Composting: Your Complete Guide
Unveil the hidden world beneath your feet with composting. Discover how bacteria can transform soil health, nurture plants, and sustain life. Join us as we delve into the art of composting, guiding you through the basics, the dos and don’ts, and how to ensure vibrant, thriving soil.
Table of Contents
What is Compost?
Compost is the result of a natural process where organic materials, such as food waste, leaves, and plant trimmings, decompose and break down into nutrient-rich soil. This process is facilitated by microorganisms like bacteria and fungi, which transform the organic matter into a dark, crumbly material that can be used to enrich garden soil, improve plant growth, and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.
Incorporating Compost into Your Garden
Composting is both a way to recycle organic waste and a means to create valuable soil conditioner that benefits plants and the environment. Gardeners commonly use composters or piles to produce fertile soil, which creates the warm, damp, and dark settings required to speed up the process.
Compost piles are easy to make since you can simply choose a corner of your garden that sees half shade, and half sun, and deposit all of your food and garden waste there. It’s a good idea to fence the area off so that heavy rainfall doesn’t wash the waste all over your garden.
Alternatively, you can use a compost bin, which you can find online or at any good garden centre. These are usually large black bins with a lid, which helps create the humidity and heat needed to make compost. A compost bin is the better choice over a compost pile if you want to contain the smell!
The Basics of Compost Ingredients
Pretty much any garden trimmings can be put into your compost bin or pile, but it’s important to be a little bit selective if you want to achieve the healthiest soil. Green materials like grass clippings, young plant trimmings, and leaves will provide moisture and nutrients, and they will also attract worms and grubs, which are necessary for compost-making. It’s a good idea to start off your compost pile or bin with these ingredients at the bottom.
Next, you can add food waste, such as vegetable peelings, fruit, eggshells, and coffee grinds. Egg shells provide calcium, which helps with plant growth, and coffee grinds provide nitrogen and potassium, which contribute to the health of the soil. You can even add things like hay, straw, and paper.
Tips for Turning and Aerating Your Compost
Once you start filling up your compost bin, know that your work is not yet done. It will need regular turning and aerating if you want nutrient-rich soil for your garden. You should aim to turn it at least once a week to introduce oxygen. You can use a pitchfork or compost-turner tool for this. While turning, break up any clumps or dense areas to improve airflow and prevent compacted spots. Also, alternate the direction you turn the materials. This helps mix the pile thoroughly.
You will also need to check the moisture levels. If it’s too dry, add water; if it’s too wet, add dry brown materials like leaves or shredded paper.
As well as moisture, you need heat. A well-aerated compost pile heats up as it decomposes. Using a compost thermometer, check that the internal temperature reaches around 54-71°C during the active decomposition phase.
Composting Dos and Don’ts
It’s important to note that some things should never be put into your compost bin or pile. Meat and dairy waste can release harmful pathogens, and it will also attract pests and rodents. Human and pet waste from carnivores like dogs and cats should also be avoided since this contains harmful bacteria that will not break down in the decomposition process. However, it is okay to use waste from animals like horses, cows, and rabbits. Please refer to the T23 waste exception guide which will explain the types of activities you can carry out while you are composting.
If you want to start creating your own nutrient-rich compost to help your garden thrive, follow the tips above!