Composting your kitchen and garden waste is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you dispose of in the trash. By composting, you can generate a free source of nutrient-rich material to help improve your garden.
The Compost Pile or Bin
The first step is to decide where to position the compost bin or pile, which can affect the overall quality of the compost that is produced. For best results place it in a well-drained area which has good access to sunlight. The drainage will enable excess water to drain out of the compost and placing the bin in a sunny spot helps to speed up the composting process.
You can either purchase a compost bin or you can make your own. Compost bins can be bought from the majority of garden centers or on-line and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Or you can do what I do and simply have a compost pile at a secluded edge of your property.
What should I put in my compost bin?
Successful composting needs the best ingredients. There are lots of everyday waste items from your garden and kitchen that can go into your compost bin. These are broken down into “Greens” and “Browns”.
Greens are the type of items that provide moisture and nitrogen and are quick to rot. Items classed as Greens includes:
Browns are waste items that take longer to rot but provide pockets of air, along with fiber and carbon. This includes items such as:
Newspapers (scrunched up)
Toilet roll tubes
Egg shells (crushed)
Dry brown leaves
There are some organic materials that should not be added to the compost pile. Bad composting materials include: diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, invasive weeds, pet feces, dead animals, bread and grains, meat or fish parts, dairy products, grease, cooking oil, or oily foods.
How do I make a good quality compost?
To make a good quality compost it is important to use a good mix of both 'green' and 'brown' wastes. Microorganisms are tiny forms of plant and animal life, which break down organic material. A small amount of garden soil or manure supplies adequate microorganisms. The air, nitrogen, and water offer an encouraging environment for the microorganisms to produce your compost. Air is the one ingredient which you can’t have too much of. Too much nitrogen can kill microbes; too much water causes insufficient air in the pile.
If microorganisms have more surface area to feed off of, the materials will decompose faster. Chopping your organic materials with a machete, or using a shredder or lawnmower to shred materials will help them break down faster.
The compost pile is your oven. Compost piles catch heat created by the activity of millions of microorganisms. The minimum size for hot, fast composting is a 3-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot. But piles wider or taller than 5 feet don't permit enough air to reach the microorganisms at the center.
Your compost pile’s microorganisms work their hardest when the materials have about the moistness of a wrung-out sponge and as many air passages. The air in the pile is usually consumed faster than the moisture, so the pile should be turned or mixed up now and then to add more air; this maintains high temperatures and controls odor. Use a pitchfork, rake, or other garden tool can to turn materials with.
It is simply a case of monitoring the compost and adding more waste depending on the look of the compost. For example, if it looks too dry add more green waste, and if it looks too wet add more brown waste.
How long will it take for my compost to be ready to use?
This will vary depending on the mixture of waste that is placed into the compost bin, the surrounding conditions and the weather. In general, it should take between 6 and 9 months for your finished compost to be ready to use.
Comment below and let us know about your composting experiences!