Even if you’re relatively new to gardening, you’ve more than likely heard of ‘composting’. Composting has several benefits to keeping your garden healthy – but what exactly is it, and how exactly do you do it? We’ve put together the basics of composting: why you should be doing it and how to make your own.
Why should I be composting?
Adding compost to your garden has many benefits, including:
- Enriching the soil
- Increasing airflow and water retention
- Stabilising pH levels
- Allowing plants to use nutrients to help support their growth effectively.
It also helps to free much-needed space in landfill. Approximately 30% of items we throw away could be used for compost – so the environment wins too.
What do I put into my compost?
All you need is three fundamental ingredients:
1. Garden Waste
Think twigs, grass clippings, branches, leaves, wood chips, hay, and straw. You can also include newspaper and cardboard too.
2. Household Waste
Household waste is everything found inside your homes, such as tea and coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, grains, eggshells and houseplants.
Things you can’t include are meats, cheese, fats and oils, poo (including dog and cat poo) and non-organic materials like plastics.
Now, the ratio of ingredients is essential here. You need to have equal amounts of garden and household waste with the water used to moisten any dry ingredients.
How do I turn this into compost?
So now you know what it is, the benefits of composting and what to put in, let’s take you through how actually to make it:
- Decide whether you’re going to have a compost pile or a compost bin. You can purchase compost bins at most hardware stores
- Pick a dry, partly shaded spot for your compost. Place the pile or bin on bare soil so that worms can reach food scraps. Place it in a convenient location (i.e. close to a water source), but ensure that it’s not in the way
- Start by adding a layer of garden waste such as twigs or leaves. You’ll need enough to cover the bottom of the bin. This helps to promote airflow
- Add in food scraps as they accumulate and continue to do so until you have a layer that is approximately 10cm deep
- Add a second layer of garden waste until you have another 10cm layer
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your bin or pile is full
- Don’t forget to moisten dry materials with water as you add them.
Your compost can take anywhere from 2 months – 2 years to establish (it’s a long but beneficial waiting game). It all depends on its location, size and most importantly, its ingredients. The best way to know when your compost is good to go is when it appears dark, has a crumbly texture and has a rich earthy smell.
Once you have an established pile of compost, mix green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable scraps under 25cm of compost.
If you can’t compost outside, you can purchase indoor specific compost bins. Compost will take less time to establish indoors – approximately two to five weeks. You must regularly tend to your indoor pile and keep track of what you throw in. If properly managed, it will not smell or attract pests/ rodents.