Make your own compost

A pile of seasonal produce dug up from a vegetable patch

At Mottisfont compost-making is integral to keeping the gardens in top condition, especially the famous walled rose garden. It’s made in industrial quantities, but head gardener Jonny Norton has devised the following simple steps to making your own nutrient-packed compost at home.

1. Create your compost area

The size and quantity of your compost beds simply depends on what quantity of waste material you are going to collect over a given period. At Mottisfont we make some 80 tonnes of compost so our compost beds are vast. The minimum you need are two beds one to fill and the other as a spare for turning into. 

Five wooden pallets standing on their edges and tied together is a simple way to make two small compost beds – you may need to use fence posts as extra support. Sleepers , posts, old planks of wood – it’s up to you.

2. Collect your garden waste and fill the beds

Your garden waste needs to be a mix of green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) - for example, you could mix grass cuttings or weeds with dead twigs and leaves. The finer you shred the material,  the quicker it will decompose. Aim for 60% brown and 40% green as a guide.

Aim for a good mix of green and brown material
A garden fork in a heap of garden waste, ready for composting
Aim for a good mix of green and brown material

Aim to build your heap to approximately shoulder height. This will help keep the heat in the centre and the composting process to speed. Make sure your material is in touch with the soil below, to allow for worms.

3. Turning your compost

After approximately one week, your compost heap will have built up some heat. The ideal heat should be between 50 and 70 degrees celsius. You can use a compost thermometer to check this.

Now turn your compost into your empty bed. The idea is to make sure the center is not the only area that is heating up and decomposing. A pitch for or garden fork is perfect for this.

If heavy rain is forecast, then it's worth covering your heap so it doesn’t get too wet. The ideal consistency of compost is similar to a damp sponge.

Leave your compost for a further two weeks. and then repeat the turning process. Continue this for at least 6 - 8 weeks, by which time you should have useable compost for your garden.

Follow our steps to get great compost at home
A pile of compost at Mottisfont, Hampshire
Follow our steps to get great compost at home

Using this method, you can make a constant supply of compost throughout the year, which can be stored for future use.

A gardener 'turning' the compost at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Composting at Mottisfont 

We make compost in vast quantities at Mottisfont, all for the good of our gardens. It keeps our soil healthy, which in turn ensures our plants - including the famous rose collection - are looking their very best. It also means we can recycle our garden waste. Find out more about how we make this vital garden ingredient, and why.