Our compost bins are working overtime just now as we cram them with barrowloads of garden clearings.

Broadly speaking, we compost green and brown stuff: green soft sappy weeds and grass clippings, and brown stems, paper and cardboard.

The leading composting workhorses are bacteria and fungi. The bacteria specialise in green waste, while fungi start breaking down more difficult brown compostables leaving bacteria to finish the decomposition process.

Both bacteria and fungi work faster on small material, which makes grass clippings stars of the show.

I run the rotary mower over other soft waste such as pea vines and herbaceous prunings and turn a large pile into a little grassbox full. In the same way, a shredder makes short work of old raspberry canes and woodier candidates.

But don’t worry if you don’t have the tools or time to do this because you’ll still get good compost – it’s just that you’ll just have to wait a little bit longer for it.

Bacteria have the easy job. They process the fresh weeds and grass pretty quickly and work at higher temperatures, which is why the level of the bin sinks dramatically in no time at all. It takes fungi longer to process the lignin in wood.

Fungi are fascinating and poorly understood organisms: it’s been estimated we have only identified and catalogued around 10% of the world’s species.

There are broadly two types of fungi operating in home and commercial composting. Thermophilic fungi need high temperatures – 45C and above – so are present in commercial composting processes.

A second group function in our much cooler home compost bins.

In a study six years ago, researchers analysed compost bins in 10 households and identified many different fungal species. Intriguingly, they discovered that each bin contained 13 species unique to that bin.

Every composter had its own balance of waste material and this attracted species best able to cope with them. Your bin will have lots of fungi that are different to your neighbours’.

So regardless of what you put into your bin, there’s a fungal organism to handle it and give you the compost you need.

And you’ll get decent compost sooner or later whatever the size and mix of organic materials you put in.

Plant of the Week

“Merengue” is a small climbing rose suitable for growing on a patio either in the open ground or, like me, in a very large pot, at least 50 litres. The nearly evergreen foliage is a dark glossy green. The flowers are intense cherry red speckled with a few tiny white spots borne on long flowering shoots that can droop in wet weather. Flowers have hardly any scent

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