Making your own compost is the ultimate in recycling; the practice of re-using your kitchen and garden waste is an old one but today, many people are put off by tales of storage problems and even rat infestations! The good news is that starting a compost heap or installing a compost bin is not as difficult or as problematic as you may have at first imagined and within a relatively short space of time, your garden will benefit from rich, environmentally friendly compost. Also why not get the kids to help you recycle and let them frequently check to see how the compost is doing,
Where should I build my compost heap?
This is an important question and whether you go for a composting bin or a traditional compost heap is very much a personal decision. A compost bin is simply a container in which to keep your compostable materials whilst they break down while a heap is as the name suggests nothing more than a pile of compostable material which is usually covered over with card or plastic sheeting and often insulated with straw.
Your compost heap or bin should be in an area which is easy to reach, keeping it out of sight is a concern for some people but a compost heap which is behind a shed or outbuilding may be awkward to get to. The main points in terms of the location are as follows;
- Compost bins or heaps should be in a position which is reached by the sun.
- They should be tightly covered or have a lid.
- Away from water sources.
What is suitable to add to a compost heap or bin?
The general rule of thumb in terms of compostable materials is that if it once lived, it can go on! This includes waste food and paper but be aware that certain foodstuffs will attract pests and so should be avoided. Meat and dairy products are among the biggest attracters of rats and the best waste food products are fruit and vegetable products. Some other materials are perfect for activating your compost and these include grass cuttings and weeds.
Other compostable materials
- Tea leaves and coffee grounds
- Chicken manure and old chicken bedding
- Horse and cow manure
Top compost tips:
- Try to get an equal mixture of “brown and green” materials for your compost. Brown materials include card, paper and leaves whilst greens speak for themselves!
- Never compost nappies, domestic pet faeces or cooked foodstuffs.
How to get your first batch started
Begin by gathering as much compostable material as possible; collect grass clippings, weeds, kitchen waste and some paper or thin cardboard. The card will be crumpled up and mixed in with the other ingredients to help make the heap more “airy”. If you are using a container for your compost, you can lay the mix of items on the bottom of it to a depth of about 12 inches and then replace the lid and return whenever you have more materials to add to it. If you are making a compost heap, lay the first layer right down on the earth or turf and then a layer of straw for insulation. Cover tightly with plastic sheeting or plenty of cardboard and return when you have more materials to add to it.
When can I begin to use my compost?
In order for a heap to fully mature, you should add to it regularly and ensure that you have a good balance of “greens and browns” to include; some heaps will produce useable compost in two months or thereabouts whilst others may take longer. Keep an eye on your compost for signs of rodents but if you avoid cooked foods and the other products mentioned, then this should not be an issue.
You will know when your compost is mature as it will become black, crumbly and rich in texture and you then can begin to use it in the garden.