Compost is black gold for your garden, a natural fertiliser essential for improving soil quality, growing healthy veggies and keeping flowers blooming. Compost also stops kitchen waste from going into landfill and reduces the use of chemical fertilisers, and it’s pretty simple to make…with these 4 easy steps you’ll be creating perfect compost in no time!
Step 1 - Choose your bin and the right site
The size of your compost bin will depend on how much room you have for composting and how much compost you want to produce. For example, a 125 litre compost bin will produce 10 - 12 litres of compost a week. A lidded compost bin is recommended to reduce odour, flies and attracting rodents. Something like the Reln Garden 150L is ideal for an inner city gardener with a small back yard.
Once you have your bin, you need to choose a site for it. A well-drained area that has some shade is best. You don’t want too much sun, it will dry out your compost.
Step 2 - What should I compost?
Making your own compost is a money saving enterprise, and is a great way of recycling organic household and garden waste. Most importantly you’ll have nutrient rich soil to encourage the vitality of your garden. But there are certain things you should add to compost and things you shouldn’t.
DO add nitrogen rich organic (green) materials such as:
● fruit and veggie peelings
● eggs shells
● tea leaves and tea bags
● coffee grounds
● fresh grass clippings
● green leaves
DO add carbon rich (brown) materials such as:
● dry leaves
● dead flowers
● hedge clippings
● wood ash
● wet newspaper
● inorganic materials: metals, plastic, glass
● meat and dairy products
● bread or cake
● animal droppings
● Weed seeds
● diseased plants
Step 3 - Layering your compost
The trick to good compost is getting the composition right. Too many green ingredients and it will be stinky and rotting, too many brown ingredients and it will take ages to break down.
It’s recommended to start with a thick layer of twigs or mulch for drainage. Then a layer of green materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps, then a layer of brown materials, such as dry leaves and wet paper. Water needs to be added after each layer to keep the compost moist but not wet.
Repeat these layers over the next few days until the compost bin is full, then add a layer of soil. This is important as it introduces composting microorganisms which help to break down the material.
Step 4 - Maintaining your compost
You need to keep your compost well aerated to help the decomposition process. If it doesn’t get oxygen it will start producing greenhouse gases, and become a stinking heap. Regularly turning the mixture with a garden fork once a week will give it the air it needs, or if you have a rotational composter just give it a tumble. You can also put garden stakes or pipes into the heap to let air in.
So when can I expect nutrient rich compost?
Depending on the mixture you can expect a rich soil anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. You can accelerate the process naturally with certain plants; shredded comfrey leaves, and yarrow leaves can be added to speed things up. Chopping vegetable waste and breaking up twigs into smaller particles will also make it break down more rapidly.
The end product you’re after should be a browny black, rich soil. Moist but not dripping water when squeezed. Mix 10-20% compost with the soil in your garden beds, your plants will love it!