Waking your compost bin in Spring

This is the time compost fans have been waiting for.  At Great Green Systems we leave our compost ‘cooking’ for two grand occasions a year – April and October – for the Spring and Autumn retrieval of mature compost from the Green Johanna.

If you’re a first-time user of a Johanna, we recommend waiting 6-8 months before taking your compost out. After that, depending on conditions, 4-6 months should be fine.  

You can take compost from the bottom of the Johanna by unscrewing the hatches and removing compost using the aerator stick or a garden hoe.

To remove larger amounts of compost that have been left longer to mature, you can unscrew the Johanna’s modular sections, then remove materials from the top that are still decomposing and place them on a tarpaulin to enable you to get to the mature compost. Then put the decomposing materials back into the reassembled compost bin to continue breaking down.

Taking a Green Johanna apart to take out compost

Compost is ready when it looks like soil – dark and crumbly – and also smells like fresh soil. There may be some items that have not fully broken down, such as sticks, bits of eggshell and tea bags. These can be taken out and put back into the composter to go through the breakdown process again.  If there are other recognisable waste items and an unpleasant smell, the compost is not ready and should be left to continue breaking down.

This is also a good time to take leaf mould out of composters that are used only for leaves for use in your compost mixes.

Leaf mould taken from a Graf Thermo King 900 litre composter after two years breaking down

Use your compost for:  

Planting – Compost acts like a natural fertiliser enriching the soil and helping plants to thrive. As it is taken into the soil by worms and other organisms, the compost feeds plants and micro-organisms in the soil. For different compost recipes, check out the Garden Organic website – www.gardenorganic.org.uk.  

Mulching – At the beginning of the growing season mulches warm the soil, helping it to retain heat which would be lost at night.

  • Mulch also creates a haven for insects and worms which in turn attract birds and other wildlife, creating a mini eco-system in your garden.
  • Gardeners appreciate the neat weed-free appearance that mulch creates.
  •  If you have a dry garden, you’ll be glad of the protection that mulch offers plants in retaining water and cutting down on evaporation. This means you don’t have to water as frequently. Apply mature compost on soil after a spell of rain to retain moisture. Lay the layers at least 5cms thick after first removing weeds.

Planning your planting

  • Choose plants that peak at different times from June through to September.
  • Check the eventual height and spread of each plant before you plant it.
  • Water in each new planting and keep them watered regularly during their first summer.
  • Tackle weeds – the best approach is little and often. Hoe once a week to dislodge annuals. Perennials can be pulled out by hand if they’re still small, or if larger they can be dug out with a trowel.  
  • If you want to embrace No Mow May, allowing wildflowers to flourish and creating a habitat for insects, but you’re worried your lawn will look too wild, compromise by mowing a path through the grass and neatening edges.
  • Support Peat-free April – although the UK government has banned the sale of bagged peat for home gardeners, peat is still used for growing plants to sell. Support peat-free nurseries and suppliers by going to the Peat-free April website (www.peatfree.org.uk)

Tips from the experts

Sarah Raven is surely the Queen of Pots – she has 382 pots in her garden. In her book A Year Full of Pots (Bloomsbury) she advises:

  • Keep your eyes peeled for pests as the weather warms – deal with aphids with a jet of water from the hose.
  • Label everything because it’s easy to forget what’s what. Always start writing at the blunt end of your label.
  • If you don’t have a polytunnel, greenhouse or cold frame, it might be easier to buy seedlings online rather than sowing everything into trays and filling your windowsills. Perhaps select one or two to sow, ones that you know are easy, and buy the rest as young plants.
  • The commonest method she and her team use is the seed tray method – using peat-free potting compost, they place everything on a heated propagator mat. Warmth helps to speed up germination, so keep bags of compost inside if you can. Water the compost in the trays with watering cans that have sat on the hot bench.
  • Storing seed – if you have any leftover seed, secure the packet and put it in an airtight box. Store somewhere cool until next year.

Poppy’s plants

There may now be enough light for tender plants to grow outside but is it still too cold for them?

Poppy Okotcha, writing in her Observer gardening column, uses the rule of thumb that if it’s chilly outside for her and she needs to wear more than a T-shirt, then tender plants are probably feeling the cold too. She advises:

  • A sunny windowsill, warm conservatory or porch will do them well until the frosts pass and day and night temperatures consistently reach 8-10 degrees C.
  • It’s worth finding out the hardiness rating of the crop you’re sowing so you can cater to its needs. After the seeds have germinated, any hardy seedlings can be relocated somewhere with plenty of light that is not too warm. A cool, bright windowsill, conservatory, porch, or cold frame would do, or for those lucky enough to have one, an unheated greenhouse is fine. If seedlings have too much warmth and not enough light they will grow ‘leggy’, which just means spindly and weak.
  • Source seeds that are ethically grown, such as those certified organic by the Soil Association or Biodynamic by Demeter.
  • Keep tender plants safe from slugs and snails through Spring by covering them with cloches, plastic bottles or glass jars to act as physical barriers until the plant is vigorous enough to withstand some nibbling.  Put the containers on in the evening and take them off in the morning.

Let’s not forget wildlife

Remember visiting creatures when you’re out and about in your garden.  

  • Leave natural materials outside for nest-making.
  • Create resting places for bees just waking up.
  • Plant quick-growing flowers for pollinators.
  • Deep clean any bird feeders and baths.

Compost School – a guide for absolute beginners

Composting is the best way to deal with organic waste. But fear of getting it wrong means many people never try.  Our simple guide is aimed at beginners of all ages who want to learn more about the wonderful world of compost.  

What can I do about climate change?

Fighting the climate crisis is a big job, but it’s one that each of us can play a part in.

There’s something we can all do every day to help the planet, and it’s as simple as changing which bin we throw our leftovers in.

If we throw food waste into a compost bin instead of an ordinary bin, we can turn waste into something wonderful – compost.

 What is compost?

Compost is a nutritious food for soil. It is made when organic things (anything that was once alive) are allowed to rot aerobically (with oxygen). Worms, insects and tiny micro-organisms feed off decomposing food, garden and paper waste.  As the composting creatures feed off this organic matter, it’s broken down into smaller pieces until after several months it becomes a dark, crumbly substance that looks and smells a bit like soil. If you picked up a handful of compost you would no longer be able to tell what the original items were.

Compost is rich in nutrients which help to build strong, healthy soil and plants.

Why throwing away all rubbish is such a waste

People used to throw things away without thinking about it. For a long time, waste was burnt or buried underground at landfill sites. It was a case of out of sight, out of mind. But now we know that these ways of dealing with waste cause harm to the planet, to wildlife and to us – so we need to change our behaviour.

We can all help to protect the environment and we can do it in our homes, schools, sports clubs, restaurants and offices – wherever we produce waste.  

What can we do with rubbish?

A lot of waste is not rubbish, it’s a very useful resource. Instead of throwing everything away, if we separate items that can be reused or recycled, such as glass, paper and plastic, it means we’re not using up more and more of the earth’s precious resources.

Organic waste can be composted.  Composting is a way for waste to heal, not harm, the planet.                  

How much food waste do we produce?

The UK produces 4.5 million tonnes of food waste each year. To get an idea of how much that is, consider that an elephant weighs roughly 7 tonnes.  Those 4.5 million tonnes of food waste could fill eight Wembley stadiums. That could make A LOT of compost!

Decomposition:  the good, the bad and the ugly ways to rot

Bad – The bad way for things to decompose is in landfill sites.  Many local councils in the UK have stopped sending food waste to landfill; they now collect food waste separately from other waste so that it can be taken to treatment sites to be turned into soil food for farmland or into gas and electricity.

At landfill sites, organic waste (such as our food and garden waste) gets squashed together with non-organic waste, such as plastic and metal. Because air can’t get to the organic waste it can’t rot as it would naturally. Without air the breakdown process becomes anaerobic (without air).

Ugly – The anaerobic breakdown of organic waste produces greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Greenhouse gases let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, but they prevent the heat that is produced from leaving the atmosphere. They get their name from greenhouses, which are full of windows that let in sunlight, creating warmth that can’t escape.

It makes sense to do everything we can to stop this from happening.

Good – One way to stop this is by composting.

What’s so great about compost?

When compost is added to soil it makes the soil healthier so that plants will be stronger and healthier too.

 It also helps soil to pull carbon dioxide (the most common greenhouse gas) from the air and pull it into the ground, so it is stored in soil as carbon. Capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) is called carbon sequestration and it plays an important role in fighting climate change.  

How does waste turn into compost?

Thousands of tiny composting creatures turn your food and garden waste into compost.     

The forest floor gives us a great example of the work done by composting creatures (also called decomposers). Although leaves fall from the trees each year, you don’t see giant leaf piles in the forest. This is because decomposers break down the leaves, which go back to feed the soil.

Some decomposers are well known, such as worms, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice and earwigs. There are also lesser-known creatures such as springtails and false scorpions.  Many more are so tiny, such as bacteria and fungi, they are invisible to the human eye. We call these micro-organisms or microbes; we can only see them under a microscope.

When you’re composting, your goal is to create an ideal place for these creatures to live.

Where can we make compost?

The best place to make compost is in a compost bin.

You can also make compost in a big pile but it won’t be produced as quickly. When we help the composting process along we are creating the best conditions for the creatures inside the bin. This means that composting happens more quickly and efficiently so that we can have good quality compost faster than if we left the waste to rot on its own.

What is a compost bin?

A compost bin is a different kind of bin. We can’t just throw things in it and walk away as we do with an ordinary waste bin. There are some things we need to do to manage the composting process so that the composting insects and microbes stay healthy.

In a lot of ways, making compost is like making a cake.  By following nature’s recipe we add the right ingredients mixed well. But unlike making a cake, if we get it wrong it’s not a disaster. We can keep on improving until we get it right. When people start composting they learn as they go along.

If we observe what’s going on in the bin, we’ll soon realise if something needs correcting. We can all learn to ‘speak compost’!                                                 

Why is compost so important?

As well as helping to store carbon in soil, compost also:

  • Draws the sun’s heat to warm the soil, making the growing season longer.
  • Fills soil with essential nutrients so plants will be stronger and healthier because they will be resistant to diseases and pests. This means we don’t need to rely on pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
  • Rebuilds soil that is poor quality (degraded).
  • Covers exposed soil like a blanket. This stops the soil from wearing away (erosion) and losing carbon to the atmosphere.
  • Acts like a sponge to hold water in the soil (water retention). This means water is available for plants to use when they need it so they need to be watered less – so saving water. This is especially useful in dry spells.
  • Helps to prevent flooding by holding on to excess rainwater.

Because compost is good for the soil, it’s a very valuable thing to do even if you’re not using it to grow plants. You don’t need to be a gardener to make compost.

Scientists estimate that 90 per cent of the earth’s soil is in very poor condition. Bare soil that is exposed to the elements can be worn away by sun and wind or washed away by rain.

Covering soil in compost is like wrapping it in a blanket that both protects it and feeds it at the same time.

How can we help the creatures in the compost bin to make good compost?

Like us, composting creatures need food, air and water.

Their food should come from a good balance of waste materials that we throw in the compost bin.


Insects and micro-organisms work best if they are fed with food that helps them to grow and gives them energy. They grow thanks to protein in food that is high in nitrogen. They are given energy thanks to sugar in food that is rich in carbon. So a good balance between food that provides lots of nitrogen and food that provides lots of carbon gives them the best diet.      


Some people call nitrogen-rich waste ‘Greens’. Some of these items are green such as fresh green grass and fresh green leaves. But there are other things that aren’t green, such as: food waste, tea leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds, flowers. These items break down quickly and contain water so they keep conditions in the bin moist.


Waste materials that are high in carbon are sometimes called ‘Browns’. Some of these items are brown such as twigs, branches, dead leaves and cardboard.

Other things that are rich in carbon are:  paper, straw, wood chips, sawdust. These items are drier materials and slower to break down.

 A mixture that contains half Greens and half Browns is a great place to start for composting.

A very basic recipe for compost would be fresh grass (nitrogen) and dead leaves (carbon), but a more varied diet makes a more nutritious compost.


You want the compost pile to be moist, rather than wet or dry. The materials should feel damp like a wrung-out bath sponge.  Microbes struggle if their environment is too wet or too dry. They need water to live, yet too much moisture can limit the amount of oxygen they receive. If compost is too wet, it will start to smell bad. If this happens you need to add shredded paper and cardboard and mix really well to absorb moisture.

To check moisture levels, try this test – grab a big handful of compost and squeeze – only a drop or two of liquid should appear. Less than this means the compost might be too dry, more means it might be too wet.

If you need to add water to compost that is becoming dry, it’s best to use rainwater if you can rather than tap water as chemicals that are added to tap water and are safe for humans could kill some of the microbes that you’re trying to nurture in your compost bin.

Water butts are a good way of catching and storing rainwater.


The fastest form of composting is done by organisms that need oxygen (aerobic).  

 To give microbes air to breathe we need to add air to the mixture by stirring the contents when we add waste. This is called aeration. Once a week give a good, deeper stir to make sure there’s oxygen through the bin’s contents.

To allow more air to flow, you can also wiggle a metal garden stake deep down into the compost making a hole.   

Why do we need to aerate compost?

If a compost pile lacks oxygen the aerobic microbes will die and the mixture will become anaerobic. This means the composting process will slow down and may to start to smell unpleasant. It may also start to attract flies, so it’s important that we keep air flowing through the compost.  

Mixing everything together well is an important part of composting because it helps to ensure:

  • Air is available throughout the compost so the microbes can breathe.
  • Moisture levels are kept satisfactory.

Can you add all food waste?

Ordinary compost bins carry out composting at fairly low temperatures which are suitable for breaking down fruit and vegetable scraps.  

But there is way of composting called hot composting where the contents inside the bin reach higher temperatures of between 30 – 60+ degrees Celsius. This means that more kinds of waste can be added – such as meat and fish – because pathogens (micro-organisms that can carry disease) are killed at higher temperatures. 

With hot composting there are certain techniques to follow to ensure the temperature inside the bin reaches higher temperatures. Hot composting usually produces good quality compost much faster than ordinary compost bins.

What can’t be composted?

Items that are not organic, such as glass, metals and plastic, cannot be composted. They can be recycled, of course; they can be cleaned, treated and used again.

 Plastic bags should never be added to a compost bin.

How long does it take to make compost?

In a hot composter, compost is usually ready for you to use after around four to six months. In an ordinary compost bin, it can take between six months to two years.

What does compost look like?

Your finished compost will be dark brown, crumbly and look like soil. Items that can be hard to break down, such as fruit stones or sticks, might still be visible but if you pick them out and add them back into the compost bin they will go through the breakdown process again.

Does compost smell?

Compost should smell fresh and earthy, like damp woodland; this means the composting process is working well.

If there is a bad smell, this means that contents are turning anaerobic – probably because there is too much water and nitrogen (Greens) in the mixture. You need to add carbon-rich content (Browns) and aerate well. So add shredded paper or torn cardboard, dead leaves, sawdust or wood chips and mix well until you get a consistency that is damp like a wrung-out bath sponge.

How can we use our compost?

  • Covering soil with compost or mixing it with compost adds nutrients and micro-organisms, making soil stronger and healthier.
  • If we cover exposed soil with compost (at least 5cms deep) that will help to prevent carbon loss and soil erosion.
  • We can use compost as protective coverage (called mulch) round trees and bushes and on lawns to feed the soil, hold onto water and discourage weeds.
  • We can use compost to cover vegetable beds and plants in plant pots to grow healthier plants.         

To use compost for stronger, healthier plants: 

  • Mix compost in with existing soil before planting into it.
  • Place some compost in holes before planting.
  • Soak your compost in water to create a nutrient-rich compost ‘tea’ that you can water plants with.

Can composting go wrong?

The most common problem with composting is if people forget to stir and aerate the contents in the compost bin. This means the composting creatures won’t have enough air so they might die.  This can lead to wet, slimy compost that smells bad.

But you can solve this problem by aerating well so that you put air back into the mixture. You can also add contents that contain a lot of carbon (Browns) such as chopped twigs, branches, wood chips, shredded paper and torn-up cardboard and mixing it all in well.                                                 


  •  Before adding waste to a compost bin, make sure items are chopped up into small pieces so there is more surface area for microbes to work on. This means that more heat will be produced and breakdown will be faster. Smaller pieces also make turning the pile much easier.
  • You can chop up branches and twigs in a shredder machine or run over twigs or leaves with a lawnmower so they are in small pieces when added to the bin. Branches or twigs should be no large than 5cms.
  • People usually find they have a lot more nitrogen (food waste) than carbon (dead leaves, paper etc) so it’s a good idea to store carbon-rich items such as shredded paper, cardboard and wood chips so you have them ready to add with food waste.
  •  If you need carbon-rich items for your compost but you don’t have garden waste such as branches and leaves, you can also buy wood chips (small pieces of leftover wood) or get them free from gardeners or tree surgeons.
  • When tearing up cardboard boxes to add to compost, remove staples, sticky labels and tape.
  • Don’t add glossy paper as it may contain toxic pigments (harmful chemicals).
  • If adding torn-up birthday or Christmas cards, don’t add parts that contain foil, glitter or ribbons.
  • When adding eggshells crush them up first.  

Johannas give hope to South African townships

There can’t be anywhere on earth putting Green Johannas to better use than the townships of South Africa.

The food waste composters are a vital tool there in the work done by local women to sustain their families, communities and the environment.

The women, known locally as Kamammas (‘mothers who carry their child and community’), use the Johannas to recycle food waste into compost to grow their own food.  They then use this produce to cook traditional homemade cuisine for tourists who stay in their guest houses, providing a true taste of the real South Africa.

A Kamamma and Johanna

These ‘Homestay’ experiences are organised through the Dreamcatcher South Africa Foundation, a non-profit social enterprise which gives communities, especially women and youth, the opportunity to raise themselves out of poverty through training and employment.

Township residents are trained as hosts, guides and small business owners, enabling them to introduce tourists to the culture of their country.

Dreamcatcher’s founder Anthea Rossouw remembers the Kamammas’ reactions when she first showed them how they could learn to compost using a Green Johanna (shown in the video below).

‘Their reaction was amazing. Such joy, because they could see what this meant for them – to be able to grow their own food.  They started singing – ‘Give Me Hope Jo’Anna’ and dancing round the compost bin!’

Dreamcatcher’s recycling work is now even more important since the South African government has committed to halving food loss and food waste by 2030.  In recent months Anthea and her team have been running workshops to get more people recycling their food waste with Green Johannas.

A lorry load of Green Johannas destined for South Africa

The idea for Dreamcatcher came to Anthea more than 30 years ago during the apartheid era when she knew she had to do something about the suffering she saw around her.

‘There was so much injustice, inequality and insanity on a human level and an environmental level,’ she says. ‘It was obvious it couldn’t continue.’

Raised in South Africa by parents who championed diversity in defiance of the apartheid system, Anthea believes in turning challenges into opportunities.

Her father, a master builder of English descent, used to tell her, ‘Forget the pie in the sky and get down to earth.’ He could never have imagined how literally his daughter would take that advice, as getting people composting is one of the many strands of her vision for a better world.    

Over the years she has run many composting workshops, both in South Africa and the South of England where she divides her time.  She reckons that 99 per cent of the people she talks to have never composted before, but before long they are as evangelical about it as she is.

‘Composting is all upsides – you’re taking food waste out of landfill, where it’s an environmental disaster, and out of homes, with all the health and hygiene issues that involves. And it creates free, organic compost for people to grow their own food and flowers.’

When starting Dreamcatcher, she felt that an answer to many of the problems faced by townships could be found in a new kind of tourism. The tourism industry at the time was booming but completely bypassed the townships, with tourists being driven straight past the communities as though they didn’t exist. She saw a way for the inhabitants to share a piece of the tourism pie by offering visitors the chance to ‘life-see’ as well as sight-see.

A Kamamma gives tourists an authentic taste of South Africa

Anthea’s first proposals centred on the community of Melkhoutfontein, Western Cape, which at the time was one of the most destitute areas in the country, situated between two rubbish dumps and surrounded by waste.

The response from the authorities was ridicule. ‘The attitude was, “But no one will want to go there, no one will want to eat there!” ‘

 But Anthea connected with the international marketplace, convinced that tourists would relish the chance to meet the people (as well as the elephants!) of South Africa, thereby getting to know the soul of the country, not just its beauty spots. And she was proved right. Since its inception, Dreamcatcher has facilitated trips to South Africa for hundreds of tourists from over 30 countries.

Dreamcatcher developed authentic tourism experiences led by local people. It is based in the region that boasts the earliest known examples of human artistic activity, in the 73,000-year-old drawings discovered in the 1990s at Blombos Cave.

 Homestay with Kamamma

Focusing on struggling areas situated within established tourist routes, Dreamcatcher gives people the skills and knowledge they need to support themselves. Then, armed with these new skills, they develop enterprises such as ‘Homestay With Kamamma’ and ‘Cook-up With Kamamma’ and they go on to mentor others in the community

Educational programmes help to transform children’s lives, breaking the cycle of poverty. A good example of this transformation is one Kamamma who has three children – one is now a trained chef, one is training to become a teacher, the other to become a doctor.

Anthea knew that tackling waste was essential to Dreamcatcher’s tourism aspirations. So she set up a waste education scheme called ‘Waste – it’s Mine, it’s Yours’ in collaboration with the University of Brighton. She describes the waste problem in South Africa as a legacy of apartheid, when the dumping of waste was a way of expressing opposition to the system, as well as a protest against the lack of infrastructure caused by the forced removal of citizens. Moreover, in many communities the inadequate infrastructure led to waste being openly burned in the community or at dumpsites. Over time, waste and litter became a way of life, so training was invaluable in introducing the best ways to manage waste. An environmental ethos soon followed with local people taking pride in their role as custodians of their environment. And what a stunning environment it is!

Rubbish as a resource

Waste is no longer seen as rubbish but a resource. Dreamcatcher has created a thriving crafting industry, with tuition provided by visiting artists, so that young people can intercept waste that might end up on the beautiful beaches and in the ocean and turn it into craft products to sell to visitors. Plastic films are turned into bowls depicting the rich cultural heritage of the area, porcelain pieces incorporated into tiles to embed in walls and old jeans and waste textiles are transformed into bags and backpacks.  

Anthea is understandably proud when describing how mass-produced items that are deemed worthless can be given value thanks to the skill of a local craftsperson.  

The University of Brighton partners with the Dreamcatcher community. With the help of visiting volunteers and artists, local people have transformed the sides of buildings with brightly coloured paintings that tell the stories of their ancestors – bushmen and women with a rich history and many diverse cultures.

A volunteer takes compost from a Johanna

So how did Green Johannas come to play a part in this story?

Anthea first worked with Green Johannas through a community composting project she started when she was living in West Sussex in England in 2008. She took the same method of training back to South Africa, where she knew it would be transformative.

She believes the fact that the Kamammas were already producing their own food meant they were protected from some of the hardship caused by the Covid pandemic.

Inspired by a Nelson Mandela quote – ‘Something is only impossible until it’s done’ – Anthea says she is excited to see what can be achieved over the next few years.

A daily source of inspiration are the Kamammas themselves.

‘When I first met them I was overwhelmed by their warmth and generosity,’ says Anthea. ‘Each woman brought something from the little she had to make me welcome.

‘These are women who were rejected by their own culture, who had to struggle to raise their children but succeeded in sending them to university. They are survivors every day of their lives. They’ve gone from being servants to service providers.’

Great Green Systems couldn’t be prouder to be part of the Kamammas’ inspiring journey.

Locals learn how to use the Johanna with Anthea, right.

The book that will keep you composting

You might expect anything written about composting to be down to earth (pun intended) but if you read a lot on the subject, as we do, you’ll know that’s not always the case.

Sometimes you come away from an article thinking you must need a PhD to compost. You wonder how Mother Nature manages without the aid of a spreadsheet and calculator for tracking temperatures and working out ratios. If spreadsheets and calculators are your thing, don’t let us stop you (some of the GGS team are guilty as charged).

But most of us just want simple advice we can follow. That’s why at Great Green Systems we often point customers towards Master Composter Rod Weston’s website (carryoncomposting.com) because it offers straight-forward, practical guidance. So we were delighted to learn that Rod has turned his knowledge into a book.

The Great Green team love this book and anyone who is into composting, or could be with a little encouragement, will love it too. It gives the lowdown on just about every compost bin going so it helps you to understand your own bin better or to choose one that will work best for you.

Rod hopes the book will encourage householders to compost their organic waste ‘and most importantly, to continue composting.’ He acknowledges that people new to composting may encounter various problems while trying to master the craft, but by showing different techniques to deal with issues he hopes to help new recruits to persevere.

‘The key message is to keep composting, whatever style you adopt,’ he says. ‘All techniques can be modified to suit your own particular circumstances.’

He also hopes to encourage groups to set up small-scale community composting on allotments, at schools, and on community gardens. He points out that if garden and catering waste can be dealt with on site, the environmental costs of transporting it to a central location for processing can be avoided.

We recently paid Rod a visit at the Stokes Wood Allotment site in Leicester, which includes a demonstration site that is home to every composter you can think of. Rod demonstrates different bins and techniques to the public.  

The site provides a community composting service for allotment plot holders and also takes food waste from the café on site. Plot holders leave their waste for composting in designated spots and can take compost (and liquid feed) for their own use when it’s ready.

Working bays and bins at Stokes Wood Allotments composting demonstration site

Rod’s book also explains the idea behind the Master Composters scheme. In 2004 around 40 per cent of householders who had started home composting gave up because of a lack of knowledge. Almost two decades later, councils and others now produce information and train Master Composters to provide support. This has resulted in a reduction in the dropout rate to between 8 and 14 per cent. In more recent years this has reduced again to 3.9 per cent. Obviously the scheme has been a great success.

Like many of his generation, as a child Rod helped his father on his allotment ‘in the days when allotments were an important piece of ground that played a major role in providing fruit and vegetables for the family’.  

Before becoming interested in the environmental aspects of composting, Rod initially composted on his own allotment in order to dispose of garden waste and to use the compost produced as a soil improver. He says it was his wife who first became interested in becoming a Master Composter ‘but then suggested it to me because she thought it would keep me off the streets!’

On our visit we loved talking to Rod about all aspects of composting. It’s so refreshing in this world of uncompromising opinions to hear his relaxed straight-forward views. Like us he’s pleasantly obsessed but not a purist. Rod’s attitude is that we can all compost – you just have to find a system and bin that works for you.  The more people who compost the better it is for all of us and for the planet.

Anyone living in or around Leicester is lucky to have easy access to his talks and demonstrations.

‘If you are interested and want to get involved with your bin, go for hot composting. If you’re lazy or too busy, just go for a cold system,’ he says.

He goes about the business of promoting composting in a practical, fun way, giving talks to garden clubs, allotment societies and schools.  For school visits, when talking about wormeries he takes along some slugs and snails as well as worms, knowing his audience will approve.

Other props are a soft toy rat and dog poo (spoiler alert – it’s fake) which is used to explain the workings of a wormery used for dog poo.

Sitting pretty – on the dog poo wormery

He thinks composting will become more popular as more local authority food waste collections come into operation, since a lot of people could prefer to compost their food waste in their gardens rather than having it waiting for collection by the council.

Rod is a fan of the Green Johanna and has a couple at home as well as one on the site.

‘It just sits there quietly and gets on with its job, breaking stuff down, with no trouble,’  he says approvingly.

Rod told us that badgers from a nearby wood had recently made a nocturnal visit and tried to get into the site’s Green Johanna, but failed.

We inspected the teeth marks on the Johanna’s lid and Insulating Jacket, proud that the Johanna had stood firm. And this Johanna is 13 years old.

Rod shows Mark evidence of the failed badger attack

The site also demonstrates an old Green Cone, which Rod says has never needed emptying or cleaning.

Apparently the number one problem with Green Cones that people ask him about is caused by the owner not having read the instruction manual properly. The manual states that food waste should never come higher than the top of the Cone’s underground basket, so there should never be food waste inside the Cone itself, which is above ground level.  Rod said he has seen Cones that have been filled right to the top like a composter, which would not be a great problem to have to sort out.

How a Green Cone should work – with food waste only in the underground basket

We appreciated this insight and we intend to make this point much clearer in the next edition of the Green Cone manual so that no one can possibly miss it. Although it’s obviously not much good if people don’t read the manual.

In his book, Rod says: ‘There are almost as many ways of composting as there are composters and, despite what might be read online, there is no single right way of doing anything. If what you are doing works, it must be right for you, although, of course, the method may be open to improvement. The main thing is to enjoy your composting in the knowledge that, while you are improving your soil to produce better crops, you are also, in a small way, helping to save the planet. ‘

Wise words from a Master (Composter).

Keeping compost warm when temperatures drop

Hot composting is basically a set of techniques. By following these techniques you can achieve higher temperatures and faster decomposition than traditional regular composting, which is usually referred to as cold composting.

If you want the simplest way to achieve higher temperatures, then using a well-designed unit such as the Green Johanna, along with its Insulating Jacket, is your best bet. We have many customers who hot compost without the jacket, but they tend to be experienced composters who want active involvement in managing the bin.  

Some members of the Great Green Systems team keep the Johanna’s jacket on virtually all year round, removing it in the summer during hot weather when the compost temperature approaches 70 degrees Celsius.

 We recommend that in winter if external temperatures fall lower than 5 degrees Celsius the jacket should be added to avoid the composting process stalling.  

The jacket gives you more control. As well as helping to raise the temperature, you also have the option of removing it in order to lower the temperature if it gets too hot. Temperatures above 70 degrees will become too hot for the composting creatures to survive. If these aerobic micro-organisms start to die off, the process could stall so the jacket should be removed to allow the bin to cool down.

A Great Green Systems Johanna and jacket in January this year when the ground temperature was at zero, below.

But inside the Johanna the compost kept warm at 40 degrees C.

Some customers have expressed concerns that the Insulating Jacket will make the Johanna too hot for worms; this is not a problem because worms can easily enter and leave the composter through the small holes in the base plate. At temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius they will move where it is cooler, usually the bottom of the bin where the compost is maturing, or they can leave the bin completely.

A good fit

The Insulating Jacket is made from polyethylene and comprises three ring sections and a lid piece. When fitting the jacket, it’s essential that the bottom section does not cover the vents at the sides of the Johanna’s base as these are necessary for airflow.

The two upper sections should be added so that they overlap the section below by about 5 cms, ensuring that the ventilation holes at the top of the composter remain uncovered.  The jacket fits snugly so that no cold draughts can get in between the jacket and the bin.

 Composting outcomes depend on various factors and that includes the composter’s level of interest and involvement. Of course, as keen composters ourselves we are bound to say it’s a fascinating subject that can become an enjoyable hobby, but don’t just take our word for it.

Adam Johannes, also known to his customers and followers as Compost Guy, says he really enjoys the active hands-on involvement of aerating his Johanna. Anthea Rossouw, who has been teaching composting using Johannas for decades, both in this country and in South Africa, says she loves to see people who started out knowing nothing becoming evangelical about their new interest. A new customer who took up composting recently on retirement admits cheerfully that she has become ‘obsessed’.

We hear so many different stories depending on various locations covering the length and breadth of the country, whether that is in sheltered inland areas, wind-battered coastal regions, rural or urban, and indeed countries abroad too.

Even with the jacket added, don’t forget your good composting habits:

  • Feed regularly
  • Balance carbon/nitrogen ratios
  • Aerate regularly
  • Chop items small
  • Check moisture levels

And remember the Johanna was designed in Sweden to withstand temperatures of -20 degrees C. So wherever you are, with the jacket on, your Johanna is good to go this winter.  

Which creature is most essential for life on earth?

Some years ago my toddler son was out jumping in puddles in his little red wellies, when I noticed some worms. I pointed them out to him and was completely horrified by what he did next – he raised a booted foot in order to smack it down on a worm.

I don’t know why he was so freaked out. Had he never noticed them before? Were they so different to cute animals – without faces or fur – that he found them scary? Obviously I stopped him and told him how wonderful they were.

Children are fascinated by worms but it’s not always a given that they love them. One of our young worm farmer friends, aged 8, said some children in his school were mean to worms when they encountered them.

Worms could do with an image makeover that sees them recognised as eco-superheroes – and now is the time with tomorrow (October 21) being World Earthworm Day.

It’s wonderful that these under-appreciated creatures get their own day, although those of us who compost think every day is earthworm day.  

The day commemorates the publication in October 1881 of Charles Darwin’s book The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Actions of Worms, which changed how worms were viewed.

Of all the creatures that Darwin studied, earthworms were the ones that interested him the most; he spent 40 years studying them.  His studies and experiments attracted the mockery of other scientists because worms were considered pests at the time, but Darwin was convinced there was something special about them. He tested their eyesight and hearing, concluding that they were blind and deaf but could detect vibrations.

Feeding worms showed him they liked celery, cherries and carrots but not sage, mint and thyme. He found that they also eat stones to grind up leaves in their stomachs as they have no teeth.

It became something of an obsession with him. At times he doubted himself and wondered if he was being foolish. People who admired Darwin for his previous work couldn’t believe that he was devoting so much time to such an ‘insignificant’ creature. But Darwin believed that the apparently insignificant can be the foundation of something much greater. As we know, his dedication paid off.
An illustrated children’s book on this subject was published earlier this year – Darwin’s Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular by Polly Owen.  It tells the fascinating story of how Darwin came to conclude that the humble earthworm was the most important species on the planet. For a long time he didn’t find evidence to back up his belief that worms were special, until one day when he discovered their superpower, one that sustains life on earth. We won’t spoil the story!

The Great Green Systems team loves this book and so too do our young worm farming friends, Reggie and Magdalena, shown here reading it.

 Reviews by parents and grandparents who have read it with their children and grandchildren show that adults can learn from it too. Several reviewers say every classroom should have a copy as it’s an ideal subject for primary school science.

As well as introducing children to Darwin and the ways that scientists make deductions, it’s also an inspiring story about the triumph of a person who ignored mockery to persevere with something he believed in.

BBC Wildlife called the book ‘a disarmingly silly read that manages to share cool worm science with a light and easy touch.’

From saint to sinner and back again – worms’ changing reputation


 The fact that worms are vital to soil health – and therefore to us – was well known to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Cleopatra decreed that the earthworm should be protected as a sacred animal as it was believed that harming worms or removing them from the land would affect the fertility of the soil. But this wisdom somehow got lost and by Darwin’s time worms had fallen out of favour and were thought to be pests that killed plants, damaged the soil and made a mess of gardens.  


We know that worms aerate and improve the soil, providing nutrients for plants to flourish. Without them the earth would become cold, hard and sterile.

The few centimetres of soil beneath our feet have typically been the least studied place on earth but today scientists all over the world are following Darwin’s example. The simple act of introducing worms to degraded soil in poor regions of the world has been shown to increase plant yields by 280%.

Gardeners know that vermicompost (compost produced by worms) is ‘black gold’ – the best quality soil food.


 Despite our knowledge about how dependent we are on earthworms, the species is in danger from humans. Chemicals sprayed on plants by gardeners and farmers cause them harm and artificial grass is also a danger as they become trapped below it.  

But there’s a lot we can do to help them. In our gardens, parks and allotments we can compost and create log piles. We can also use ecological gardening methods which don’t rely on chemicals.

To learn more about worms and how to help them, join The Earthworm Society – www.earthwormsoc.org.uk.  

Let’s spread the word about worms at home and in schools so that never again will a child try to stamp on one or be mean to one. Like my son, Magdalena used to be scared of worms when her family first got a worm farm but several months later here she is confidently checking they’ve got enough to eat.

It’s appropriate that Darwin should get the last word.

After his long years of study, he concluded: ‘It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly, organised creatures.’


The Compost Guy behind Hot Composting Week

The kids in the Johannes household have a ripping time on Saturday mornings – that’s when they join their dad tearing up cardboard for the family’s compost bins.

Their dad Adam Johannes is best known to his customers and Instagram followers as Compost Guy.

Adam had long been a keen gardener and composter when he realised a few years ago that he could help other people by offering advice to newbies starting out on their own composting journey, as well as selling products that he believed in, including the Green Johanna.  People message him with their questions and he aims to respond to 99 per cent of queries on the same day.

Adam – a regular Compost Guy

He finds that most people who contact him have already convinced themselves to start composting but just need a bit of advice.

‘They argue themselves into it, they know they want to send less to landfill, be more sustainable, and get compost,’ he says. ‘If someone is not completely sold on it, I normally list out the practical benefits, then the issues with not doing it!’

In a bid to spread the word, he decided to start an annual Hot Composting Week – the first one begins on Monday (September 18 – 24). He got the idea because he realised there were other weeks dedicated to general composting, but nothing focused on hot composting ‘- and that is the best way!’

He uses hot composters himself – a Green Johanna and Hotbin – and has also used Aerobin, wormeries and Bokashi bins in the past.

 ‘I thought it would be good to highlight the benefits to more people. Everyone is surprised when I tell them how hot it gets! The aim of the week is to show people that hot composting is a good investment for them, and the planet.’

 Concern for the environment

Compost Guy started life in the winter of 2019, a few months before the pandemic hit. Adam found that customers were initially motivated by concern for the environment; then when garden waste collections stopped during lockdown, there was an additional reason for people to get into composting – to get rid of the garden waste they were stuck with.

He stresses that his small team are not scientists or professional gardeners, just enthusiasts who believe in the value of what they’re doing and know there are people out there who would benefit too. Composting started as a natural extension to gardening for Adam but quickly became a hobby. As an allotmenteer he originally wanted to find out how to enrich his soil for best results.

‘Composting is a great hobby for anyone,’ he says. ‘Sad as it sounds, I love getting out there and aerating my compost. I like the hands-on nature of it. Perhaps I love composting far too much!’

Compost Guy’s enthusiasm seems to give people the confidence to reach out and ask him all sorts of questions.  He loves trying to help and points out that everybody’s compost bin will be different, depending on various factors, such as the bin’s contents, position, local climate etc.

The main questions he gets asked are about how to speed up composting and the differences between the various hot composters.

Carbon content

When he first started on Instagram he only expected a few followers but to his astonishment quickly got far more – to date he has an impressive 6,700.
He sorted out a potential problem for his own in-laws recently when they were just starting out with their Green Johanna. On inspecting their Johanna, Adam saw that food waste had not been mixed with much garden waste and was sitting on a large amount of grass clippings which had matted together. So he set about ripping up cardboard boxes, with his children of course, and added this to the bin along with shredded waste paper. They tore up more carbon-content waste than they needed and put the excess in a handy lidded container to store it for when needed later.

 A video on the website shows Adam enthusiastically aerating the Johanna’s contents to bring back ideal conditions in the bin. He also used a garden fork to aerate deeper in the bin to break up the matted grass and added bark chips, which provide valuable air pockets.

Adam is keen that Compost Guy should be a force for good in the world. A good portion of the profits go to sponsoring three children in poverty and each new customer means trees get planted with Just One Tree – up to July 2023 more than 2,073 trees had been planted.

In addition, Adam is a trustee and contributor to the Veg Box Donation Scheme, a charity which accepts surplus produce from gardeners for the benefit of others, and he also supports Transform Trade.

A few people who will surely never need to consult Compost Guy for advice are the Johannes juniors, who are learning valuable lessons every day – in life as well as composting.  

Letting Johanna and Bokashi do their thing

This week we caught up with Adam and Hayley who are first-time users of a Green Johanna.

They set up their Johanna in their back garden back in April. The couple had been keen to compost for years and had tried a couple of times with different composters but been disappointed with the results.

 Their reasons for composting were that they wanted to recycle their food and garden waste as well as produce their own compost to grow their own vegetables.  

Adam said:We have quite a big garden and a lot of garden waste to put to good use, such as branches, leaves etc. We also wanted a good place to put our food waste. We grow potatoes and other vegetables in the garden in large planters.’

They’ve been using the Johanna with an insulating jacket and in combination with a Bokashi bin. Bokashi bins are waste containers that ferment – rather than decompose – food waste thanks to the addition of beneficial anaerobic microbes in a spray or bran. Once full, the bin is sealed and left to ferment for around two weeks to become a pre-compost mixture which is then added to a composter or buried in soil in the garden.

  ‘It’s become a really useful part of our composting process,’ said Adam. ‘We put all our food waste straight into it and give it a few sprays of Bokashi spray, then once it’s full and has been left to ferment we transfer it to the Johanna.’

ABOVE: Contents of the kitchen caddy added to the Johanna.

 ABOVE: The Bokashi bin’s contents added to the Johanna. The contents of a Bokashi bin after two-weeks’ fermentation don’t appear much different; there will usually be a pickled smell. When added to a compost bin the pre-compost mixture acts as an accelerator – heat increases and the composting process speeds up.

Adam and Hayley are a household of two, both vegans, and it takes around one to two weeks for them to fill the Bokashi bin. Their waste is mainly vegetable scraps along with some beans. They then use their  smaller kitchen caddy to take food waste to the Johanna ‘whilst the Bokashi bin is doing its thing.’

They used some Bokashi bran in the Johanna when they were starting out to give the contents an initial boost but haven’t felt the need to use more since. Some people use it throughout the year to keep giving their compost an accelerating boost thanks to the presence of beneficial microbes in the bran.

While they haven’t used a thermometer to check the compost temperature, they’re having a lot more success with the Johanna than with other composters they tried in the past.

 ‘The Johanna is much better built and seems to be working faster at breaking down all the waste,’ said Adam. He added there had been no problems with flies or rodents.

Their garden waste provides them with more than enough carbon content (Browns) but they have also added shredded waste paper.

If you lack garden waste it’s a good idea to store shredded paper or cardboard, wood chips or sawdust in lidded containers nearby so that they can be added at the same time as adding food waste to get a good balance of nitrogen-rich Greens and carbon-rich Browns as compost materials You may be able to find a local tree surgeon who is willing to drop wood chips off for free.

So far, Adam and Hayley are happy composters and are waiting for the big reveal – accessing their first batch of compost! Watch this space…

Can you compost in communities? Anthea shows how

When Anthea Rossouw tried to get people into composting years ago, they thought she was crazy.

‘I just got blank stares,’ she recalls. ‘At the time there weren’t studies that proved what composting could do. People just wanted to throw things in the bin. Composting was a controversial idea.’

But Anthea is passionate about the environment and has a way of bringing people with her. Using workshops to show how to use the Green Johanna, she introduced composting to the housing complex in West Sussex where she was living at the time. This was so successful that it spread to other housing developments and businesses.

Anthea had been a keen recycler for years and pursued her interest by enrolling on the West Sussex County Council Waste Prevention Advisor programme delivered by the University of Brighton. So then when she was living in Walstead Court extra-care housing facility and saw piles of bin bags in the ‘rubbish room’ destined for landfill, she knew something could be done about it.   

With the support of the housing manager, Anthea showed residents and staff how to recycle food, garden and paper waste using three Green Johanna composters.

Her tutor at Brighton, Dr Ryan Woodard, had told her about Green Johannas and she thought they sounded ideal.

‘It was essential to get everyone on board though,’ she says.

 Anthea, front right, with other keen composters and the Green Johanna.

The workshops worked a treat. Waste disposal routines were transformed, as was the rubbish room, now that it was clear of bin bags containing food waste.

 Before long the residents were making their own compost and growing their own food and flowers. ‘We grew the most beautiful tomatoes,’ Anthea remembers.

Anthea approached the task methodically, weighing waste and tracking residual waste.  Waste to landfill was reduced by 55 per cent, black bin bags were reduced from three to one per flat per week. Over a six-month period 280 kg of food waste was diverted from landfill.

The communal gardens were not the only things that blossomed. Residents and staff reported that personal well-being and community spirit also flourished. The projects helped to keep people mentally alert and physically active, through taking waste out to the Johannas, crunching up cardboard containers etc. It also gave neighbours an added reason to chat to each other, acting as a conversational ice-breaker.

Anthea was then asked to introduce similar schemes to other housing associations and businesses. She also ran trials for DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and won the Gatwick Diamond Green Champion award for her environmental work.

She then decided to try the same method of community food waste recycling in a very different place – her native South Africa. Here she introduced composting to struggling townships as part of her work with the Dreamcatcher South Africa Foundation that she had set up in 1991 to alleviate poverty by creating employment. In the community, waste was historically burnt at the dumpsite having a devastating impact on the environment and public health.

Anthea, second left next to Sir Trevor McDonald, receiving the Gatwick Diamond Green Champion award.

On a trip back home, she took three Johannas as luggage instead of suitcases, wrapping her clothes around the Johannas’ circular sections. Using the same training methods as in East and West Sussex, she installed three Johannas in a communal garden managed by local women known as Kamammas (a term meaning matriarch, or community leader).

Anthea says the Kamammas quickly took to working with the Johannas.

 ‘They found the composters didn’t attract dogs or vermin and they were delighted when they saw the quality of compost that was produced and the food they could grow with it.’ This trial was then scaled up to introduce another 25 Johannas.

The food that is grown with the Johannas’ compost is used in the women’s work providing tourists with traditional South African cuisine.  

A Kamamma introduces tourists to traditional South African cuisine.

Anthea divides her time between the UK and South Africa, and she is still in contact with the people she got composting back in the South of England. She is delighted – but not surprised – that the schemes she helped to implement are still going strong.

‘Any system must be sustainable, otherwise there’s no point. To bring about real change you have to go truly local. You need the people to make it work.

‘It takes around three months to introduce a composting project. After that people can stand on their own two feet.

‘Once you give people the skills, knowledge and confidence they become compost evangelists!’

After all these years, Anthea is still a big Johanna fan.

‘We used many other composters before settling on the Green Johanna. I underpin everything with baseline research and I knew the Green Johanna was the one.’

She still loves introducing beginners to composting.

 ‘They might know nothing now but you know they soon will. People become fascinated to know about all these little creatures in the composter doing their work.’

She firmly believes that if you pay attention to what’s happening in your composter you will learn  how to ‘speak compost’.

‘You soon learn to tell if you need to do something to bring good conditions back. If you haven’t enough garden waste, you can use paper product waste, such as toilet rolls, cardboard, shredded paper. If the contents look dry sprinkle a little water on top.’

The Johanna may have been designed in Sweden to cope with harsh Scandinavian winters, but it has happily adjusted to the South African climate, often turning ‘psychedelic green’ in the sun.

Whatever the shade, it’s still doing a great green job for the planet, wherever on earth it happens to be.  

Tips to avoid food waste, fruit flies and Bananagate

One summer several years ago our house was besieged by an infestation of fruit flies, the source of which was eventually tracked down to a rotting, black banana under my teenage son’s bed.  It is known in the family as Bananagate and is still referred to even though the son in question is now nearly 30.

This is not the worst example of my son’s slack ways inflicting chaos on the house – that would be the time he let his Australian carpet python (Kylie) escape and we destroyed the kitchen trying to find it (Snakegate). Unfortunately, I can’t burden you with that story here since, try as I might, I can’t link it to composting.

Back to fruit flies. If they happen to you once, you will make sure they never happen again. Fruit flies may appear at any time but are most common in summer and autumn because they’re attracted to ripe and rotting food, especially bananas, melon, tomatoes, squash and apples. Tis the season to be wary of leaving fruit lying around.

Should you be lucky enough to have teenage children who eat fruit, it is worth telling them the cautionary tale of Bananagate.  Even the most chilled teenager will not appreciate battling through clouds of thousands of tiny fruit flies – each female may lay as many as 500 eggs and they proliferate quickly.

It is advised that certain fruits are stored at room temperature in a fruit bowl and left to ripen but do remember to keep an eye out that the fruit does not start to rot as the smell attracts fruit flies which lay their microscopic eggs in the fruit skins. If you then put the rotting fruit or peel in your food waste caddy and then into your garden composter you might be unwittingly transferring fruit fly eggs to the compost to hatch out later.

Keep an eye on that fruit bowl

Another fruit tip – when composting, if you add large amounts of fruit waste to your composter be aware that this will be high in water content. To avoid making the compost too wet (which attracts flies) it should be well mixed with equal amounts of dry carbon-rich content (i.e. ‘Browns’: woody garden waste, such as shredded twigs and dead leaves, or shredded paper/cardboard and wood chips or sawdust). An equal addition of sawdust, for instance, would be an effective and easy way to absorb some of the moisture in fruit waste.

To avoid attracting flies, reduce the smell of fruit by wrapping it in newspaper and burying it in the existing compost, then cover with carbon-rich content and add mature compost or soil over the top. 

Frequent aeration also helps to break up flies’ breeding cycle, which with some types can be five days.

 Good composting techniques are your best bet in preventing fly nuisance. For more tips on deterring or dispatching flies read our blog Tips to deal with fruit fly nuisance (greatgreensystems.com).

TLC for summer fruit

Summer fruit and veg can require a bit of special care to avoid creating unnecessary food waste.   It’s not only annoying but shameful if you find delicate fruit turned to mush at the back of the fridge. So I was glad of the reminders in the Abel and Cole Summer Storage Guide that came with a recent delivery.

Summer storage guide

  • Citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, clementines, grapefruit): store in the fridge. Green skins don’t affect the taste of your citrus. They’re just a sign of the season. Bring your fruit to room temperature before enjoying.
  • Tomatoes (cherry, vine, plum): store in a cool shaded spot. Tomatoes don’t belong in the fridge. Enjoy red, slightly soft tomatoes as soon as possible. If they’re firm pop them somewhere to ripen.
  • Legumes (broad, runner and French beans, garden peas): store in the fridge. Remove from paper bags and put in a plastic bag. If you’re short on space pod them into an airtight container.
  • Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries): store in the fridge. Enjoy straight out of the punnet. If you put them in the fridge, make sure they’re front and centre so they don’t get missed.
  • Greens (lettuce, rocket, salad mixes, spinach): store in the fridge. Tear leaves off whole lettuces and store in a container with a lid. Your leaves will last longer and be ready to use when you need them. Keep heavy items from squashing your salad. Enjoy as soon as possible.
  • Bananas: store in the fruit bowl at room temperature (NOTE: not under a bed). If they’re still green they’ll ripen faster in a paper bag where it’s warm.
  • Soft herbs (basil, dill, parsley, chervil, coriander): store at the top of the fridge door – soft herbs can be sensitive to the cold, especially basil. Keep in the warmest part of your fridge – the top of the door.
  • Med veg (aubergine, peppers, courgettes): store in the fridge. Enjoy sooner rather than later and don’t let them get forgotten at the back of the fridge.
  • Tender fruits (pears, melons, peaches, nectarines, avocados, cherries, mango): store in the fridge/fruit bowl – test ripeness with a gentle squeeze. If they give a little, eat straight away or store in the fridge. If firm, pop them in your fruit bowl to soften up. Place next to bananas to help ripen faster.
  • Miscellaneous (apples, grapes, cucumber, celery, broccoli, carrots): store in the fridge to prevent them wilting and wrinkling. Give broccoli florets a good wash before use.
  • Remember that paper absorbs moisture so remove items from a paper bag and put them in a suitable container to stop them from drying out.
  • Stone fruit – don’t be fooled by the colour of stone fruits. Test ripeness with a gentle squeeze. If they give a little, eat straight away or pop them in the fridge. If they’re firm, add them to your fruit bowl.
  • Bunched carrots and radishes – did you know leafy tops pull moisture from roots after harvesting? Just chop their tops off before they go in your fridge. (See recipe below)


  • Here’s a great recipe for using up carrot tops.

Carrot top pesto recipe

Blitz carrot tops for a speedy pesto to toss through pasta, spread over toast or stir with olive oil to dress salads.

  1. Trim the tops off the carrots and wash. Roughly chop.
  2. Pop the carrot tops into a food processor with the juice of half a lemon, 1 peeled garlic clove, 75g cashews, walnuts or almonds and a handful of grated cheese. Whizz until you have a coarse paste. Add salt and pepper as required. Loosen with a little olive oil or splash of water.
  • Add strawberries whole to smoothies – the green tops are completely edible.
  • Blend any overripe nectarines with milk and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to make a milkshake.
  • This tip from the Kitche website makes use of chillies that are going soft:  freeze them then finely grate a frozen chilli to add flavour to dishes.
  • This tip is great too, from Nancy Birtwhistle’s The Green Gardening Handbook:

TIP: I used to pop tomato skins into the compost bin, but not anymore! I dry them on kitchen paper, lay them on a cooling rack and simply leave them on a sunny windowsill until dry and crisp. Blitzed to a powder in a food processor, then stored in a reused spice jar, I have another layer of flavour to add to soups, stews, casseroles and pasta. Use 1 teaspoon in place of 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken and add flavour to your recipes. Try this with pepper skins too.


Spare Parts