Nurturing the world beneath your feet – understanding soil and making compost with Sylvia Travers

Ref: S1D33005

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Places available

About this course

This course offers a comprehensive overview of soil and how, with good compost, you can really improve your garden. It will cover the basics of soil composition, the complexity of life it contains and how to improve and care for it. Homemade compost is a great soil amendment, so knowing how to make the best of your green waste will have all round benefit.

Course Description

The aim of the course is to reveal the hidden world beneath our feet and provide a basic understanding of soil and its composition, the variety of life it contains and how to care for it.

Compost is an excellent soil improver and, by making your own, you are creating a sustainable and nutritious amendment to help you get the most out of your garden.

Topics covered include how to start a compost heap (what to put in it and getting the mix right), the benefits of making your own compost, plus different types of composting (hot/cold systems, wormeries, woodchip and leaf mould).

Some time will be spent outside in the afternoon looking at the composting system at West Dean Gardens. Questions are welcome throughout the day.

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Notebook and pencil
  • A camera may be useful
  • Clothing suitable for outdoors, including wet weather, as some time will be spent in the walled garden

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Notebooks and pencils

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Timetable for one day courses

Students should arrive by 9am for registration.

Classes are from 9.15 - 5pm

Lunch is included.

General Information


Sylvia Travers - horticulture tutor at West Dean College

Sylvia Travers

Sylvia has worked in horticulture for nearly 20 years, having studied at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin and at Reading University. She also took a detour to Denmark to complete a PhD in plant science. Sylvia has specialised in fruit and vegetable horticulture throughout and ran the productive gardens at The Lost Gardens of Heligan before setting up and running kitchen gardens for Michelin starred restaurants. She previously worked for the RHS overseeing the construction and planting of the Paradise and Kitchen gardens at Bridgewater near Manchester. These days she consults on all aspects of walled kitchen garden restoration and management. 

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