Making compost from your kitchen and garden waste is a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of recycling. Applied as a mulch, compost helps to improve the fertility and moisture-retaining qualities of your soil.
Types of Composters
The basic way of making compost is to pile it into a
heap, but this can be unsightly, and better compost is often achieved
more quickly using a composter. The simplest structures are bays,
usually made of corrugated plastic or metal, in which waste is piled.
Wooden compost bins are easier on the eye, and can be built at home from
scrap wood; otherwise you can buy ready-made bins, often with slatted
sides or vents for air circulation. Effective and inexpensive,
lightweight plastic compost bins are also a popular choice.
Filling Your Bin
Almost any vegetable matter can be added to a compost
bin, and the more diverse the range of materials, the better the
compost. It is also important to keep woody and nitrogen-rich leafy
materials in proportion: you should try to include about twice as much
woody material (twigs, paper) as nitrogen rich-material (grass, kitchen
scraps). Mix grass cuttings with woodier clippings or even shredded
paper, because a thick layer of grass will inhibit important air
movement. Chop bigger cuttings into small pieces and avoid adding weeds
with seeds, or persistent perennial weeds. Place a layer of coarser
twigs in the bottom of the bin and then add the material in layers.
Spread a little farmyard manure between layers to help speed up the
Consider these leafy materials to add nitrogen and moisture:
- Grass cuttings and weeds
- Kitchen vegetable waste
- Fallen leaves
- Herbaceous plant clippings
- Sappy hedge trimmings
- Windfall fruit
- Old bedding plant material
Consider these woody, carbon-rich materials to improve airflow:
- Woody plant clippings and twigs
- Shredded paper
- Scraps of cardboard
- Untreated wood shavings
- Stems of herbaceous plants
- Bark mulch
Speeding Up Composting
Nitrogen-rich manure contains microorganisms that
promote composting, so add it to your pile to help the material break
down more quickly. Alternatively, you can buy special compost additives.
Turning the pile also improves air circulation, speeds up rotting, and
ensures that all the material is composted.
Keep in mind that too much wet, green, nitrogen-rich material, such as grass cuttings, will quickly turn the compost pile sour and smelly. Mix it with coarser woody matter in layers, and aim to turn the pile regularly.