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Brief Guide To Composting

Written by: Doug
Published: 9th March 2019

A Brief Guide To Composting

In a permaculture garden, it is important to complete the cycle and return surplus to the system. One of the ways in which gardeners do this is through composting. Composting is a simple process, but one that may need a little explanation for beginners to organic gardening. There are several different composting methods that are commonly used in a permaculture garden, each of which is outlined below:

Composting in Place

One of the simplest ways to compost in a permaculture garden is simply to layer up organic waste from your home and garden to create your growing areas. Layered composting beds, or ‘lasagne beds’ as they are sometimes known, are a ‘no dig’ approach to creating the areas to grow your crops. Since you will not need to lift the turf, or dig into the soil, the soil ecosystem will remain protected.

In the creation of these beds, brown, carbon-rich materials such as cardboard and wood are layered with green, nitrogen-rich materials such as green deciduous leaves, grass, and vegetable peelings, then topped with some top soil or compost. As these decompose in place, the beds will sink, and nutrients will be released to feed plants growing on top. Mulches of organic waste laid on top will then replenish each bed. 

Cold Composting

A cold compost bin or heap uses exactly the same principles as composting in place. Layers of brown and green materials are built up and will compost into a crumbly material perfect for top-dressing or container plants. It is best to have at least two bins, so you can keep filling one while taking finished compost from another.

These bins can be made from old wooden pallets, or other reclaimed materials. It is important to turn your heap regularly and to keep it moist, though not waterlogged. Otherwise, you can pretty much leave your cold compost to its own devices until it is time to use it on your garden.

Hot Composting

One of the downsides with cold composting, though that is the easiest and cheapest form of composting to implement, is that it takes a while. Another downside is that there are a number of kitchen-waste items that are best not included. Last but not least, cold composting also allows weed seeds to remain, which can lead to more weeding when spread on your garden. Special hot composting bins do away with those problems, and could be a worthwhile investment if you want compost more quickly.


The final technique we should look at is vermiculture, which is using special worms to help you to create a fine and fertile compost from kitchen scraps and household paper and cardboard waste. You do not need a lot of space for a small wormery, so this could be the best option for those with container gardens or minimal outside space.

You can buy or make a wormery and purchase ‘tiger worms’ for delivery through the post. As long as you take care of the basic needs of your worms, you should get a very high quality compost.

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Written by: Doug

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