Making your own garden compost is a lot easier than most people realise. With a simple heap you can recycle most of your organic household and garden waste and enrich your garden’s soil at the same time. It’s also an extremely satisfying way to help the environment.
By turning food scraps and organic garden waste into compost you can:
Composting organisms require four equally important components to work effectively:
Nitrogen (Green ingredients): supply your pile with nitrogen which grow and reproduce organisms to oxidise the carbon. These additions are often green and wet: kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, weeds pulled from your garden. Every pile needs the green ingredients, but if all you have is green stuff, your pile can turn stinky and mucky. Too much green stuff can lead to a rotting pile instead of a composting pile.
Carbon: (Brown ingredients): supply your pile with carbon for energy (heat). These items are often brown and drier--fall leaves, branches, hedge clippings, straw, etc. The carbon is very necessary but again, too much has its consequences. If you have a pile with mostly prunings from your hedge and other woody stuff, the pile can take years to break down. It can sit there and linger in your back yard and you may begin to make plans to will your compost to your grandchildren.
Oxygen, for oxidizing the carbon, facilitating the decomposition process. Done by regularly turning the mixture.
Hint: If your compost becomes starved of oxygen, then it starts to produce greenhouse gases - so it's important to get air into your compost heap, for example by turning it regularly.
Water: mixture should be moist, but not soaking wet to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions
Hint: Make sure your material is cut into a small particle size as smaller particles break down more rapidly
Finally, the addition of some soil will encourage the introduction of composting microorganisms which facilitate the breakdown of the material.
2. What to Compost:
3. Layering: Start with a thick layer of coarse material (~15cm), such as twigs or mulch, this is used for drainage. Then follow with a layered A,B,C system using the materials above A. Garden clippings and kitchen scraps, B. Dry leaves and paper (wet). C. Add water after each layer to keep the heap moist but not wet. Then repeat steps ABC. Finish with step D. Sprinkling soil or finished compost on top of food scraps will make a richer compost and help reduce odours.
4. Maintaining Your Compost: Keep your compost well aerated to prevent foul odours or methane. Turn your compost with a garden fork on a weeky basis. Otherwise place garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air in.
Depending on the mix of ingredients the duration for the compost to turn into a rich soil can be anything from 6 weeks to 6 months.
Hint: Cover your heap so that it is just moist, not wet. If it is wet or saturated mix more dry brown material through it and turn.
Hint: If you wish, add compost accelerator (young nettles are an excellent natural accelerator) to help speed up the composting process.
Smelly Compost: If it gets too wet or if there is not enough air in the heap your compost can smell. A common cause is having too much food and not enough dry ingredients in your compost.
How to fix it:
Pests/ Vermin: Cockroaches, mice or rats can sometimes make your compost their home.
How to fix it:
Compost Slow to Mature: A slow composting system can mean that the compost is not hot enough, or there may not be enough air or water.
How to fix it: