Composting for all by Pauline Pears

Pauline Pears of Prickly Pears Productions is a writer and educator in all aspects of organic gardening.  We were privileged to have Pauline attend our November meeting.  Most of us currently compost our household waste but Pauline was able to correct a few myths or uncertainties and it was a very interesting and useful presentation.

Pauline (left) with our Chairperson Pat Wood


Three key points were discussed to ensure an individual will engage in composting.

  1.  To have a compost bin that you like and that is convenient to use.
  2.  Find a method that suits i.e. regular fork turning if you need the heap to mature faster or if not then less, say every 6 months.
  3.  To be aware of the variety of items that can be composted.

We then had a fun interactive game where we got in to small groups and placed cards on to a board to show whether or not we felt something was compostable.


Definite no no’s for the compost bin are potato tubers, as they may contain blight, dairy products as they attract rats, and pretty obvious would be animal droppings as nasty diseases are likely to lurk within.  Any diseased plant with white rot or club root should not be included either as such diseases can live for 20 years in the soil.  Potato peelings should be treated with caution too as they could spread blight.  Potato tops are fine to use though, as are rhubarb leaves.

Other diseased plants i.e. tomato blighted plants are fine as the disease dies with the decomposition of the plant.

It was interesting to hear that Pauline has a compost pile just made up of weeds, docs, couch grass, bind weed etc.  Weeds make great compost but may take a longer time to fully rot down so are best kept in a separate heap.

Wood chipping are fine but try not to put loads in as they are hard to rot down.  Nitrogen assists with breakdown so cut grass, bracken, nettles and urine make good activators.  Now is the best time of year to collect all those Autumn leaves and hold them in a separate bin or builders bag.  Leaves make fabulous compost but take a long time to fully rot, the addition of fallen apples Pauline has found makes excellent compost.


Water is necessary to facilitate the breakdown process, and another reason some cut grass is useful.  Pruning and plant debris provide fibre and produce air pockets, all needed for the production of good compost.

Many thanks to Pauline who gave us all a further insight in to composting.

Pauline is happy to share her extensive knowledge and can be contacted as follows:

14a Kenilworth Road, Leamington Spa, Warks, CV32 5TL

Tel: 01926 429497      Mobile:  07793 838734