Initiated 2021

Beneficial for healthy plant growth, but costly for gardeners to buy, compost is one of the many things we could make ourselves if we had the materials and a space.


Every residential garden could host a small compost heap of up to a cubic metre in size to recycle a mixture of grass cuttings, raw vegetable peelings, autumn leaves, and shredded cardboard. However, imagine the tremendous volume of summer grass clippings and autumn leaves that are generated by Johnstown's public spaces.

There's an opportunity to generate inexpensive compost for residents to use but there are 2 fundamental problems:

  1. Space to accommodate this.

  2. Obtaining the green and brown mix in sufficient quantities at the same time.

2021 Pilot Projects

Compost Heap

Walterstown GFC allowed us to use a small section of their grounds to host a discrete compost pile in a quiet 'out of the way' area.

Site no bigger than a family car hosts turf and leaf composting.

Turf Edging

Our project to stop the use of weed killer in Johnstown had us cutting pavement verge edges and removing them.

Quite quickly a large volume is collected and the space at Walterstown GFC is ideal to transform the turf cuttings back into useable soil.

Many metres of turf edging cut from pavements.

Several tonnes of turf grow each year on our pavements.

Initial layering for composting that was later rebuilt with shredded and soaked cardboard.

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Due largely to the vast amount of unexpected time spent weeding pavements and cycle paths the volume of turf collected from verge edging was considerably less than initially forecast. We still amassed 2,000kg and there's a considerable amount to cut and collect before the process repeats itself.

Turf Composting Techniques

Turf is essentially soil, grass, and its roots, therefore all that is really needed is to compost the grass.

2 techniques were trialed side by side.

  1. Using Plastic Bags

A local resident loaned us 20 'light proof' thick plastic sacks with small drainage holes. These were heavily filled with the first Spring cut turf, that had a large percentage of soil attached, and left open to the elements. When checked 9mths later, late Jan 2022, the turf was sufficiently decomposed for use at the Athlumney Hall fruit & herb verge. The sacks were then returned to the owner.

2.Traditional 'Lasagne' stack

Due to lockdown there was no shortage of free brown cardboard from home deliveries. Cardboard was soaked and layered between the cut turf to create cubic metre stacks. Covered with thick tarpaulin to inhibit light and excess rain. When checked in January 2022 it had, as expected, not sufficiently decomposed and therefore left for a further 6mths.

Tree Leaves

To make full use of the available space allocated for composting at Walterstown GFC we added leaf composting to our pilot site.

Residents in the Bailis Downs estate collected leaves off the entrance road. Most were spread over a future planting site on the nearby lawn, the remainder taken for composting.

A typical scene with leaves on the road where they will turn to sludge if not removed.

28 plastic bin bags were loosely filled, tied, and then stacked at the composting site.

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Six Months Later.

  • The bagged leaves had been shaken on a monthly basis but had not noticeably decomposed. Most leaves had become matted together where moisture had entered. These were loosened and bags re-tied.

  • The leaves spread over the lawn had moved in the winds but they were still covering the area as a mulch. The reduced grass/weed growth was very noticeable.

2022 Development

The pilot projects of composting leaves has provided a potential solution to the summer meadow dilemma. The significant issue of what to do with the volume of grass clippings generated when sites are cut in Autumn had previously deterred us from hosting such projects.

This year we plan to trial composting the 3 summer meadow sites:

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We are conscious that hay does not have the same quantity of nutrients as fresh lush green grass clippings to make very high-quality compost. We will also need to acquire a similar matching volume of leaves that normally blow onto public roads and cover pavements. With help from residents this is quite feasible due to the number of areas where this happens in Johnstown's housing estates.

The proposal is to shred and mix both the collected grass and leaves at the same time. By soaking the compost heap as it is built we hope to reduce the likelihood of rodents seeking to nest. A cover will be applied to reduce the effect of any wind.

Project Timeline

Spring to Autumn,

Turf edging cutting, transportation, mixing with 2021 leaves and water for further composting.


Summer meadow cutting, shedding, transporting, and temporary stacking under covers.


Leaf collection, shredding, transportation, mixing with grass and water to create small compost heaps.

Spring 2023

Potential cut after winter growth.

Sustainable Development Goals

This project has connections with the following categories: