I need to cover the ground with black tarp too? This is aside from the garden I’ll make with sufficient sun light here in Virginia.

    Can I compost the ivy and bamboo? I’ve plenty of dead leaves to amend it. DO I need to further amend it? We have Virginia clay soil. The project will take 7 or so months so I can possibly have enough compost to start the vegetable garden next Spring in the area that gets the most sun year around.



    1. Hi Lisa and yes but… only if chopped to small pieces, shredded say half inch.
      It will be lovely and yes cover with black tarp until needed.

  125. Dearest Charles:
    First of all…thank you! Thank you for all the time you devote to sharing your knowledge. We have been calling you the “Mr. Rogers of Gardening.” 😉
    We are finally ready for our large garden on our 5 acre homestead. I was wondering what ratio I should buy from one of our local compost suppliers. From my calculations, I’ll need 20 cubic yards. They have a well aged dairy manure compost and a green/brown compost mix. I am laying cardboard over the area (lots of weeds) then will form my beds over that. I’ve been growing my starts in my greenhouse and I’m ready to get my peas seeded and potatoes in immediately. What ratio of the two composted materials should I buy? Will I be good to direct seed into this mix? Thank you so very much in advance.

    1. Hi Laurann and thanks, this sounds a good project.
      Maybe half of each, though without seeing them it’s uncertain to say.
      They both have good attributes I am sure.
      Main thing is that the heaps are not hot, so the compost is properly ripe or mature. Ask suppliers to verify this. Otherwise growth is compromised for 2-3 months.
      With mature compost (6-8 months at Homeacres), yes you can sow and plant into it.

  126. Hi Charles! Thank you for all you are sharing! You have made gardening a heroic journey. I am currently composting iwth two worm bins, one large and one small. Do you have any thoughts on how to know if it is too dry in there or too damp? And how do I know to change bins thus, calling the worms to relocate to a new bin stacked on top of the existing one? Would you say that the castings from a worm bin is compatible soil to a regular compost bin, such as the photos you featured?

    1. Hi Jeanine, thanks, and your worm compost is twice the value of garden compost 😀so you need to use less. Ready when worms are mostly moved out of it. A lack of condensation would suggest dryness.
      If too wet, you would be able to squeeze some compost and have moisture dripping out.

  127. Hi Charles!
    I am wanting to put cardboard on my grass and compost over that. My question is, how long do I have to wait before planting, to make sure the cardboard is broken down enough for the roots to go through? Thanks!

    1. If 4in/10cm compost or more, you need to wait no time at all. Growth happens in compost, then roots descend later.
      If say 2in/5cm, maybe a month, depending on card thickness.

  128. Hi great resource BTW, espcially duringn this Covid-19 outbreak; thanks We live on a 7 acre holding that is 75% upland bog in North Wales overlooking the Irish sea with very high rainfall. I have many years worth of equine poop which I use to cover human poop as we have to use composting loos. As long as I use some of this mix that is well over year old, am I ok to place it on the cardboard ready to go). If not, I also have quite a lot of well rotted horse poop with out human ‘additions’ so can use that but it will now be covered in weeds itself so may be less suitable. I also have acess to well rotted rabbit and chicken poop.

    BTW, had you heard that apparently, rabbit poop can be used on gardens straight away as most of it has been digested twice, rabbits being autocoprophagal creatures.

    I am keen to adopt ‘no dig’ methods as I have useless hips and after a break from gardening for a few years, I have today discovered that I can’t use a garden fork on previously un-dug land anymore. Unfortunately I have no spare cash either hence wanting to use my own rotted poop rather than buying compost in.

    Thanks again or “Diolch eto” as we say around here.

    1. David
      This sounds all good to me. Your manure is compost, fine to plant into when as you describe.
      Just keep the oldest and softest for top layer.
      It’s easier to sow and plant into after weathering a bit, making the surface less sticky and more crumbly.
      Mulch and Diolch!

  129. Hello!
    I am excited to switch my traditional garden to no dig this spring (zone 5 USA), I am planning to lay cardboard, then 4” of compost in top, but I am unsure if I can direct sow my seeds into the compost? I would usually by sowing spinach, lettuce, & radishes soon, and later on carrots, beans, and sweet corn. It seems you usually plant seedling, not seeds into the compost. Will mine germinate ok? Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy and nice to hear this, yes you can sow seeds into compost. My reason for raising transplants is to gain growing time, plus have 100% full beds.
      I wonder if you may not need the cardboard, if you have few weeds when starting out. 4″ compost smothers most weeds effectively, but not vigorous perennials like crab grass.

      1. Good to know, I was worried my seedling roots might not make it through the cardboard to root well into the soil so maybe I can just leave the cardboard off all together. Thank you

  130. Dear Mr. Dowding.
    Thank you for your kind help and support. My family and I started no dig garden at our home and in last month we have great success. Although, I have one question regarding compost making. We made compost boxes and started filling it few days ago. We filled it with fresh grass, leaves and dry straw. After few days a strong odor appeared following with thousands of small flies. Have done something wrong? Shall we cover the compost or leave it open as it is? Is it maybe because it’s top is open?
    Thank you!!!

    1. Thanks Igor.
      The odour is probably ammonia from the grass, happens when fresh, will diminish. And flies is normal.
      No worries and best not covered, let the gases out.

  131. Hello

    I’ve just been on a RHS gardening and veg growing course and you were recommended to us! So glad I’ve found you and your fountain of knowledge.

    Until my compost bin is ready (many months yet) I’m having to use store bought compost, which one do you recommend when preparing the veg patch using the no dig cardboard method. I did put on some farmers Mulch and John Innes number 3, not sure if this was right?

    I’m aware you don’t need store bought compost as you have an amazing system there but just wondered if you could point me in the right direction. I want to use as organic as possible and wonder whether the aforementioned ones are filled with chemicals. I have seen some RHS organic compost, which is round £16 for 50L and the one I used was 20L for £3, big difference.

    Best Regards

    Amy Rowley

    1. Hi Amy and that is nice to hear.
      Organic compost is scarce and expensive. For the larger amounts to make beds initially, I suggest buying mushroom or green waste compost in bulk or in large sacks. John Innes 3 and most potting composts have added fertiliser and you don’t need that!

  132. Dear Charles, thank you for the article. This is good guide to start composting. I have a question for you. I with my wife plan to start composting and maybe growing our own vegetables at home. We live in the flat, so we haven’t enough place to do much compost and, i think, we don’t need to make it much. We support recycling so we use reusable bags, we sort garbage and so on. Recently i read about home composting bins and ways to grow potato in it. I found many composting bins in the internet and i liked this article ( ) the best. But we can’t reach agreement in wich size we want to buy a composting bin. My wife says that we need to buy a small one, because we have not any experiene in such cases and will be better to start from small portion of potatoe. I think, that if we make decision to start doing this, we need to do it in normal amount. It may be interesting experiance for us. Can you give an advice, please? Which size of the bin do you recommend? What food (leftover) will be good for composting? Have you ever tried to grown some vegetables in such way?

    Thank for your work and good luck!

      1. Thank you for really quick reply! I thought about medium size, but i really like potatoes (it is my addiction.). Of course, compromise will be better. It seems that this would happen. I hope someone have tried this and will comment soon.

  133. Have just been binge watching your small garden videos and am inspired to create one of my own on my quarter acre property. The garden so far has been primarily ornamental in nature with my ‘garden candy’ Sweet 100 and Sunkist Gold along with herbs growing in nursery tubs. One of the things I love about the narrative is that you convert your UK units of measure into what I can more easily relate too (fahrenheit and feet/inches). My compost bins are 1/2″ mesh wire formed into circles about 4 feet across and slowly fill during the season so I layer as best as possible and mixing the lawn clippings with saved leaves. They are also placed under trees, there’s nowhere else in the garden for them, limited sunny areas to grow in and surrounded by fir trees that do not belong to me. When I first moved here 30 years ago, I built a 2-bay cinder block compost bin and learned the hard way about roots growing into the bin. That lesson means that my current bins are on corrugated tin roofing, not the best I know.
    Now for my question, I’ve read all the comments here and haven’t seen it addressed. I remember hearing that horse bedding could possibly contain residual de-worming medicine (I think it was actually Highgroves’ head gardener) that stays in this bedding material for years and is therefore detrimental to the garden’s worm population. I’ve been reluctant to use animal manure for this very reason. Would you please answer yay or nay if this is a good idea. Thanking you in advance for your time.

    1. Thanks Brenda and a good question, I wonder myself.
      The horse manure from last March for example, now in a heap and ready to use, is full of brandling worms!
      That does not mean “no chemicals” but perhaps they don’t endure too long, or the ones my neighbour uses don’t.

      1. Thank you for your quick answer Charles and I’ll be visiting some local stables to see what they have available. We used to have riders who would exercise their horses along the sides of our country roads and mum and I would would collect ‘road apples’ for her garden. With increasing and rapid development of the area it’s no longer safe for equestrians to continue this practice.
        Brandling worms ~ I’ve never heard of them but I know my mature compost is full of red wigglers and the larger ones make great fishing bait. When I top dress the shrub borders, if I don’t make my presence known for a couple of hours after, the local robins have a feast day.

        1. Brenda – as long term horse owner and formerly with extensive experience in veterinary/equine field, would suggest asking what type of deworming program horses are on. If they are on continuous/low dose ingestion protocol (where dewormer is in feed and/or given daily for continuous exposure to medication) would be more concerned with downstream effect on compost/nematode populations. If horses are dosed on cyclical and/or need basis, eg quarterly treatment or based on worm load in fecal matter, would be much less concerned about parasiticide residual in manure. Hope this is helpful 🙂 (btw, second method is better for the horses over time as more effective and doesn’t contribute to parasite resistance) ~Jenna (Northeastern US)

  134. Hi Charles
    Just getting started here. I have loads of horse manure to use in my compost but it is mixed with what we call hog fuel, which I think is ground up tree bark from lumber operations. How is that likely to affect my composting?

  135. Hi Charles, sorry if I had missed this question being answered already above.
    My partner and i have just bought a few ton of green waste compost and created bed rows in our field . We were hoping after A few months of being there over the winter it would be ready to plant straight into, in the spring . Do you think this is a good idea, or would we need to add any other / different mulches or composts . We wanted to go forage for seaweed, but havn’t got around to it yet and planting time is creeping up on us very quickly .
    Your advice and experience with planting into just green waste with good undug soil underneath would be appreciated, as we wouldn’t want to waste a load of seeds and time planting if you think it might fail.
    We understand some crops might do better than others and so just wated to know which crops might do ok .

    1. Some green waste compost can make a hard layer when dry, it’s not a uniform product.
      My best results are from transplanting into it, not direct sowing. I would invest in some kit for propagating.
      It’s late for applying seaweed but that would be good next autumn, unwashed, some salt is fine.

  136. Charles I find it difficult to get enough material at one time to make a really big compost bin but I do make it over a longer period just topping up three 600L bins provided free by the local council here in France… I get another one this year so that will make four. I have also made a much bigger one but it does take some time to make enough for my beds. Any way the local garden center was selling compost very cheaply €2 per 50L so I bought 1000L. It is not bad stuff but has some woody bits in it will I be able to sow carrots and parsnips into it or would it be better to sow them directly onto the soil then once they are germinated and growing add a topping of this around them ? I suspect you will say spread it and sow but thought I would ask anyway, I have no problem planting through it it is not bad stuff. Your garden is an inspiration and even my wife sees the benefits of this method of veg growing. Interestingly she said something the other day that is quite true. She said the the beds I have constructed , which are 1.5m x 3 m , are for her much less intimidating than a very large area of normal garden. She said that the thought of weeding a huge area was off putting whereas the smaller raised bed had fewer weeds and was something that put her under less mental strain and she could easily cope with it. The native soil in my garden is quite heavy with a high clay content so I am turning it all over to raised no dig beds.

  137. Dear Mr. Dowding. My wife and I heard about you from Mr. Peter Swan in a TV show here in Croatia and immediately recognized that this is the way we want to start our gardening. We have 200m2 of backyard covered in weed (mostly perennial (couch grass – Elymus repens; and other, less spreadable grass). I recently made a 9m2 of shed with open sides and a roof, which I intend to use for composting. I have lot of hazelnuts and trees, along with grass in other part of backyard so I can used it as a source for compost. Thank you for reading my big introduction, here comes a question: please help us with advice how to start? Thank you!!!

  138. Thank you Charles, this is really informative. Are you able to post an image of your bays from a distance to show the set up at all please? Many thanks, Rachael

  139. Hi Charles,
    Thank you for this article, and the video. I have just been struggling with emptying our small compost bin and was very glad to see your advice to just lift the bin off, put it to one side, fork the undecomposed stuff into it, and use the stuff at the bottom. So much easier than trying to get the good stuff out of the small hole at the bottom, as I was trying to do!
    I have a question, though – we didn’t know before about the 50:50 mix of green and brown, so I think we have been overdoing the green, and we’ll try to include more brown from now on. But I’m wondering if you have tips on how to create good layers or a good mix? We are in a small suburban garden without much space for storing different wastes. If we do produce brown waste (e.g. cutting back our hazel and hawthorn hedge) it would usually be a lot at a time, compared to the kitchen waste, which is little and often. Should we try to store that somewhere and add it bit by bit, alternating with kitchen waste? Or is it better to add a layer of cardboard once a week or so, between layers of kitchen waste?
    Another thing about using a small bin – I guess it probably won’t get as hot as the big boxes. In your video you said it’s possible to make cool compost. Does it just need to be left for longer, or do you have any other advice about this?

    1. Hi Gabrielle
      Happy to help.
      I would stack the brown waste if you have space… even lay it as temporary mulch under a tree or bush say a foot thick, where it gets wet and starts to decompose, then take from it when you need brown, is healthier than cardboard.
      Yes cool compost just takes 6 or so months longer, may look less perfect but good fungal qualities.

  140. Hi Charles, big fan of you’re method!
    In Holland I started my first 2 compost heaps in autumn. They are working fine, temp about 50-60degree.
    I add a lot of coffeeground to it as I can get it for free. And that raises a question: can one add to much coffee ground?
    Thanks already for replying!

    1. Thanks Anne.
      The only concern maybe of it’s not organic, but the coffee I add is not organic.
      I am not aware of potential problems, from say 50% or more coffee!

  141. Hi Charles,

    We have access to the waste from our Municipal vegetable market. Have not used any for fear of residual pesticide and fungicide. Could we perhaps add a percentage to our compost pile?

    1. Hey George that sounds useful but as you say, no means of being sure.
      And then you wonder what people are eating! so hopefully not too much chemical.
      I would add some.

  142. Hi Charles.

    Just like to say that without finding you and your no dig method I would of been not on my Veggie patches this year after being diagnosed, Under active thyroid, Diabetes. SLE Lupus & Fibromyalgia to top all the pain.
    I try to carry on, staying strong n wont give up the garden until I cant crawl out there, which is now getting harder due to the mobility, but would recommend your No DIG & results to All.
    This in my opinion the best way forward due to my health getting worse since we started your no Dig Sept 18 thanks to you Charles.
    We look forward to our goodies we have ordered.
    Give it a ago anyone if you have doubts Your see the returns and feel less aches no digging, lo.l
    Merry Christmas Charles and all the team at Homeacres & Happy New Year.

    1. Dear Alan, I am touched by your comment and hope the pain may lessen thanks to the joys of gardening and eating the lovely produce.
      It’s a pleasure to help you, and others too.

    2. Quick question sorry if you have answered it before what is the best way of composting ivy leaves ?? Looking forward to arranging a date in spring for one of your courses had it booked for me as a gift for my 50th!!

      1. They decompose slowly because covered by ‘wax’ so are best chopped by a rotary lawnmower first, to open surfaces for decomposition.
        See you soon Victor.

  143. I’ve just had 4 amazing compost bins built and your advice about leaving one empty next to current one for turning is great and will save me a lot of work and effort! I am investing in a shreeder/chipper (I note you got one fairly recently?) can you recommend a make/model? We have 3 acres including the house paddock small arboretum veg garden and flower beds so generate a fair amount of garden waste. I’m just starting out and learning as I go! Also… can i leave fallen leaves around the base of our trees and can I put them as they are on flower/veg beds? Most of my veg patch is covered having laden it with rotted manure from a next door livery

    1. Hi Sharran
      All sounds promising.
      Yes you can mulch with leaves, there are some risks of slugs but on sandy soil and in dry climates, no worries.
      My shredder is Bosch AX TC 25 from memory, cost about £400, electric and 45mm max diameter, is not too noisy but takes time to process material.

  144. Charles,

    Thank you so much for your work and experimentation! I am becoming a disciple as well as spreading the news to friends who garden. I am trying as hard as possible to assimilate your vast knowledge and apply it to my current and future garden.

    One question I had while reading and searching through your article. Do you leave the compost you make in the original bin you started it in until you use it? Or, do you transfer it to new bins every so often in order to introduce air into it?

    I thought of this as I read your article as it seems that the fungi will grow better and stronger with less disturbance.

    Thank you again!

    1. Thanks Kraig for your comments. Made me realise I had not made it clear we turn each heap, just once, so I edited the article.
      In my hot heaps, fungi cannot multiply, but they hang around the edges then spread through heaps after a turn. So turning is not hurting many and I see it as a net gain.

  145. Hello: Just came across your site, so interesting. I have one simple question (so far). What is the best way to add horse manure to a compost bin. On to the top of a nearly full bin, or at ground level of a fresh bin?
    I need to get more heat into my compost to hopefully increase decomposition (plastic square bin with lid) so thinking horse manure would help as an accelerator.
    Appreciate any advice thanks.

    1. Thanks Jessie and yes some fresh horse manure is good for stimulating heat.
      I would add a 7-10cm layer then dame of other materials etc. you could make it bottom layer too.

  146. I understand from the article that it’s not wise to plant in a commercial compost. As my garden at the moment is relatively small.. This means I often buy bags in addition to making my own compost with everything that is clipped in the garden. The store-bought compost should I rather not plant in this directly? and could I add it to the beds to let it compost further there? I noticed last year I planted cabbages straight into this and they barely grew… I assume this is due to it not being proper compost. I don’t have enough space to add this to the existing heap, what would you recommend to do?

    1. Sorry for not being clear Rebecca: yes you can plant into store bought compost, even though results will vary. It sounds like you have no other options and I would in that situation, hope growth is good.

  147. Dear Charles,
    Thank you for sharing your profound knowledge, you’re a constant source of inspiration.
    I’m growing in Israel, our summers are very long and very hot and humid, the temperatures are around 32-35 c during the day, and no less than 22-25 c at night, from March-April until November. Last Autumn, I began composting earnestly with very mixed results. I keep a well-balanced mix of greens and browns, mostly kitchen scraps, cardboard and garden waste. The pile is one sq m, confined by posts surrounded by chicken wire, located in a shady corner. It stays full year round, but it does not heat up! The soft materials break down to a beautiful brown crumbly texture with plenty of worms, but the woody bits remain exactly the same, and so do all of the seeds. It drys out in summer very quickly, so I water it to keep it moist every week, the center stays consistently moist. Following the advice of some farmers in the area, I tried adding fresh chicken manure, composted chicken manure and urea, to no success, it stays cold. What am I missing?

    1. Hello Chen, nice to hear this and my word, your conditions are so different to here.
      It sounds like you do not have quite enough materials to allow breeding of bacteria which promote heat. They need regular feeds of green material. Fresh chicken manure would help when added with other fresh ingredients, not afterwards.
      Your result sounds good though – fungal decomposition and many worms. I would spread it, say around growing plants, space allowing.
      Germinating weed seeds can easily be hoed in your climate.

      1. Thank you for your kind reply! I’ll try to scrounge up more materials. Apparently, in composting size does matter.

  148. Hello Charles, I’m a huge no-dig convert and would love some advice from you!

    I have an acre of grass that I clip regularly and which forms the green element of my compost. I mix mainly with straw as the brown. I wondered firstly if you have ever made compost direct in situ ie directly on the bed, or whether you find it better to make compost in large bin then transport it to the bed?

    Also, I have enough room to build a large composting area similar to yours. Could I ask how you protect the ply from weathering and warping etc over winter. Do you just replace it each year?

    Many thanks for taking the time to read this, look forward to hearing from you

    1. Hi Matthew, thanks for your comment and yes I have trialled mulching with straw and grass in the 1980s, it kept the soil too cool for our climate plus harboured slugs & made it hard to plant small seedlings closely.
      The ply is not an ideal material, lasts three years ad peels. am looking to buy some Douglas Fir from a local carpenter.

  149. Fascinating blog, thanks, and thanks even more for the time you take responding to comments.

    I’ve taken on an overgrown allotment, my first, within the last couple of weeks and I have to say it does wonders for my blood pressure!

    Today I put three pallets together to maker a compost bay, but after reading I shall go off tomorrow and scrounge a couple more from the plumbers’ merchant to make two bays in an E shape. I’m also going to risk composting bindweed – I have a lot – but soaking it first in an old plastic dustbin with a clip on lid which I have lying around.

    You’ve mentioned above that you think tumbler composters are expensive: well, I used the above black plastic dustbin as an experiment. I took a layer of new material off my back garden compost heap – a m2 slatted affair – and ¾ filled the dustbin. I then periodically rolled and upended it from two locations in the garden 6/7 yards apart. The action really helped speed up the process and I’m about to take the contents to my new allotment to start the mulching process. I think the bin cost about £9 and I’ve saved on gym costs too!

    Is there a recommended orientation for compost heaps if they are open on one side?
    PS: looks as if I may be adding to my book collection..

    1. Nice to hear your enthusiasm Sue and good results, well done on improvising with the bin!
      Orientation of the heap is not important.
      With pallets, I suggest lining the sides with cardboard to keep warmth plus moisture in, and prevent weeds growing out.
      Enjoy your new plot.

  150. Hi Charles,

    I have just taken on an allotment which is fairly overgrown.
    I have removed most of the weeds and put them on my compost heap (which had a fair amount of weeds growing through it as well). However, I was told recently that I should not do this as the seeds will regrow when I use the compost. Is this correct? do I need to do anything to make sure this doesn’t happen? The advise I was given was to throw it away and start again. The weeds were; bindweed, thistles, dandelions and different types of grass.
    Your help would be great, thanks in advance.

    1. Hello Aaron
      That “advice” does not agree with my experience. although yes seeds of weeds persist if a heap does not exceed 50-55C.
      Roots of perennial weeds will break down in a compost heap – mine always have, even when not hot.
      I advise you continue compost ing all weeds, and keep the heap busy with continual additions.
      If any roots survive, or perennial weeds, simply remove them when loading your barrow in a few moths time.
      For weed seeds, hoe or scuff the surface when you see them germinating.
      Tell your ‘advisor’ that this is from me, and it works.

      1. Hi Charles,
        I have also taken on a new allotment with an an old compost heap filled with a network of nettle roots. We started digging out as much as we could but since reading your blog we’ve decided to make a palette compost bin around it and just keep on adding to the heap, water it, stir it and maybe cover it?
        Is that the right thing to do?

        1. It’s not so much the right thing as one way.
          Or cut nettles v short then mulch over (card + compost), a few come though, more weakly, keep pulling and they die out.

          1. Thanks for the reply!

            If I could pick your brains again….
            we’ve been given a lots of cow manure, I think it’s still fresh as it’s steaming, when can we fill our beds with it to plant vegetables. I was initially going to leave it in a pile and then add it to the beds in autumn for next years down seeds outdoors in very sandy soil as were new to the allotment and don’t have any compost so wanted to use the cow manure this year ideally.

  151. Hi Charles,
    Like all your commentators I’m starting no-dig as a result of your inspirational writings and videos – thank you so much for being so generous with your time and knowledge! I have being making compost for many years in my garden, but it was only when I took on an allotment in 2010 that I faced a serious weed problem – horsetail and bindweed. I decided to use anerobic composting for those and any other persistent weed roots (dock and dandelion) – by immersing them in a large black bin, with a lid, filled with water. My first bin sprang a leak in 2011 so I got another – but kept the first one as a ‘holding bay’ for when I had a surfeit of weeds and the water-filled bin was still rotting down. I noticed that as the bins were kept covered, even the dry bin was performing as a composter – the black plastic allowing the contents to get quite hot during sunny weather. Over the years I have ‘harvested’ the contents of the wet bin a few times – which yielded great liquid feed and a couple of bucketsfull of sludge every other year. Meanwhile I kept adding fresh matter to the dry bin until it became so jammed that it no longer sank down. I left it untouched since last summer, until last weekend when I noticed it appeared to have converted into very nice-looking soil!!! And I do mean soil, rather than compost. There are no discernable weed roots and vegetative matter has completely disintegrated into a crumbly slightly greyish soil texture, with plenty of worms throughout. I was also amazed to see layers of ants nests permeating the contents, even in the darker, wetter depths of the bin – to my untrained eye these were distinct types (species?) of ant at different depths. I spread the entire contents of the bin as a mulch onto a 3mx1.2m bed which will be growing my brassicas this year. Now, reading your comments on NOT using soil (to Carolin, on February 23, 2019) and also on ants (to Delaine on April 30, 2019), I am wondering if I have made a terrible mistake?

  152. Hi!! Thanks for all the great information. No dog is perfect for me having torn a disc pulling up weeds in the past! I’ve just taken on an allotment that has an old compost set up using pellets. There’s a massive ant colony to the side of it, in amongst some old carpet tiles. Should I get rid of it or just ignore them for now. Not sure whether friend or foe!!

    1. Hi Delaine and sounds good except the ants are not friends to gardening,
      I would mix hot water with chilli powder, even garlic too and water on the ant colony, then keep it wet every week or so to diminish their number at least. They are eating your compost – remove habitat too like those tiles.

  153. Hi Charles , I’ve been a bit hit and miss with my small compost bin putting in a single person household veg waste , grass cuttings and leaves in . It seems to break down over the year. but I want to do better and quicker!
    2 questions if I may , 1) Every summer I get HUGE ant hills in the bin. Is this a problem and if so, how can I avoid this.
    2) there are a number of branding worms in the bin . I don’t understand that when I come to put the compost in my raised veg beds how the worms won’t eat the new brassica plants I am about to plant! . If I have the wrong end of the stick I will be grateful for a point in the right direction.

    1. Dee no worries over worms, they eat decaying matter not fresh.
      Ants on the other hand are not good, they excrete acid which can kill roots, mix hot water with chilli powder and water on the ant hill, then keep it wet.

    2. There are other critters such as pillbugs and wire worms that also eat decaying material so I like to see them in and around my compost bins. I had a smallish fire ant colony in my garden and sprinkled baking soda around the entrance holes. Within two days, no more fire ants. The other kinds of ants are few and are kept in check by foraging birds (I assume).

  154. Hi Charles,

    I’m sure I’ve seen you using a aerator tool in one of your videos but can’t seem to find the clip – am I now dreaming of compost making as my wife suggests?

    Is there an aerator that you can recomend? I’ve seen mixed reviews on Amazon…

    1. Yes Peter for smaller heaps I suggest the £20 corkscrew (hard work though) and a smaller one with metal hooks which slide in as it’s pushed down, then come out as you pull up, under a tenner

  155. Hi Charles, thanks for all you do. I am finally getting around to starting a compost bin in earnest. I am wondering if there are any items at all that you would discourage folks from putting in their bins?

    1. Thanks Kris.
      I would hesitate to add roots with soil fungal diseases, mainly white rot and clubroot.
      Other than that, add everything. Including potato and tomato late blight and roots of perennial weeds.

      1. Thank you for your fast response! I have just a couple more questions. What of meat and dairy? Also, how long does it typically take a bit to get hot once it’s full?

  156. Hello Charles,
    I’ve been gradually converting my garden and allotment to ‘no-dig’ since hearing you talk at an RHS show a couple of years ago (either Cardiff or Malvern, I can’t remember which!).
    I say ‘gradually’ because my main constraint is getting hold of sufficient quantities of compost. I know you say that you need far less as the years go by but getting started means a lot for a couple of years and living in Bristol means I have no access to ready supplies and buying in bulk is expensive.
    So, on the allotment I’ve built a series of 5 x 1 cubic metre bins out of pallet wood, with lids and removable fronts. 4 are filled and one remains empty for turning into. My main input is spent hops from a local micro-brewery, supplemented by shredded paper and cardboard: most of junk mail and packaging now goes into the compost. My research suggests that commercial inks these days are vegetable based, and manufacturers simply aren’t allowed to print packaging with anything toxic, so there’s no reason not to compost it. We’ve learned to identify and avoid anything with a plastic film or waxed finish.
    All four bins were filled by late autumn and I’ve just started spreading the contents of the first bin, which has been ‘cooking’ for around 8 months. It’s fine as a mulch around existing plants but I doubt it’s sufficiently well-rotted to plant seedlings into – or am I being too cautious: do you have a ready means of telling when a compost is ‘ready’?
    I also think I’ve been too cautious in excluding diseased material. Last year I had a bad run of leek rust and although the remnants of the crop are still perfectly usable, I have not put the trimmings into the compost. I know you say you use all diseased material, but are there any limits to this?
    I really enjoy your website and think it’s wonderful that there are contributions to these discussion threads from all over the world: growing food is something that unites us all. Hello everybody!!

    1. Hi Chris, that is great work.
      Nice that you have hops nearby and can convert their wastes.
      I do not recommend homemade compost for potting, results rarely justify it and the cost of buying potting compost is small, compared to potential results.
      I compost leek rust, not white rot though as it’s soil borne, like club root.
      You could line your pallets with cardboard to hold moisture and warmth.
      Best, Charles

  157. Hello! I was wondering if you could comment on the plastic compost tumblers available for purchase. They appear to finish compost in only 2-3 months, however Do you think the quality of the finished product is comparable to the bin process? I too am new to gardening and am looking for a solution for our limited space. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sally, I do not recommend them as value for money and they need careful filling, I would say 4-6 months with a good balance of ingredients; they do keep rats out, so pros and cons

  158. Hello Charles,

    I live in New Zealand and we have a lot of exotic gum trees around, planted as windbreaks. We burn the wood and have a lot of leftover bark and leaves. I have noticed that nothing grows under gum trees, so I assume the trees have a suppressive effect on the growth of other plants, possibly via the fallen leaves . Do you know whether eucalyptus leaves and bark produce good compost? Or would that ‘suppressive factor’ persist even after composting?
    thanks heaps!

    1. Plants grew under my parents’ eucalyptus and yes I would add some to compost but the leaves have oil which slows decomposition so don’t use too many

  159. Hi Charles
    Thank you for all your advice and videos which I try to follow as much as possible, they are so clear and practical.
    I help out in community vegetable plot and I am a keen composter. A couple of questions were raised recently about the types of material that should not be put into a compost heap.
    One material thought not to be suitable was paper because it is bleached using chlorine and that is toxic.
    The other was corrugated cardboard because of the glue used is toxic.
    What are your views on these concerns?
    Thank you
    Pam Worthington
    Should I stop putting these materials into the compost heaps.

  160. Hello Charles! I am working my way through your excellent online course material and tweaking my plan for my second year of no-dig gardening in Sweden. Last year’s crops were beyond my wildest expectations – bot in terms of quantity and quality. However, my home-made compost has been a big disappointment and I wonder if you can give me a few tips. In August/September, we threw all our garden waste in our compost bins (wood/covered/some mesh sides). I thought it was approximately 50/50 green/brown as there were many leaves from potatoes, brassica, squash etc, but also quite a few chopped up woody stems. No grass cuttings/manure etc. The piles have shrunk to half their original sizes but appear to be just woody remains, with no sign of breaking down into compost. What am I doing wrong, and how can I correct it? Many thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    1. Hi Beverley, nice you had good results, sorry about the compost, could be the wood is too large diameter + perhaps coniferous so slow to break down and I guess your estimation was not correct – it takes practice!
      Use that ‘compost’ as brown for this year’s heap and search for greens like coffee waste, perhaps manure.

  161. Hi Charles! I appreciate your videos. I’m a gardener of quite a few years and I like to say that I garden to compost. Trying to change that some.

    I recently started to use clean straw as a mulch and compost ingredient. I’ve read that straw supposedly takes a considerable amount of time to break down. I’m surprised by that because I shredded some straw to use as a top dressing around some annual flowers. Nine months later the straw has broken down into a nice loamy substrate. I haven’t had a chance to check the compost bin to see how the straw in the compost heap has fared. I know you use straw bedding and horse manure in your heap but I’m curious if you’ve ever used clean straw and what you’re experience is with it.

    1. Hi Thomas and I used it a lot in the 1980s, all decomposed within a year, however it usually had slugs hiding underneath!

  162. Greetings from the colonies,
    I have been gardening in southern NH, USA for about ten years. I have been making compost for most of that time. Unfortunately, I now know that I have not been using it in the most productive manor. I plan to start following your suggestions as soon as the two feet of “white compost” melts.
    I do also have one other problem. I find your information so interesting that I am afraid I will not have enough time to garden if you do not stop making so much interesting reading material available! My wife has threatened to hide my laptop if I don’t start spending some time with her. She is getting jealous of the time I am spending reading your information. Keep up the good work and thank you.

    1. Hello David and that is an interesting problem.
      Once the weather warms up I am sure your wife will enjoy the garden and harvests!

  163. I’ve been growing for 40 years but only came across your ideas a few weeks back. I’m a big fan of your youtube videos and have ordered a couple of your books. First year on our 12 acre smallholding in West Wales. Just starting with a few hundred square metres of no dig in virgin pasture. I’m fascinated in using home made compost or rotted manure as a potting/seed mix. Which of your books covers this in the most detail, or what advice would you give?

    As others have said, you are a true inspiration, keep at it!

    1. Thanks Martin and I hope your new project goes well.
      I prefer to buy potting compost to save the time needed for sieving + it’s not easy to get a nutrient rich mix – I am using small module size in small area, relative to output.
      These constraints may not apply to you and check also Ladbrookes soil blockers, the long handled 30 looks interesting, if you have lots of material to play with.

      1. Many thanks. By the way, in your videos, I love the enthusiasm you show. when you pick a nice vegetable, or produce good compost, your childlike smile is what I have always felt in the garden. It comes across well!

  164. Wood ash? Wood ashes in the compost! I didn’t know. This makes me SO happy. We burn in a small stove through the winter. Our soil pH is on the high side, so I shy away from wood ashes, but the compost? YAY.

  165. Dear Mr Charles,
    I saw that you put leeks leafs in compost pile.
    What about garlic leafs ,is it ok for compost?
    Me and my husband growing garlic 400-500 kg every year ,and it will be great if we can compost leafs.
    Composting is a new thing for me .
    Thank you for all information ,you inspired me to start no- till farming.
    Marija from Croatia

    1. Dear Marija
      Yes I compost all wastes and diseased leaves.
      I am so happy to hear you are no till farming, and must be enjoying having fewer weeds growing.

  166. Charles, your sharing heart is as bountiful as your garden. Big Cheers to you for that. Here is both my question and my desire. We have about a quarter of an acre (or more) of open land that we would love to compost and and change over to a no-dig garden. We have done some of it with traditional gardening to date. Anyway, without winning the lottery, how might we best accumulate that much compost to cover all of this size of an area and thus a) smother out the weeds and grass, and b) wonderfully feed all the planted and desired vegetables? Here is our only known availability of quantity items, we are surrounded otherwise by trees and so can accumulate large amounts of leaves … otherwise, I would surmise, we could find some fair degree of cardboard from local businesses in the area. Yes, and though there would be some grass clippings (for the green) but nothing of any quantity to match the leaves or amount needed for the area mentioned and desired. Also, kitchen scraps from just my wife and I would be far short of what needed for this size plot. Now, on our 12 acre plot, roughly 11 acres is woodlands (leaf trees and pines) if anything is of use there? Any ideas of no-cost or low-cost avenues of developing the amount of compost we would need to cover if not the 1/4 acre then at least a 50 by 100 foot area? So, greatly appreciate any and all thoughts on this specific area because, as I am sure you could guess, this is an initial break-point solution needed to even get started with a no-dig garden? Thanks so much, Charles!

    1. Frank I would hope you find a local farmer with old manure, often sold cheaply.
      And a quarter acre would be market garden (I sell £20k from that area), so unless you plan to sell, start smaller.
      Compost is an investment, the initial dose sets you up for years. It may be cheaper to buy than to make but yes your woodlands could afford you great fertility without taking too much leaves etc.

      1. Such good information and advice, Charles, including the specific monetary result (for you, anyway) of your quarter of an acre. Don’t mean to tax your good time but … what would be the best first book of yours to buy. I would be looking for that book which will give me the best overall “No-Dig” method, knowledge, and approach. Thank you for all your time!

    2. What a wonderful property to have, I’m mildly jealous and winning the lottery would be the only way to acquire that for me at this point in my life.
      Sounds like you have ample ‘browns’ available in your woods. My two cents worth and for a next step is to locate an organic landscaper who could possibly provide you with additional ‘greens’ to augment your household and garden supply. Best of luck in the coming 2020 year of living the best life that a homestead holding can give you.

        1. Hi we got a allotment that has just had gorse and bramble scraped off . We got a load of horse manure about 2 ton about a year old so have started beds with this and some bought compost.But my question is i also got about 4 ton of cow manure very wet smelly and lumpy what am i best doing with it ?.We cannot get anything else in because of lockdown

          1. Sounds good Garry, but normally I reckon to dig out main roots of woody plants like those, hope they don’t grow through.
            For the cow manure I would move the whole lot with a fork, breaking open all the soggy lumps and letting in air. Spread it in say a im high heap and the air + warmth will improve it, then later in summer spread some as mulch around larger plants like potato and courgette, and under broccoli, Brussels. Once exposed to air it becomes sweet and in the end crumbly.

  167. Hello Charles,
    We’re about to move to a new house with a huge vegetable garden (so lucky!), which I’d like to convert to no-dig immediately. I’ve been researching compost to buy (current state of beds is dug and weeds have been kept in check well, so won’t need plastic/cardboard) and one that’s not going to break the bank is labelled “blend of compost, well rotted manure and top soil“. As a beginner I’m unsure if that’s the right thing to go for. Any tips? Many thanks indeed.
    Thank you for sharing all your knowledge so freely, I’m especially enjoying the youtube channel.

    1. Thanks Carolin and yes forget mixes like that, the soil is to be avoided. Buy and of mushroom compost, old cow manure and PAS100 green waste compost, in that order of preference. The initial large amount of compost is a good investment for years to come.

  168. I am curious if you do any soil amending after the compost is spread? For example, I added horse manure to my garden last year, which was mainly composted, but some fresh was in there. My uncle suggested to ad lime due to the sawdust bedding they use for the horses, but I never got around to doing so. I had issues with blossom rot with my early tomatoes. (Luckily I was able to recover they others by adding calcium.) But I’m just curious if good quality compost will ad all nutrients needed for my garden? or are there specific plants that the soil will need extra mending? I’m aware certain berries like acidic soil. I’m just looking to make my garden as easy as possible! I’d rather not worry about adding extras.

    1. Meghan there are plenty of people who will worry you and sell you stuff.
      I find compost has always worked on it’s own.
      Blossom end rot is caused by lack of water, which restricts calcium uptake. You needed to water more not buy calcium.
      I never found manure or compost to be acid.
      Yes keep it simple.

  169. Hi Charles,

    You are amazing – my husband and I love watching your videos – beautifully done!
    We have a beautiful spot on the Sunshine Coast of BC, Canada.

    I have a question about raised beds.
    We have an intricate terraced raised bed system already in place, is there a possibility that I could do a no dig in them from your experience?
    It seems doable to me but thought I would ask you your opinion..

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge freely 🙂
    We are deeply grateful!

    1. Hello Verena
      Thanks and nice to hear from you.
      Yes for sure if you have beds already, just stop tilling, weed to have a clean surface then mulch the surface with 1-2in compost and you are underway.

  170. Hi Charles, After attending one of your no-dig courses and being immediately impressed with that experience I am now at the stage of trying to increase the amount of compost I can create. So, I have scrounged some 8’x4’ sheets of heavy duty shuttering plywood in order to create 3 adjacent bins about 4’x4’x4’. I have also got some 100mm thick insulation boards, same size sheets as the plywood. I thought that I would use this to line at least one bin and even use a piece for a lid, basically an insulated cube. My question is : Do I need to be concerned that this idea will be excluding air circulation?

    1. Hi David, nice to hear and this all sounds good. It’s the structure created by woody bits that holds air, or air is added when turning. Your compost will happen, same as it does in a hotbin/hotbox for example.

  171. Hi
    I have the opportunity to get some spent hops with 10%straw. Do these go direct on the allotment or do I need to compost first? We have just taken on an allotment but compost is currently proving quite costly!!!
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Lisa, Great and I compost spent hops with some straw along with other ingredients. They could also be used as a mulch but only around larger plants like courgettes, brassicas etc. Not before sowing and planting.

  172. Hello !
    I’ve been following your “no-dig” methods for about a year now on a my new garden.
    Initially the garden was completely smothered in bindweed, ground elder and various other weeds. Having gardened for many years using traditional weeding methods my experience led me to believe that I had little chance of getting it back to any manageable state for at least a few years.

    I had a brief attempt at digging out the bindweed but soon discovered the roots were a solid mass of about a foot thick so realised I was wasting my time.

    Having read your various articles on “no-dig” I decided that if I could smother everywhere in cardboard (obtained from a very friendly local furniture shop who were pleased to get rid of it) then at least I might halt the weed growth, before I could start adding compost on top.
    The long hot summer of 2018 meant that the cardboard dried out as fast as I wetted it. Coupled with the fact that I had no homemade compost (and to cover the garden in bought in compost would cost me a small fortune) I nearly gave up.
    However in the end I just covered the (still dry) cardboard with anything green or brown I could lay my hands on.
    My neighbour is a contract gardener so he willingly gave me all his grass clippings and hedge clippings, branches etc. Apart from roughly shredding the branches I didn’t do much else – just piled everything on top in a deep layer and added more cardboard layers as and when I could.
    I am amazed to say that now in February the base layer of cardboard is now well rotted and teeming with worms, the weeds have virtually all gone and the plants look incredibly healthy !
    The few weeds that have emerged can just quickly be hoed off and I have a top layer of almost pure (albeit rough) compost !

    Thank you so much – you are a complete inspiration !

    PS If anyone is interested….
    I made some of the very big cardboard boxes I obtained into makeshift compost bins and they have worked brilliantly. I just filled them, covered the top contents in old plastic compost bags, closed the lids and left them until the rain eventually rotted them. I then turned the contents into new cardboard boxes and started again. Not as aesthetic as a wooden bins I know but cheap and easy and you can move them anywhere!

    1. Sara great comment thanks, and very helpful.
      You improvised brilliantly, showing how the principle of no dig has many applications!
      Amazing compost heaps too.

    2. Sara, the furniture/appliance box as a self-decomposing compost bin is a great idea! Thank you for sharing that.

  173. Hi – I started to get my compost organised a couple of years ago and I agree with everything you have said. My only slight quibbles are (a) – I think small pieces of cardboard are better than large pieces, and (b) – I find it useful to turn a hot pile more than once (sometimes adding some new ingredients in order to ensure the re-starting of the process – I usually add a mix of green cuttings, coffee grounds, shredded paper, cardboard, straw and brown leaves. Sometimes I gather a bagful of comfrey leaves and nettles which grow in profusion alongside my nearby canal and river). I find I can get three piles finished in a year and maybe four. I accumulate layers of greens and browns in what I call my starter bin and when it is full I turn it into my hot bin.

    I’m looking forward to looking at your online course. Best wishes, Ken

    1. Thanks Ken and I agree with your methods, as long as one has time.
      My recommendations are about a middle way that is within reach to most. You are a premium compost maker!

      1. Thanks for the compliment!

        I think that there is a general lack of awareness that composting, like gardening, requires quite a lot of management. A pile of kitchen waste, however large, is unlikely to become much more than a slimy mess. Your own activities depend upon importing a significant quantity of ingredients for your composting needs.

        I like your comments about moisture content. Most online advice simply says that your compost should have the consistency of a squeezed-out sponge and I think that this is a pearl of wisdom which is much easier to repeat than to explain – a compost pile contains different ingredients and goes through different stages – its consistency will change consistently.

        I never add water to my ‘starter’ bin (and I never turn it) but it usually heats up very nicely, albeit unpredictably. I think you are correct to imply that air supply is more crucial than moisture levels but, above all, it is the balance of browns and greens which is most important.

        If in doubt, I would always recommend adding more browns – nitrogen:carbon ratios are anybody’s guess. By volume, 70% browns and 30% greens will probably still produce useful compost. Many gardeners will baulk at the idea.

        All of this depends on having a pile of around one cubic metre or slightly more. Smaller piles are likely to lose their heat and larger piles are likely to squeeze out the air. Turning the pile is most worthwhile if you can move the centre of the pile to the edges and vice versa. Corkscrew aerators are also useful. Ken

        1. Ken these are helpful tips and yes, every year I increase the browns a little!
          And yes, compost does not just happen, usually.

  174. Thanks for the great videos and website.

    I was wondering wrt compost: How much of the ingredients are sourced from the gardening operation itself (kitchen waste, etc), and how much is imported percentage-wise?

    Greetings from Austria,


    1. Hi Neven, and for my homemade compost about one third is imported, varying through the year, I am always looking for wastes

  175. Hi Charles, we love your website!

    We have just inherited a new garden down in Cornwall close to the coast. Half of our garden has previously been let go for almost 10 years and is now overrun with weeds, one of the most rampant and annoying is the alexander plant. This seems to have cropped up all over the place including in the beds we wish the grow produce in. We love the idea of just mulching our beds with compost to retain soil structure however we wonder what will happen to the carrot like roots of the Alexander. They currently take up a lot of soil space and we can’t imagine how other produce will grow around. Hence we feel we have no choice but to dig them up, and begin no dig once we have removed them including the carrot like root. Do you have any advice for us regarding this? We have some other particularly persistent weeds also that seems to grow up through any compost we mulch with, again, would these digging up?

    We look forward to your reply and hope to visit your garden in Somerset in the future,


    Kate & Alex

    1. Your vigorous Alexanders sounds worth digging, in the same way as big dock plants: use a sharp spade to cut and remove roots about 15cm/6in down. The root which is left in soil will regrow but weakly, can be mulched.
      It sounds like you need a year of polythene to tame all the weeds. Spread compost/organic matter frost then polythene, maybe plant some squashes in May, see Start no dig tab on this site.
      You could get free polythene from local farmers perhaps, after they have used it for silage clamps.

      1. Hi Charles we’re trying to reuse An old compost heaps as when we got the plot it was riddled with nettles. We have removed the majority of the roots and wanted to reuse the compost and add more to it. What would you suggest?


      2. Hello! If you are still answering these questions, with regard to this one, how can I know for future reference which weeds/plants have roots that are large enough to need digging rather than the no dig method?

        I am brand new to no dig, and I love your videos and website. — Thank you!

        1. Welcome Sarah, and it’s about woodiness of roots.
          Large woody roots have a lot of stored energy, so best dig out the main stem-root of say brambles or bushes, and the top, fat part of docks (rumex).
          All other roots are best left alone and covered over.

  176. Hello Charles.

    I am an organic market farmer in Hokkaido Japan with 25 years growing experience. I converted my farm into no-till raised beds two seasons ago. Used 2 year aged cow manure with sawdust and hot composted steer manure to mulch the beds. Direct seeding of beets gave a very spotted germination. What could have been the problem?
    Also last season i tried out the multiseeding technique for beets and onions (3 per plug) Very few grew at the same rate as I see on your video. Mostly one or two grew faster and suppressed the others which then didn’t grew large before the end of the season. Any comments?
    Thanks ,

    1. Hello Joan
      Thanks for writing and sorry to hear this.
      I wonder if it could be to do with the sawdust, hard to say without seeing how much you used or the kind of wood, but it sounds like the nutrients are not getting to your beetroot, and seedlings are somehow compromised in their growth, which should be fast.

  177. Hello Charles
    Great web site and video thank you for taking the time to get this all on line to help us.
    I have a question about horse manure. i herd it could contain weedkiller from the hay which could affect the veg. If it does would putting this on the compost for 3/4 months kill this off and be safe to use on the plot.

    1. Cheers Stephen and no, the aminopyralid does not break down in a a compost/manure heap, only in contact with soil microbes

  178. Hi Charles. I’m a newbie gardener, keen to just get stuck in and have a go – but have a quick question for you. I’m trying to make my own compost – veg peelings/ garden waste/ coffee grounds etc. I have access to horse manure/ and potentially cow manure (both not rotted down, very fresh). Do I add these on to my compost heap as they are? Or put them in a heap separately until they have rotted down? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Victoria, I would add the horse manure, because it brings heat, and keep the cow manure separate to compost on its own, more slowly and for perhaps a year.
      Or if you have just a little cow manure, fine to add it.

  179. Hi Charles,
    Thank you for creating such a beautiful, informative website. You are an utter inspiration. After seeing yours working, I have just created a hotbed in my greenhouse. It’s a cubic metre in size and is full of fresh horse manure with a layer of compost on top. After six days the internal temperature is already 70℃. I was rather hoping it would last at least two months but this seems very fast and I’m anxious that it might ‘run out’ much sooner. How can I reduce the temperature and slow decomposition a bit? I’m in the south of France, but outdoor daytime temperatures are barely above 8℃ and about -3℃ overnight.

    1. Thanks Lizzie.
      Length of hot time depends on heap volume, I suggest 1.2m square, or more.
      I suggest making the heap mid February when more can be sown, to get more from that precious heat.
      Keep adding fresh manure is my way of maintaining heat.

  180. Hello! I started my very first compost today in the US. I have a smartpot bag. I have been saving all my raked leaves, cardboard from christmas packages, poo from my chickens and all kitchen scraps. Today i layered as best i understood, added water. My thermometer arrived today also. The bag is almost 6 ft tall and i would say i was able to load it up about 5ft. I am asking when do i stop loading it up and cover? I was REALLY hoping to have compost by spring. Do you think it will be ready in under a year..such a long time. I also just got a delivery of woodchips and continue to watch videos to understand how to use them. Thank you so much!

    1. Lovely to hear your enthusiasm Daphne, and your heap sounds promising. However it is winter and in the cold (unless you are in Florida) there will be less heat, making it slower to decompose. Tree leaves are slow also.
      Up to one third chicken manure is possible and would increase heat. Coffee grounds do that too. I think it unlikely to be ready by spring and hope you prove me wrong! More likely by say June.

  181. I have 4 square plastic compost bins (750 ltr), using 2 for garden,kitchen,paper and cardboard, 1 for horse manure and the last for leaves. Having read your article on composting, it occurs to me that I shouldn’t be keeping the horse manure separate. What about the leaves, they’ll eventually break down to become leaf mould so should I keep them on their own?

    1. Good. For tree leaves it just depends how many you have: if enough to fill a whole bin, yes leave to become mould. If less than say a quarter of other ingredients, add to the main heap.

  182. Pity we cannot pay for downloading the Calendar. Postage to Germany is about 6.5£. I would rather pay a download version if possible

  183. Huh… I am amazed at your experience! My 2 year experience in gardening still can’t help me in learning how to deal with rats on the allotment. No cats allowed unfortunately. I am baffled… the traps did not catch anything and the poison got just 2. They went deeper in the ground and are still there. I worry about the newly planted trees and their unprotected roots.

  184. Hi Charles. I saw your article on interplanting and I was surprised to see that it is possible to plant so close without competition. Is it due to the immaturity of the newly planted seeds? So in general interplanting is done about 1.5 to 2 months before we crop the first planting? I read about it before but I misunderstood and interplanted from the begining… about 8 weeks after the first planting.


      1. Hi there

        How would you approach using eland dung as your basis for composting alongside wood chip and veg extras and a few leaves? A few years ago I knew a guy who just dumped the dung all over his lawn and planted veg inbetween and stuff grew really well, without any long composting etc. Would it be less acidic than cow or horse manure?

        I’m just asking because I can easily get huge sacks of it every day where I am, next to a nature reserve, and I’m keen to start transforming our super sandy soil into soil I can grow veg in!

      1. Hi there

        How would you approach using eland dung as your basis for composting alongside wood chip and veg extras and a few leaves? A few years ago I knew a guy who just dumped the dung all over his lawn and planted veg inbetween and stuff grew really well, without any long composting etc. Would it be less acidic than cow or horse manure?

        I’m just asking because I can easily get huge sacks of it every day where I am, next to a nature reserve, and I’m keen to start transforming our super sandy soil into soil I can grow veg in!

        1. Sounds a plan Mary. There are always exceptions and sandy soil needs loads of organic matter.
          My preference is always to compost, results wil be better and fewer nutrients lost to leaching. It’s up to you.

      2. Inspiring stuff… thought my compost heap would never warm up! Stubbornly remained at 10 degrees C. Tried aerating increasing greens and size… with recent warmer weather now at 32 degrees. Fingers crossed! No dig philosophy a real game changer … very many thanks

  185. Hi Charles, you website is brilliant, as are your videos and advice.
    I have one question, is it necessary to cover a compost heap from rain? In some of your videos you mention that the rain does not leech the goodness from the compost. Any advice is very gratefully received.

    Thanks again, Roisin a complete NEWBE to compost and no dig

    1. Hello Roisin and I am heartened that you are having a go, as a beginner.
      Yes it’s good to keep rain off a compost heap (except in dry summers like the exceptional 2018) because too much water in a heap displaces air, and makes it anaerobic/smelly/swamplike and soggy.
      A few nutrients might wash away but this is mainly not to do with water leaching goodness: you can spread compost on the ground, rain washes through and nutrients are held in water insoluble state.

      1. Charles,
        I can’t thank you enough for your insight. Our first year of no-dig in the southern United States was a success. Of you Have any ideas for irradiating Bermuda grass, I’m all ears.
        I wanted to get your input in coffee grounds in compost as I’ve been told the caffeine affects the plants and do I need to do anything special with my chicken manure? It seems like adding all the straw and manure from my coop may be offsetting the compost balance when I don’t have much green to add in winter.

        1. Thanks Ruthie.
          I have heard that people get rid of Bermuda grass within a year, by mulching very thoroughly as well as repeat pulling of new leaves.

          It’s a myth about caffeine in coffee grounds, because we have drunk it all! It’s good to be wary of people giving you free advice, because a lot of it is wrong!
          For your chicken manure, it’s no problem because the poo itself counts as a green, thanks to its large amount of nitrogen. About 3/4 straw and 1/4 chicken poo can make great Compost. Add any other materials/weeds etc you have, for sure

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