Reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and boost the health of your garden with these ten top tips for making compost :
1. Make sure your heap is handy
When setting up your compost heap find a spot in your garden that’s fairly close to the kitchen, so that it’s handy enough so you don’t mind popping out with kitchen waste fairly frequently. And if possible, make sure your compost heap or bin is in the shade, so the compost doesn’t dry out.
2. Build your heap on the cheap
The only piece of equipment you must have to make compost is a garden fork. You don’t even need a compost bin. If you want you can just build a heap and cover it over with some old carpet or cardboard, but a compost bin will keep the compost heap neater. You can build your own using recycled materials such as brick, stone, timber or plastic. For example, you can assemble a bin from old wooden pallets, or cut the bottom out of an old plastic dustbin and press the bin into the soil, keeping the lid to cover it.
3. Think about tomorrow
If you’re making a wooden compost bin, build a four-sided frame about 1 metre cubed that is open at the top and make sure one of the sides can be easily removed so you can turn the heap and extract the ‘cooked’ compost.
4. Protect your stash
If vermin such as rats are present in your area, they may pay your compost heap a visit in the same way that they might visit any other part of the garden. Bury wire netting 30cm deep around your compost heap to keep them out.
5. Help the worms help you
Worms and other soil organisms are crucial for making good quality compost. Make sure you position your heap on a level, well-drained area of soil. The worms will soon find your heap, but if you want to boost your compost production, bags of worms can be bought on the internet. The best worms to get are tiger worms (elsena fetida). Don’t worry about adding too many, their numbers will quickly adjust to suit the conditions.
6. Blend your ‘browns’ and your ‘greens’
Add alternating layers of carbon-rich ‘brown’ materials such as dried leaves, egg boxes, sawdust, dead flower stalks and twigs with soggy, nitrogen-rich ‘green’ materials such as cut grass, manure, tea bags and vegetable and fruit peelings.
7. Get to know the neighbours
Ask the neighbours for any organic matter they might otherwise throw in the rubbish. While you’re at it, offer to gather up compostables from your workplace; unbleached tea bags and coffee grounds break down very quickly and supply proteins, oils and nitrogen. Pile the material on your compost heap to rot down into glorious soil food.
8. Bottoms up
If you have the energy and the motivation, ‘turning’ your compost heap at least once a month will speed up the composting process.
9. Do compost
- Fruit and vegetable peelings
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves
- Unbleached tea bags
- Stale bread
- Vacuum cleaner dust and hair
- Natural fibres
- Grass cuttings, non-woody prunings and leaves
10. Don’t compost
- Meat, fish and bones
- Cooking oil and fats
- Cooked food
- Dairy products
- Diseased plant material
- Dog and cat waste
Cooked food, meat, fish and dairy can all be safely thrown on the compost heap if they have first been fermented in a Bokashi Bin. But, if in doubt, leave it out. Suspect materials can be sent to your local green waste recycling facility.