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What is a compost heap?

A compost heap is a mound of decaying organic matter (including vegetable and fruit peelings/waste, pruning and grass cuttings) used by gardeners to re-cycle into organic soil improver and plant feed.

What are the benefits?

There are so many! 

1. Nutrient-rich soil improver: Compost is a natural fertiliser that improves soil structure and provides essential nutrients for plant growth. It enhances the soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients, promoting healthier and more robust plant development.

2. Waste reduction: Composting diverts organic waste, such as kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, from landfills. This helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, minimising methane gas emissions and lowering the environmental impact of waste disposal.

3. Carbon sequestration: Composting promotes the storage of carbon in the soil. Organic matter in compost is a source of stable carbon, contributing to soil carbon sequestration and helping combat climate change by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

4. Improved soil structure: Compost helps improve soil structure by enhancing its texture, aeration, and water retention capacity. This creates an environment that is conducive to root growth and allows for better movement of air, water, and nutrients through the soil.

5. Suppressing diseases and pests: Some composts contain beneficial microorganisms that can suppress harmful pathogens and pests, contributing to healthier plants. This natural disease suppression can reduce the need for chemical pesticides.

6. Cost-effective: Composting is a cost-effective method of waste disposal and soil improvement. It reduces the need for commercial fertilisers and soil amendments, ultimately saving money for gardeners and farmers.

7. Water conservation: The improved water retention capacity of compost-amended soil helps reduce water runoff and minimises the need for frequent irrigation. This is particularly beneficial in regions with water scarcity or where water conservation is a priority.

8. Biodiversity support: Compost heaps provide a habitat for various microorganisms, insects, and other beneficial organisms. This contributes to increased biodiversity in the soil, fostering a more balanced and resilient ecosystem.

9. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: By diverting organic waste from landfills, composting helps reduce methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and its reduction contributes to efforts to mitigate climate change.

10. Community and educational benefits: Composting can bring communities together, fostering a sense of environmental responsibility. Additionally, it serves as an educational tool, teaching individuals about the natural cycles of decomposition, soil health, and sustainable waste management.

How to make a compost heap:

If you have a small garden, a compact plastic bin is often a good choice. Larger gardens and allotments may be able to fill a large wooden compost ‘bay’, such as those made from pallets like ours. If you have the space, it is good to have more than one to hold compost at different stages of readiness.

It is best to position your compost bin in a sheltered location in partial or full shade to avoid extremes of temperature, as the bacteria and fungi that convert the waste into compost work best in constant conditions.

We made ours out of old pallets.

What to put in your compost

The bacteria and microorganisms that produce compost work best when the balance of green and brown materials is correct. As a rough guide:

25-50% Green – this is usually soft, leafy material, including grass clippings, sappy green plants (such as annual weeds), crop waste, old fruit and vegetables and kitchen peelings. These materials are rich in nitrogen.

75-50% Brown – mainly dry woody waste, such as prunings and hedge-trimmings (shredded, chipped or chopped up), and other dried materials such as dead stems and straw, as well as torn-up or shredded paper and cardboard. These are rich in carbon.

Turning your compost:

Turning or mixing compost adds air, which is necessary for the composting process. If the compost is too wet or compacted, then composting will be slower as less air is available. The compost also needs to be kept moist in dry weather. Turning it will give you an opportunity to assess the moisture level.

There are various ways to turn compost – the most thorough being to empty the bin then refill it, or to move the contents from one bin to another. But both of these take space and can be difficult. Another option is simply to fork through or stir the contents every few months, introducing air and mixing the different ingredients to the best of your ability.

When is compost ready?

Garden compost can take between six months and two years to reach maturity. Mature compost is dark brown, with a crumbly, soil-like texture and should smell like damp woodland.

How to use your compost

When spread over the soil surface or lightly forked in, compost adds valuable organic matter that improves the soil’s structure, aeration and biodiversity. It can boost moisture retention in fast-draining sandy soils and aid drainage in heavy clay soils. Used as a mulch, it helps to hold moisture in the soil and slow down evaporation in summer. 

Who we support

Our programmes support the emotional and mental wellbeing of young people, usually aged between 16 and 25. We run programmes specifically to support the young LGBTQ+ community for ages 11 to 15 and 16 to 25. Occasionally, we run programmes for particularly vulnerable groups, such as young people with mild to moderate learning disabilities or young carers.

Why it’s important

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK is in the grip of a mental health crisis with young people worst affected. NHS figures show that there has been a 50% rise over the last three years in the number of young people requiring mental health support. The NHS is overwhelmed, resulting in a quarter of a million children in the UK unable to get NHS help and an average waiting time of 21 weeks for a first appointment.

Our impact

The Wild Mind Project offers an alternative pathway for mental wellbeing.  Through nature connection, creativity and mindfulness, we increase young people’s sense of wellbeing, helping them to feel valued, optimistic and resilient. University College London evaluates our programmes and has found our data to show a consistent and significant increase in wellbeing for the young people who attend our programmes.

Meet the team

Directors, staff and volunteers at The Wild Mind Project share a belief that nature offers innumerable benefits for mental health. We have come together from diverse backgrounds with a broad range of expertise and lived experience, to support young people experiencing mental ill-health in the city of Brighton and Sussex.

DIRECTOR

Berny Simcox (she/her)

An experienced charity CEO, Berny holds degrees in Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Sustainable Development. She has published academically on strategies for advancing sustainable development education and lectured on Sustainable Development and Wildlife Management & Conservation. Berny has a strong operational background and is also a qualified Mindfulness & Meditation Teacher and a Forest Bathing Guide.

FINANCE DIRECTOR

David A'Court (he/him)

Worked for a major bank in London and the South West until retirement. After retirement, David worked part-time as a finance officer for two environmental charities for over 12 years.  He has also held the post of Treasurer for a  health charity for over 25 years.

DIRECTOR

Luke Johnson (he/him)

Luke is a queer artist, facilitator and teacher with a love of the outdoors and a passion for sharing the benefits of nature and art with others.

Growing up as a trans kid in rural Sussex, Luke felt the positive effect of spending time outside, discovering how walking, gardening and exploring could help manage the stress and anxiety he was experiencing.

Arts and crafts also provided a way to relax and play. In his work as a facilitator, Luke helps create safe, supportive environments and encourages people to use art as a tool for experimentation and self-expression.