Home made compost is great. Not only does it make something useful out of food and household waste – something I always felt guilty about throwing away – it helps your garden and the environment at the same time. You can use home made compost to improve the soil, mulch your borders, or mix with other things like sand to make an excellent seed sowing medium much cheaper than in the garden centre!
After having good success with our home made compost this year I am inspired to share with you how we made it:
1. We began by buying a black compost bin from our local council. It is a lot cheaper to buy one this way. Ask your council for details.
2. A suitable site was the next thing to find, and for us this was on a concrete path near the back of the house in a sunny position (to help the bin get warm and ‘cook’ the compost inside). As it was on concrete, we began with a layer of old compost/soil to get things moving.
3. The kitchen scraps we had saved were the next thing to go down to start the ‘layers’. Compost needs layers to work, so that you get a good mix of ingredients and it doesn’t become too wet (from kitchen/food waste as it decomposes), or too dry from just plant materials. The two types of waste you need are ‘browns’ – such as kitchen waste, cardboard etc and ‘greens’ – such as garden clippings, prunings, some weeds etc.
4. Then a layer of cardboard was added. It is important to break this up into smaller sections (along with anything you put in the bin actually) to allow it to be composted effectively.
5. Next came a layer of garden prunings, leaves etc along with a ‘starter’ such as bonemeal, grass clippings etc to get it going. I’ve heard urine is also a good starter but we are yet to try this!
6. All of this food was enough to get the small organisms/insects etc to start eating it and breaking it down into the final compost through their own waste (Compost is basically worm ‘poo’ – lovely!).
7. The same principle was applied to build up the material in the bin over the next few months, saving food waste, old cardboard, garden waste etc and adding it in layers to enable a good mix.
8. The bin took at least a year to start producing good compost, which we could get to from the hatch at the bottom.
So that’s basically it. For more information on what you can and can’t put in to your compost see see http://www.recyclenow.com/compost. Some items should not go in, for example waste from non-vegetarian animals, perennial weeds etc (you don’t want them re-growing again in your garden!). The site also has lots of information about what to do with the finished compost etc. This month we did ‘turn’ the compost to help separate out the ready compost from the compost still to be broken down. This also gives it a mix again after the cold months to help get it started. We also moved it to the end of the garden as found it attracted rats (for the food) and didn’t like them so close to the house. We now need to make more use of a kitchen ‘caddy’ to save up the food waste for less trips down the end of the garden! The new site is still sunny, but we put the bin on a layer of plastic matting first, to stop bindweed growing up into it. We now have two bins also, one for ready compost and one for cooking compost.
Of course you can also make compost in a more traditional arrangement of a wooden slatted ‘box’ but we found this was an easy way to get started. We have also found though that we need much more compost than one bin can make so may have to set up this system too (we certainly have enough waste for it!).
Good luck with your compost, and do share your own tips and experiences!