Composting at home is very easy, so why not get started now!
Composting is nature’s way of disposing of organic waste – it breaks down organic material and transforms it into a nutrient rich soil additive, compost, which is the perfect eco-friendly fertilizer for your garden.
Did you know that if all the suitable food waste produced by households in Great Britain was composted, it would be equivalent to saving 2,000,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year – that’s 2 million tonnes!.
Making compost at home is very easy as nature does most of the hard work for you. There are billions of micro-organisms in ordinary soil which break down dead plant and other organic material. To make sure you have plenty of them putting in their shift in your compost heap always put your compost bin straight on soil. Oh, and don’t forget – the worms help out too…!
You can also add a bit of fresh soil to your compost bin. This can be attached to plant roots or you can sprinkle an few handfuls of good topsoil into the bin. Adding soil helps reduce smell from the compost bin.
Depending on your climate, you should place your compost bin in a warm, sunny spot. The composting material you put in will break down more quickly when the compost bin is hot, and high temperatures will kill off many weed seeds. The hard-working micro-organisms like it hot too. It will take much longer to make compost if your compost bin is in a shady, cool place and your finished compost may end up weedy.
Water is important too. The compost heap should be kept moist, but not soggy or wet. The compost can sometimes dry out at the edges, especially if your bin has slatted sides, so watch out for this in dry weather, and make sure to water the contents if necessary. Those precious micro-organisms may die if they dry up and the composting process will slow down and may completely stop.
The micro-organisms also need air, so don’t pack down the compostable material too hard into the compost bin. Fresh compost at the top of the bin can be roughly mixed in with a pitch-fork, or a compost aerator, to inject fresh air into the middle of the pile.
To make the best compost you need to have a good mix of green, sappy materials, (grass clippings, vegetable peelings and weeds ) and brown, woody or fibrous material (stalky stems, cardboard, crumpled paper).
The general rule of thumb is that the mix should be two parts brown to one part green based on the approximate weight of the material.
The larger the pieces of material you put in when composting, the larger the lumps you will take out when the process is finished. Basically the micro-organisms take longer to break down the compostable material when the lumps are big. To avoid large lumps in the finished compost, break up or shred bigger stems, plant materials and other compostables.
Good stuff for the home compost bin:
- Vegetable and fruit peelings
- Dead flowers
- Stalks of plants you have cut back
- Annual weeds
- Tea bags and coffee grinds
- Grass clippings, if free of synthetic chemicals
- Soft Evergreen clippings
- Straw and hay
- Animal manure (not dog or cat)
- Crumpled or shredded paper
- Cardboard egg boxes
- Small amounts of wood ash
- Fine shavings or sawdust from UNTREATED timber
What to avoid in the compost bin:
- Anything that contains plastic or metal
- Cooked food and bones
- Disposable nappies
- Cellophane wrappers
- Juice cartons
- Ash from a coal fire
- Dairy product leftovers
- Large pieces of wood (these rot down but they may take several years to do so)
- Branches and prickly prunings
- More grass than makes a 30cm layer
- Plant foliage with chemical spray residue, especially hormone type weedkillers.
- Any toxic material