How to Compost
We are being asked to reduce waste and reuse wherever we can, so what better way than to compost all of our food scraps and leftovers which are Organic Matter (OM), these are not waste THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WASTE!
Definition of Composting
Method of solid waste management whereby the organic component of the solid waste stream is biologically decomposed under controlled conditions to a state in which it can be handled, stored and/or applied to the land without adversely affecting the environment.
Continuing the cycle of life, that’s what composting is about.
- Organic matter, bringing life back into your soil.
- Making your garden rich with microbial activity
- Providing your family with healthy food full of nutrients
- Only costing you a little of your time.
So why not give it a go?
Try your best when you next go shopping to buy products in compostable packaging or
insist on biodegradable packaging.
Refuse plastic wrapping; you cannot compost or recycle this. No more plastic to send to landfill, in achieving this we will be giving a healthy planet to our children; for their children
WHAT YOU DON’T EAT YOUR GARDEN WILL
Composting is part of the natural cycle of life and nature does the work for you, you only need to provide the right conditions. Compost doesn’t breed disease and pests. It is food for your soil. A healthy soil will give you healthy plants and healthy food.
Anything that was living can be composted... even you and me!
HOW DOES COMPOSTING WORK?
Have you ever put your hand in a pile of recently cut green grass, it’s very warm; isn’t it, that’s the microbial activity at work micro-organisms/bacteria break down organic matter.
Compost Happens no matter what... anything that was once living will eventually decompose therefore it can be composted.
WHY NOT SEND MY ORGANIC MATTER TO LANDFILL?
By NOT sending your organic matter to landfill and composting it instead, you will:
- Help the environment
- Save yourself $’s in your garden
- Add oodles of life to your soil and pot plants
- Composting is a valuable learning tool for us all, teaching us through watching this cycle of life how everything is interconnected.
- For every one acre of land we bring back to a 6% level of organic matter, we would be sucking up to 12 tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and into the soil.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COMPOSTING?
Aids the cation-holding capacity, which in laymen’s terms means, it holds more nutrients and water for the plants ....
These cations have an irregular shape, which means more surface area for nutrients and water to grab onto for the plant to take up when IT chooses.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY FINISHED COMPOST?
Compost is great to put in pot plants, around trees and shrubs, grow organic vegetables - the possibilities are endless.
WHO’S ADAM; WHAT’S HE GOT TO DO WITH COMPOSTING?
How fast Composting occurs depends on ADAM
||for the little creatures to breath: let’s face it we couldn’t live without this.
|| types or food: We would not want to eat the same food every day, nor does compost, a diverse diet is the way to go for a healthy body and compost is no different.
|| will just happen: When you make compost you are making a living creature, thousands of little critters will make a home in it.
||Tea, Coffee, Boiled vegetable water, Flower Vase water, kids juices and if there’s a drop of last nights beer left – put that in too.
WHERE DO I GET A COMPOST BIN?
The essential factor of a compost bin is a hole at the top of a vessel, another at the bottom.
The top is to put in the organic matter; the base is access for the little creatures that will come along and have a feast on your decomposing organic matter and then Compost Happens.
You can even use a cardboard box this will eventually break down and be eaten.
Alternatively, you can buy a commercially available bin; try your local council first as they may sell them to you cheaper than a nursery or hardware store.
WHERE SHALL I PUT MY COMPOST BIN?
Compost likes a warm sunny spot close to the house if possible, if you have enough space put it where you can build another one next to it; while one is ‘cooking’ the other is in the making.
HOW DO I START COMPOSTING?
Layering system compost
Building compost used to be a ‘layer upon layer’ system; now we know that mixing it all together helps it decompose much faster. The following amounts of ingredients are for 210 or 270 litre compost bin, these are available from most councils at a very reasonable rate. If your council doesn’t supply them Hardware stores, Garden centers and nurseries do. Shop around as they vary in price.
It’s a good idea, if you can, is to throw in a handful of ready made compost as the microbes in this will give your compost a boost.
- Human and animal hair
- Flowers; if they have been in a vase, include the water in also
- Cooked vegetables
- Fresh grass cutting
- Tea leaves and coffee grounds
- Vacuum cleaner dust, this is alive with little mites
- Manures; chicken, horse, duck and sheep
- Weeds; This may surprise you. Weeds have many nutrients to give your compost, the seeds will be killed off when the temperature reaches 50 – 60 degrees C.
- Paper bags
- Kitchen roll paper
- Egg cartons
- Toilet rolls
- Leaves; we cleaned the gutters around the house out, I put the decomposing leaves and terrific black humus that had broken down in them, straight into the compost, the worms went wild! I had hundreds of worm capsule within weeks. Excellent.
- Dried brown grass cuttings
- Paper, it doesn’t matter if it’s bleached. In Australia, we are only recycling 11% of our office paper, we could do much better than that.
The depth of this layer of coarse materials should measure the thickness of about two widths of your hand. Use prune cuttings, small sticks, twigs, dry leaves, brown grass clippings. This will allow the air to flow through the heap. Finish this first layer with some dry leaves. Water this layer.
Make a layer of rich approximately one width of your hand deep
Add a layer of poor ingredients approximately one width of your hand deep
Water each poor layer as you go
If you can get a handful of ready made compost, throw this in, it’s a booster for the compost you are about to make.
Always finish with a poor layer, some leaves, dried grass clippings etc
Always cover the last with a thick newspaper (a weekend newspaper thickness) and a Hessian sack, ask at your fruit and veg shop as they will probably have some spare.
Put the lid on the bin, our native animals are adapting very well to suburban life and just might want a midnight snack from your compost bin if the lid isn’t on firmly.
WHAT CAN BE COMPOSTED?
Anything that was once living; this does includes onion and citrus (they just don’t go into a worm farm)
Remember this includes liquids:
Water from vegetable, potato, rice and spaghetti, tea, coffee, fruit juice, cordial, even the dregs from last night’s beer, can go into the compost!
Remember! As I mentioned in the beginning....There is no such thing as waste.
CAN I COMPOST MEAT, CHICKEN AND FISH?
When you’ve created a couple of good loads of compost, you can start putting in meat, fish and chicken. It’s good to wait until you feel confident about composting though before adding these.
The smaller the pieces the easier it will be to breakdown. Fish makes a valuable ingredient to compost; bury it in the middle and cover it well. Bones take a while to break down so you may have to throw these back into a few composts.
HOW OFTEN CAN I TURN MY COMPOST?
Once every 7 – 10 days is enough, any more will stop the compost producing valuable soil antibiotics, the white webby stuff that will appear on the top.
There is a tool called a ‘Compost Worm’, it’s like a big cork screw you can buy them almost anywhere now hardware stores, garden centers and nurseries. It mixes the ingredients well, is easy on the back and especially good if you have your compost in a confined space.
HOW MUCH ORGANIC MATTER CAN I PUT IN THE COMPOST?
You can fill it up to the top the first time and if the ingredients are right, you will get good compost in about 8 weeks, if not it may take longer to break down.
Add each day or every couple of days when you have enough, this is the usual domestic backyard composting.
WHAT IS COLD COMPOSTING?
A pile of organic matter such as grass clippings, leaves etc that are thrown onto a pile, and stay at a low temperature. In other words you can still achieve composting using this system but it will take time to produce compost. This method is still better than sending it to land fill, if you want to speed things up a little you can turn it occasionally, add some fertilizer and water.
Weeds, seeds and diseased plants are not killed in this type of composting so best not to add them to this type of pile.
TROUBLESHOOTING MY COMPOST
All compost systems go through a stage of being ‘a little’ smelly, that’s because the organic matter is decomposing; after a while it becomes earthy and sexy; well it does for me. If though it becomes too smelly then you will need to have a look and ask a couple of questions.
You’ve added too much rich and not enough poor material; turn the compost adding more poor material and a handful of lime.
Inadequate drainage Compost
If so improve the drainage under the heap, this may mean removing the bin off the pile, put twigs and dry leaves in the bottom of the bin and transfer the heap across, adding some poor materials and a handful of lime or wood ash as you go, this also aerates the heap.
Guests in the Compost
When creating a compost system you are creating a living creature and in doing so, you are inviting many wonderful micro and macro organisms to share in the feast of the cycle of life with rotting vegetable matter. Some of the guests may be unwanted.
Ants in my Compost
If ants are enjoying your compost this means it’s too dry so disturb the nest and water well, by disturbing their nests all the time you are giving them the hint to leave.
Cockroaches in my Compost
There is food for them to eat. The pile is not hot enough or hasn’t been heated enough; the food is not breaking down, add some lime, dolomite or wood ash; turn the pile to heat it up.
Slugs, Slater, Wood lice, Pill bugs & Snails in my Comppost
If you have these, congratulations the moisture content in your compost is just right. These little creatures are all part of the process for decomposing vegetable matter.
Little annoying flies in my Compost
These are fruit flies or vinegar flies as they are sometimes known, completely natural to have in your compost. If you leave fruit in a bowl this attracts the little buggers. By covering, your compost with newspaper and Hessian sack this will help alleviate the problem.
Rats & Mice in my Compost
Make it difficult for them with chicken wire. Measure the outside base of the bin. Get some chicken wire 25 centimeters wide and 20 centimeters longer than the length of the base. Place your bin where you want it to sit and with a hand trowel go around the inside of the bin digging it into the soil approximately 10 centimeters in depth. Remove the bin and insert chicken wire into the dig mark you have made in soil, crossing over the 20 centimeters of extra chicken wire. Gently place the bin on top of this, lean in the bin and push the chicken wire against the wall of the bin.
In doing this rats and mice will have to dig deep to get in, so they may not bother. Make sure the lid is on tight. If they persist, you will need to stop using meat, fish, chicken and dairy, in your compost. If the area where you live is prone to either of these rodents, it may be better for you use the Bokashi Bucket system, see web site links.