Composting is a great way to cut down on waste, as well as being extremely beneficial to the environment. You can divert as much as 30% of your household rubbish to your compost heap, meaning reduced landfill and less damage to the planet. If you’re a keen gardener, a compost system is an ideal way to introduce useful nutrients to your soil, offering a free, natural alternative to harsh chemical fertilisers. Here are 5 simple steps to creating the perfect compost pile.
Set up your compost heap
Special containers are a great solution for composting in smaller backyards, as they will allow for hygienic, tidy and compact rotting. However, if you are lucky enough to have a huge garden, why not opt for a well-kept compost heap?
Locate your compost in a well-drained spot to ensure that any excess water or liquids can be drained away easily. Easy access will also allow worms to enter the pile and get on with the job of breaking down the contents.
Put the good stuff in
Compost materials can be separated into two, easy to remember categories: ‘greens’ and ‘browns’. Green ingredients are nitrogen-rich and often described as ‘wet’, including vegetable peelings, fruit waste, coffee grounds, tea bags, wet leaves, fresh grass clippings and plant trimmings. On the other hand, brown components are ‘dry’ and high in carbon, such as dead leaves, straw, hay, woodchips and sawdust, hair or animal fur, egg and nut shells, and shredded paper.
You’ll need to add around 50% of each, but because green materials tend to be much heavier, you will require more buckets of the brown stuff.
Tip: Adding a layer of browns on top of the greens will cut down the chance of flies and maggots and mask unpleasant odours.
Leave the bad stuff out
Of course, not everything can be broken down and result in lovely compost. Avoid meat, dairy products and diseased plants, and certainly steer clear of popping in dog poo, cat litter or soiled nappies. These will all attract unwanted pests and unpleasant smells. It’s also best to leave out any plants that have been treated with pesticides, because the harsh chemicals could defeat the object when adding the finished fertiliser to your garden. Meanwhile, take care when adding roots of plants to your pile – these could easily sprout into whole new plants!
Remember, anything made of plastic, glass or metal will not rot and should be recycled separately.
Ensure your compost is aerated
Keep your heap healthy and be sure it has room to breathe. This can be achieved by regular turning of the mixture to rotate the waste as it rots. Another great idea is to add cardboard egg boxes or scrunched up paper to the pile, as these items will create much-needed air pockets and breathing space.
Creating compost is certainly a waiting game, but if you follow these simple steps, in a few months you will have a beautiful, deep brown, spongy layer at the bottom of your bin. This will soon be ready to spread around your garden to improve the quality of your soil, retain its moisture and reduce weeds.