Building a bug hotel

Make a compost heap

Fancy potato peelings, grass cuttings and onion skins for dinner? No? Well, we know wildlife that would!

It's one of nature's miracles that the fruit, vegetable and plant scraps that we throw away are readily gobbled up by an army of wild recyclers.

 

You can watch this in action by making your own compost. A brigade of insects and creepy crawlies get a supply of food, and you get perfect compost to help more plants grow. So how about turning your fruit and vegetable leftovers into some haute cuisine for your garden bugs?

 

Are you doing this activity as part of your Wild Challenge? Take a look at your progress and go for gold!


Did you know As well as being a great home and food source for nature, composting helps reduce waste which might otherwise end up in landfill. And it provides a cheap and easy means or naturally enriching soil - it's a win-win!

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people have completed this activity

What you will need

With minimum effort, you can be up and running in no time with the perfect spot to house your garden prunings, kitchen waste (not meat or diary) and grass clippings:

  • A spare corner of your garden
  • A ready-made wooden compost heap or some wooden pallets and posts
  • Nails or string

 

Snail

Step-by-step

  1. Position your ready-made compost bin or make one - recycle some old pallets - or if you're buying them then look for the FSC logo. Stack them up in a square, either by fixing the corners together with strong string (known as lashing), or by asking an adult to nail them together. At some stage you will want to get to the contents of the heap, so it’s good to make one side removable. As you fill the heap, it makes it easier for getting material in and out  if you have a moveable side.
  2. Feed your heap! Feed it with a mix of green (clippings, weeds and uncooked vegetable peelings) and brown materials (sticks, dried grass, paper and cardboard). This is the first secret to making great compost quickly. Aim for a mix of thin alternating layers of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials. Don't include meat, cooked food (bread, cooked rice, leftovers etc), dairy products or pet waste. Avoid these and the risk of rats using your heap are very small (but if they do visit, cut out the vegetable peelings).
  3. Shred your material thinly. This is the second rule for making great compost. The finer the material is shredded before it goes on, the quicker it will rot. Get this right and your heap should build up quite a temperature, killing off any weed seeds and making a nice home for toads, woodlice and for slow-worms. 
  4. Keep the heap damp but not soaking. Water it with a watering can if necessary in dry weather. Putting a cover on your heap helps keep in heat and moisture, but keeps it getting too wet if it rains. You could use an old offcut of carpet or some wood. 
  5. Turning the contents with a fork can help speed up the decomposition, but be careful not to disturb or – worse still – spike slow-worms or toads in the process.
  6. Your compost heap will start to become home to legions of woodlice, scurrying centipedes, tiny, leaping springtails and even slow-worms. And double-bonus: you can return all the goodness of this wholesome compost back to your garden, within a year, sometimes less.
  7. Don't forget to tell us when you have completed the activity! When you mark the activity as complete, you will be asked to upload a photo, drawing or painting to help earn your award.
Soil

Completing the activity

Use the 'Mark as complete' button at the top of this page to tell us you've completed your activity. You'll need to show us what you did by uploading a photo of your compost heap, either complete or your family making it or some images of creatures using it. You can send us some artwork instead if you wish.

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