‘Will attract vermin’: The key ingredients you should never add to your compost heap

Gardening tips: Can you reuse pot compost

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Making compost at home is an effective way to add nutrients to the garden while reducing household food waste, but not everything we eat is beneficial for outdoor plants. In fact, some ingredients can slow down or even stop the decomposition process entirely, and others will make your compost heap an easy target for pests. Here are five common ingredients you should always keep out of your compost to avoid damaging your garden.

Compost is hugely beneficial for the garden and even more so when it’s made from scratch.

While half the fun of starting your compost heap is experimenting with different combinations of everyday ingredients, the experts at Garden Organic warned that some things are “best avoided”.

They explained that meat, dairy and cooked food scraps can be a problem as well as some types of grass cuttings and plant material, but why exactly are they so damaging?

Meat and fish

Though It may seem beneficial to throw scraps of protein-rich meat and fish into your compost, these pungent ingredients will often rot away before they can be made useful in the garden.

Even with a lid on your bin, the repulsive scent of decaying meat acts as a magnet for unpleasant pests, including flies, rats, and cockroaches.

Instead, dispose of meat and fish in your general waste bin and leave it out of your earthy compost heap.

This includes bones, blood, fish, and animal fats – another common pest magnet.

Processed foods

Compost should be packed with nutrient-rich, organic ingredients, something processed products are often lacking in.

These food items are designed to have a long shelf life and have little to contribute no to a decaying compost heap.

The team at Conserve Energy Future said: “Unfortunately, whether the food is cooked or processed, it will attract vermin and pests.

“The pests are attracted to the compost by the foul smell that comes from composting food scraps.”

For the best results from your compost, keep processed items out of the waste pile – especially those with a high dairy or fat content.

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Diseased plants

While compost is used to encourage strong, healthy growth, adding cuttings from diseased or damaged plants is unlikely to warrant the results you’d expect.

Unless your compost heap is able to reach very high temperatures in excess of 60C, the earthy matter is unlikely to be able to kill insects and disease pathogens such as fungi and bacteria.

Though most diseased branches, leaves, and stems should be disposed of in a self-contained bin bag, plants with powdery mildew are safe to compost, according to the experts at Tiny Garden Habit.

They said: “You can safely compost powdery mildew leaves because the process of composting makes it impossible for powdery mildew spores to survive.

“When the compost is finished, it no longer contains discernable plant matter for the powdery mildew to feed on, so the fungus eventually dies off.”

Weeds should also be avoided if they have gone to seed before picking and composting.

Charcoal ash

Wood chippings and ashes from burnt wood can be loaded onto a compost heap in small quantities, though ash and charcoal should always be avoided.

This is due to the high sulphur content in ash, which is often too acidic for most plants to cope with.

Charcoal is equally as damaging to plants as briquettes often contain a mixture of different chemicals.

Animal waste

Both cats and dogs can carry bacteria and parasites that cause human disease, which could turn your compost pile into hazardous waste.

Roundworms are one of the most common diseases linked to dog faeces, while cats can carry the organism that causes toxoplasmosis, a disease of particular concern to pregnant women.

The foul smell of animal faeces is also very attractive to pests and could leave your heap teeming with bugs or even larger pests.

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