Composting, George, How To, Mice & Rats, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Composting is a great way to reduce the waste you send to landfill and produce organic fertiliser for your plants. One of the biggest concerns around having a compost bin in the garden is whether it might attract pests or vermin. The short answer is yes, it can. But that’s why we’ve gathered advice to ensure you can build a pest-proof compost bin and enjoy all its benefits without the pain.

pest proof compost

Why are pests attracted to compost bins?

The most likely pests to seek out you compost are rats and mice. They are a common part of a residential ecosystem and look for two things: food and shelter. This is why rodents are particularly attracted to compost heaps, especially in winter. It provides them with food and a warm, sheltered spot to sleep in.

Insects, however, are generally nothing to worry about in compost heaps. Worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, beetles and more are regular guests. They are a crucial part of the decomposition process, so embrace the bugs!

slug compost

Tips for deterring pests

  1. Avoid putting any meat or dairy products in your compost, including fatty oils or bones. This would smell like a feast to rats.
  2. Over autumn and winter keep your compost bin damp – this will help with the decomposition process and make it less attractive to rodents.
  3. They also don’t like disturbance, so be sure to turn your compost regularly or give the bin a kick when you walk past!
  4. Cover food scraps with dry leaves or soil in the bin to conceal the smell of decaying food.
  5. Rodents are reportedly put off by the aroma of mint, so try sprinkling peppermint oil on your compost or planting mint nearby.

mouse in garden

How to protect your compost bin

It’s very hard to completely protect a compost bin against vermin as mice can squeeze through holes as small as a penny, and rats can chew through almost anything. Compost bins are much easier to seal against invading pests than open heaps, so if you’re worried about rodents then they’re the better choice. Surrounding your bin with rocks and bricks can make it a bit more fortified.

If you have a plastic bin, this is easiest to seal. The best time is before you start using it as you’ll need to line the bottom with wire mesh. Ensure the holes are only small enough for bugs to get through, not burrowing mice.

If you have a wooden bin, again you’ll need to line the bottom and sides with wire mesh. Make sure this is sealed firmly round all the edges with no gaps.

compost

Last resorts

Hopefully these tips will make your compost bin as unattractive to pests as possible. While the best defense is prevention, if you’re still experiencing issues then it might be time to look into pest control, such as traps.

Happy composting!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Composting, Gardening, How To, Megan, Organic

Why Compost?

There are countless benefits to composting and it is easier to get started than a lot of people think! When you use it as a soil amendment it improves the soils structure, provides a source of plant nutrients and stimulates beneficial organisms. Other benefits include saving money you may be spending on expensive soil amendments and reducing waste sent to landfill, contributing to a more sustainable planet. It is also great if you want to transition to transforming your garden into an organic, pesticide-free environment. It is easy to learn how to compost and it is a great investment of your time!

Compost Bins

How to compost: compost bins
How to compost: compost bins

First things first – investing in a great compost bin will make your life as a composter gardener a lot easier. There are numerous compost solutions on the market today. These include easy-load compost bins and tumbling compost bins for faster composting. Accessories such as compost aerators which helps speed up the decomposition process are also available. If you want to be extra kind to the environment, avoid plastic and invest in a wooden compost bin.

Alternatively, you can recycle and use an old rubbish bin as a compost bin. Saw off the bottom and drill holes in the bottom half of the bin, then bury the section with holes in the soil. This will allow microorganisms to more easily enter your pile.

We have highlighted below some items you can and cannot compost. All you need to do to get started is start loading into your compost bin, and wait for it to do its magic!

What You Can Compost

How to compost: peeling potatoes

You can compost the majority of the organic matter from your food waste, including but not limited to:

  • Tea bags (be wary that some tea bags are encased in plastic and other inorganic materials.  If in doubt cut open and just compost the contents)
  • Egg shells
  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds & filters
  • Leftover cooked pasta & rice
  • Stale food, such as bread, cereal and crisps (bury bread deep to discourage pests)
  • Cardboard food packaging with any plastic removed, cut up for easier decomposition
  • Herbs & spices

But composting materials aren’t just limited to kitchen scraps! Many people aren’t aware you can also cultivate other household waste, including:

  • Facial tissues
  • Cotton items – cotton wool, clothing, fabric
  • Newspaper & waste paper, as long as it’s not glossed (best to feed through a shredder first)
  • Crumbs and dust collected from your dustpan
  • Uneaten dry dog & cat food
  • Dead house plants & flowers

And last but not least, don’t forget to compost your garden waste, such as:

  • Grass trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Dying plant material
  • Non-toxic weeds

What You Can’t Compost

how to compost: walnuts

There are some things better left out of compost. These items may slow decomposition and produce a lower quality of compost. Others aren’t just bad for compost, but bad for the environment. The general rule is you can compost anything that is organic matter that was once living. Some exceptions to this rule are:

  • Cooking oil
  • Diseased plants
  • Dairy products, including milk (although plant-based milks can be composted)
  • Meat scraps
  • Any inorganic materials
  • Walnuts
  • Pet faeces

How to Use Your Compost

how to compost: compost in scoop

Compost can be used in many beneficial ways. As already mentioned it is a great organic soil amendment. Simply spread it onto your flower bed or veg patch to make your flowers lusher and your vegetables hardier. Compost can also be used as a lawn topper. It will encourage growth and ensure your grass is as green as can be. It can also be used as mulch, helping retain soil moisture as well as boosting its health.

What about pests?

It is pretty easy to keep unwanted pests just as rats, away from compost. Keeping meat and dairy products out of your compost will help as these are big for attracting rodents. Another solution is to buy a closed compost bin with a lid. This will keep pests away as well as conceal the smell of the compost. Also be sure to keep your compost bin away from other animal food sources, such as berry bushes or bird feeders.

Overall, composting is a great thing to do for you as a gardener, your garden and the wider environment. The benefits are endless and there is no better day to start than today!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Composting, Gardening, Zoe

 

Compost Bins

Composting is a huge trend in the gardening community and it has become a household norm to have a compost bin alongside your general waste and recycling bins. Although the thought of composting may seem cumbersome, there are a tonne of fantastic benefits of making your own compost.

Monty Don has shared his pearls of wisdom regarding the best way to compost, and if Monty is doing it, then it’s safe to say we should probably be doing it too!

What are the benefits of composting?

Composting at home has a heap of benefits including:

  • It helps cut CO2 emissions that are harmful to the environment.
  • It encourages natural wildlife such as small insects which then help to feed birds and hedgehogs.
  • By making your own compost you get to save money by not buying the expensive brands!
  • Turning your compost heap once monthly provides excellent exercise for you no matter what age or ability you are.

No matter the size of your home and garden there is an easy way for you to start composting. Head over to Recycle Now for specific tips on the space you have available. 

How does it help the environment?

Rubbish ordinarily sent to a landfill omits harmful greenhouse gases because there is a lack of air getting to the waste. This in turn creates methane which can damage the Earth’s atmosphere.  However, if you compost at home the oxygen will help the waste decompose aerobically which significantly reduces the methane produced, which is great news for the environment.

By composting at home you also save the petrol used to transport compost rubbish sent to landfill each week!

Landfill

How is the compost produced better?

The compost you can produce at home will help improve your soil structure and also help fight plant disease. Home produced compost contains ingredients your plant love such as: potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus which will make your plants look glorious all year round.

Won’t having a compost heap attract pests?

A well looked after compost bin should not attract any pests such as rats and flies unless it has not been properly secured. One way to help prevent these unwelcome guests is to make sure the moisture levels do not get too high, and you could also keep chicken wire at the base of the bin which can help obstruct an entrance for small mammals.

A compost bin will however host smaller creatures such as slugs and worms – but do not panic! These creatures will help decompose the waste in your compost bin, and they should love their home so much that they do not feel tempted to stray to other areas in your garden.

Slug

Won’t having a compost heap promote weeds?

There is a fear that homemade compost will introduce weeds into your garden. This will only happen if your compost bin does not produce enough heat to kill the weed seeds, so be sure to monitor the temperature of your compost heap with a thermometer – don’t let it drop below 43 degrees Celsius.

What time of year can I compost?

You can compost all year round!

Have we convinced you yet? Head over to our specialist range of compost bins to find the perfect one for you and your garden, and keep your eyes peeled for our next blog on How To Create The Perfect Compost!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Plants, Weeding, Zoe

There are mixed opinions about whether you should bother to sterilise your compost. Some gardeners choose not to, which is fine, but we believe there are many benefits to this very simple process:

  1. It kills off harmful bacteriaSome may argue that in turn you will be killing useful bacteria but this is not the case. The only way you will kill of beneficial bacteria is by baking your soil at a temperature that is too high; we talk about this in more detail later. Professional nurseries sterilise their compost, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
  2. It’s proven to keep away pests such as thrips that are particularly annoying when using compost in your home and sterilisation can prevent such unwanted house guests.
  3. Prevention is the solution. Prevent disease in your compost before the problems arise, rather than skipping past the sterilisation stage and then making the situation a lot worse later on.
  4. Sterilised soil ensures that your plant will be happy and healthy, and this means the best optimal growth.
  5. Better safe than sorry. The methods outlined in this blog are super easy to do, and will make sure your compost is definitely safe for your plants. So why wouldn’t you want to give it a go?

    Making Compost

    Outlined here are three easy methods to sterilise your compost from your home:

     

    Oven

    Using your oven at home you can sterilise your compost easily; be warned that baking compost can create a smelly odour, so you may wish to open your windows whilst doing this.

    • Firstly, you need to use moist soil, do not over water the soil however you only want a slight dampness.
    • Use an oven safe tray and fill it with your soil until it is around 10 cm (4 inches) deep.
    • Cover the tray loosely with foil.
    • Put your tray in the middle of a pre-heated oven that’s around 80° For a more accurate result use a thermometer in the centre of the tray and bake between 80-90°c
    • Do not exceed the temperatures stated above, at temperatures above 90°c is when the good bacteria is killed and toxins are produced.
    • Bake for 30 minutes before taking out, make sure to take the foil off and leave it to cool for a while before handling the soil.

     

    Microwave

    The easiest and quickest way to sterilise your compost is with your microwave. We suggest using an old microwave in your garden shed or greenhouse to prevent bringing compost into your home, and this way you can get on with other gardening jobs whilst it’s baking.

    • As before you will need moist soil, but not too wet that it is slushy.
    • Find a microwave safe container and fill this with your soil.
    • Do not use foil in the microwave, instead cover with cling film with holes for the steam to escape or a plastic lid with air holes.
    • For every two pounds of soil will need 90 seconds in the microwave.
    • After it’s pinged, leave the soil to cool before handling.

     

Alternative method:

  • Place two pounds of moist soil in a polypropylene bag
  • Leave the bag slightly open for ventilation
  • Zap in the microwave for 2-2 ½ minutes on full power before removing and cooling

 

Pressure Cooker

  • Start by pouring a few cups of water into the cooker
  • Next add your pans of soil, be careful not to add more than 4 inches, and pop it on the top rack.
  • Make sure to cover these with foil to help insulate the soil.
  • Close the lid for your cooker but make sure you leave the steam valve

For every ten pounds of soil, leave it to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Voila! You now have sterilised soil that will be sure to sprout stunning plants in no time! If you prefer shop bought compost, read our Primrose Guide to Compost for further advice and information.

Sterilised Compost

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.