A Guide To Making Your Own Compost
Composting is nature's way of breaking down materials, be it on a woodland floor or in your bin. Anything natural such as leaves, fruit, vegetables, wool or paper will slowly rot and decompose over time. It might sound gruesome but what remains is a rich, nutrient packed substance, which looks similar to soil that your garden will love.
There are plenty of good reasons to compost - estimates have shown that around 30% of household waste is compostable, although most of it ends up in the bin. By collecting your food scraps, you dramatically reduce the size of your rubbish bag each week and help to reduce the amount of household waste ending up in landfill sites.
Composting also provides you a constant supply of chemical-free fertiliser, which your plants will thank you for. Also, by creating your own compost, you're helping to protect boggy eco-systems and making a new one, as many species will be attracted to the food and warmth available in your heap.
The easiest way to start is by 'cool composting'. For this, you'll firstly need to buy a compost bin or set up a suitable spot in your garden. There are different kinds of compost bins on the market, ranging from the ultra basic such as the plastic 'dalek' style, to the more advanced steel with a lockable lid type.
It's best to choose a sunny spot with plenty of heat and light, and place your heap or bin on a patch of soil or concrete. Once your compost site is sorted, all you have to do is regularly top it up with the right sort of waste and watch the natural decomposition process take place, giving it a gentle hand when necessary. The more you manage your compost, the faster it'll be garden ready!
So, what can you throw into your compost bin? Easy, anything natural that rots will compost. Grass, chopped up trees, vegetables, fruit peel, brown paper or even the dust from your vacuum can go on the pile. Creating the right balance is key and you need just the right mix of dry, wet, hard and soft waste to get the most beneficial mix.
Try to get a good balance of wet and dry ingredients from raw fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, old flowers, soft prunings, straw and hay and also throw in household waste such as egg boxes, cardboard, paper bags, kitchen roll and egg shells.
Hot rotters that work to speed up the compost process are essential and include weeds, grass cuttings, comfrey leaves, nettles and even diluted urine. Also important are slow rotters that decay over a long time - Autumn leaves, wood chippings and the results of seasonal pruning are all good bets. Older and tougher materials take longer to decay but add quality to the compost.
Avoid things like cooked food, meat, poultry and fish, dairy products and bread and never ever include items that could actually pollute the soil in your garden. This means no coal ash, dog poo, nappies, cat litter or glossy magazines.
One problem that many people face is the hundreds of tiny fruit flies, which are attracted to the compost. These are part of the decomposition process but their numbers can be reduced by burying any fruit waste among other ingredients.
Garden Organic explained, "Flies are also a sign that the compost is a little too wet or has too many 'green' ingredients so make sure that the bin has a lid and add 'brown' ingredients such as straw, cardboard or paper to re-balance the heap."
After about six months the bottom of your compost pile will have turned into a lovely dark, silky soil like substance and is ready to use!