‘Hugely beneficial’ festive foods to add to compost and what to avoid

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Gardening can be slow in the winter months, though one thing that never goes out of season is a nutrient-rich heap of compost that can provide endless benefits for your garden soil and plants. Gathering food scraps to add to your compost pile can take some time on a normal day, though Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to add to an existing heap or even start from scratch. While most items are safe to add to the mix, Hayes Garden World expert Angela Slater has warned against using certain festive foods – or risk inviting vermin onto your property.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, she said: “Composting is an incredibly effective and eco-friendly way to dispose of your food waste, and with the UK throwing away 9.5 tonnes of food per year, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your relationship with your leftovers. Disposing of them into a compost pile rather than your household bin reduces the amount of waste that will ultimately end up in landfills.

“Leftover food is also hugely beneficial for soil health, with composting encouraging the soil to hold water and nutrients for longer and improving many of its overall physical properties. This even contributes towards higher crop yields, meaning that throwing your food waste into a compost heap could lead to a flourishing garden.”

“Composting is equally a great way to combat the guilt we all feel when letting our food go to waste. Knowing that our leftovers can have a purpose beyond our dinner plates will make mealtimes much more enjoyable.”

She explained that making the most of your “homemade” compost starts with using the right ingredients to maximise the benefit to your garden as they break down in the ground.

How to make garden compost using Christmas foods

Filling up a food waste bin may feel like you’re doing your bit for the environment over the festive period, but you need to do more if you want “great” compost.

Build it up in small amounts

Angela warned against adding large chunks of food to the heap – no matter how beneficial the ingredient may be to your garden. She said: “Chop up any large pieces of fruit or vegetables and mix with other materials such as garden waste and shredded paper to create a nice friable mixture.”

Peelings and shavings are even better for quick decomposition and will mean your compost gets to work more quickly when spread across plant beds and added to pots.

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Avoid meat and fish

Turkey, glazed pork, duck, and beef are all popular choices for the Christmas table, but they should be avoided in the garden.

Along with fish and seafood, the meat and bones on these items will cause foul odours to linger in your garden, attracting a host of hungry pests. 

Even though they will decompose, they aren’t worth adding to your compost heap and should instead be disposed of in a general waste bin.

Angela added that in general, all cooked foods should be avoided.

Avoid baked goods

The gardening expert explained that if you do have leftover cake, bread, pastries or biscuits, they should be kept well away from your compost heap as they provide little in the way of nutrients and “only attract vermin”.

She said: “Do dispose of cake and bread if you have a wormery. These can be fed to worms in small quantities, but larger quantities can cause them to go mouldy. Include plenty of shredded cardboard and paper with the food.”

Always keep banana peels

Bananas are one of the most versatile fruits enjoyed throughout the year, but the inedible peel means just one bunch of these yellow fruits produces a lot of waste.

Add eggshells

Just like banana peels, egg shells are an unavoidable waste product, though their calcium-rich structure means they are another valuable compost ingredient that will “inject” nutrients into garden soil.

Turn compost regularly

Once your compost heap has been loaded up with festive flavours, take the time to check on it into the new year by turning it regularly.

Angela said: “It should be ready to use in approximately twelve months to two years.”

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