OXFORDSHIRE’S very own “master composteers” are on hand to advise bewildered gardeners on all things compost.

To celebrate Compost Awareness Week, the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership is running compost surgeries at recycling centres across the county.

Master compost volunteers have been appointed to offer budding gardeners the chance to find out everything about what they claim is a lost art.

The workshops come as Oxford City Council yesterday started its scheme to charge £35 a year for garden waste collection.

Organiser Eiles Robinson said: “The surgeries have proved really popular.

“Quite often people want to compost, but they give up too early. They start putting things into a bin but it might get all slimy, or look like nothing is happening, so they give up.”

Composting is the act of piling up waste outdoors and waiting for it to decompose.

But as well as composting vegetable peelings and garden cuttings, Ms Robinson said there was a lot more to the process.

She said: “What people don’t realise is that you can get rid of things like teabags, old bank statements, toilet roll holders and egg boxes if you do it right.

“We split the waste into browns and greens, with the greens being things like garden clippings and vegetable peelings, and browns being cardboard.

“It means you have all this lovely compost to use in your garden.

“You don’t have to make special trips to the tip, or put it in your green bin.

“Plus there are all the environmental benefits of saving the many miles lorries have to travel to pick up the waste and transport it to other sites.”

She added: “Composting has been going for hundreds of years. This is about going back to basics.”

Volunteer Sue Baines, from Kidlington, said: “I think younger people don’t tend to know about composting, but anybody can learn.”

She said the main concerns people had included the smell, how long compost took, and the threat of rats.

Mrs Baines said: “A lot of people are put off by the idea of rats, but if you avoid putting cooked food on the compost heap, keep it damp and bang it every so often with a stick, then there is no problem.”