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Use your home made compost


Assess the quality of your compost and then use it around the school garden. 

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Art&DT

Learning objectives

  • Learn about the process of decomposition
  • Choose the correct tools for the task
  • Find out what plants need to grow


Assess whether the compost is ready to use in the garden. If it is brown, looks like bought compost but maybe with a few twiggy bits then it is good to use.

If decomposing plant material and peelings can be seen then leave it for longer.


  • Well rotted garden compost or leaf mould*
  • Spades
  • Trowels
  • Trugs
  • Gloves
  • Large garden sieve

* If compost from the heap is not ready to use, buy some bagged multi-purpose, peat free compost which is already rotted down.

Step by step

  1. Gather around the compost heap and discuss whether the compost is ready to use in the garden. Have the plant matter and peelings broken down? Does it look more like soil?
  2. If the compost is very lumpy and has large pieces of organic matter which have not decomposed fully like twigs and thick stems remove these or sieve it. Remove any non- biodegradable items such as old labels or litter.
  3. The compost can be used in 2 ways: for mulching around plants or digging into the soil. Ensure tools are used safely.
  4. Mulch: Fill trugs with compost and spread on the surface of the soil in a ring around plants, in a layer 5 – 10cm deep. Avoid the compost touching the stems as this can cause them to rot.
  5. Dig into soil: Dig a trench to the depth of one spade (10-15cm). Tip compost in the bottom of the trench and cover with the soil. This is called single digging. Alternatively use trowels to mix the compost into the top layer of the soil.

Hints & tips

  • Applying the compost as mulch allows worms to mix it into the soil, called ‘No dig’ gardening.
  • The compost provides nutrients for the plants, smothers weeds and helps retain moisture in the soil.
  • Use this activity as part of the Earth Matters class growing topic

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