What is Composting? - Nature's Recycling System
Compost is a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner that can be made at home from organic waste. In a compost heap, these wastes are converted into a rich humus by soil micro organisms, insects and worms.
Problem-free composting can be undertaken in your own backyard. It only requires minimal space, effort and a little knowledge.
Composting is a great way of reusing your kitchen scraps and garden rubbish and it's fantastic for you garden because:
- It improves soil fertility, texture, retaining moisture and nutrients.
- Your garden will require less garden chemicals because compost rich soil grows healthier, more productive plants.
- It reduces the amount of garden rubbish going into landfills and the amount of methane gas generated (methane is a greenhouse gas).
- It doesn't cost much to do and it's easy to make.
How to Make Compost
Compost heaps should be about 1m square and up to 1m high. Manufactured compost bins are neat, efficient, covered containers that fit into a small space, or you can build compost bins from available materials. Compost bins should be bottomless and placed on the bare ground. The process works best in warm, moist locations.
Materials you can Compost
Greens (nitrogen rich wastes) - Kitchen food scraps, fruit peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass and plant clippings, hair, fur, animal manure, blood and bone, seaweed, fish bones, chopped weeds (less noxious varieties).
Browns (high in carbon and other elements) - Dried leaves, untreated sawdust or wood shavings, hay, peat, vacuum cleaner dust, shredded paper and newspaper, egg shells and crushed sea shells, wood ash.
What not to Compost
Meat, grease, fat, dairy products, large bones, plant foliage with residues of chemical sprays, Oxalis and other problem weeds such as live twitch, convolvulus, docks and dandelions, other Toxic material
The Basic Layering
Start with a layer of coarse, twiggy plant material (e.g small sticks), followed by alternative layers of "Green" and "Brown" wastes and a layer of soil.
Caring for your Compost
Turn your heap after it heats up (this destroys weeds & seeds).
When it cools down turn it into another unlayered heap or bin.
If it becomes too wet, turn and add "Brown" material.
Turn your heap if it develops a bad odour.
To Speed Up Composting
Chop or shred components well and turn frequently.
Cover the heap in heavy rain.
Keep moist – don't let it dry out.
If at first it doesn't heat up, add more "Green" material, such as manure or blood & bone.
When is Compost Ready to Use?
Compost is ready to use after two or three turnings, when it looks like potting mix. Use it wherever good organic fertiliser is needed.
Benefits to the Environment
- Saves landfill space and reduces the amount of leachate created from organic matter in the landfill. Leachete, a toxic liquid, can contaminate the surrounding ground water.
- Improves soil structure and texture. Compost loosens heavy clay soils allowing moisture and air to enter and gives sandy soils more density, helping retain water.
- Helps prevent soil erosion.
- Improves aeration of the soil.
- Promotes soil fertility, stimulating healthy root development and increasing plant growth.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
- Attracts and feeds earthworms.