Composting is a very important activity of organic gardening, compost can be easily made from garden and household waste, it is so easy to do anyone can do it. Composting is very rewarding as you cut down on pollution by not sending your garden waste off to landfill, and your plants will benefit by being healthier.
So What Can You Compost?
Basically anything that will perish and rot, for best results you need to mix as many different types of composting materials.
Activators include; comfrey leaves, young weeds no seeds, grass cuttings, manure chicken and pigeon best. Activators heat up quickly, but if you use too much of them the heap will get smelly.
Other items include; Cardboard and paper (torn or shredded) including egg boxes, and wood ash.
Good items to include; vegetables and fruit (not too many acidic) trimmings, old flowers and soft prunings, hedge clippings (not too woody, unless well shredded), coffee grounds and tea leaves, hay and straw, old bedding plants and vegetable remains, perennial weeds and any pet bedding.
Slow to rot items include; Woody trimmings, sawdust or shavings, and autumn leaves.
Never add any meat fish or cooked foods as these attract rats. Also exclude; glossy magazines, coal ash, cat or dog faeces.
How to make compost: All the above items will compost down given enough time but if not properly managed will not be good compost.
Where and what to compost in; At the very worst it's a corner in the garden, but it is better if you can make a "bin" out of timber or wire, so that you can get a depth to the pile without spreading too far. It is also then easier to cover in very wet weather, so all the goodness is not drained out of it. Your compost heap needs to be damp but not soggy. If it is too dry it will take longer to rot down. You could try a plastic bin if you do not have time to build something, but you need to make small hole in it with a fork to help aeration.
The slow method of composting, generally called the cool heap. Start by placing a layer of twigs at the bottom as this helps it to drain better. Gather a mix of the listed materials, and try to make your compost heap about 1 foot or30 cm deep. Try to have a mixture of soft and woody stems, as mixing in the woody stems helps to aerate the compost, to assist decomposition. If the weather is dry then use a watering can to wet the compost. If the weather is wet then cover with plastic or old carpet, to prevent the compost getting too wet.
Keep adding to the compost, continually trying to mix different materials. If at any time you are adding only kitchen waste or too many grass cuttings use shredded paper or egg boxes, to break it up. Keep adding until you container is full. Depending on the
size of your compost bin in relation to how much waste you add, it may never fill up as the lower part will be composting and therefore shrinking. If it fills up then cover it and leave it and start another compost heap. This way you can be using the first heap, when it is ready, while you are creating the second one. When you start to use your first compost heap you will need to remove the uncomposted top layer and put it on to your second heap. If you find the heap is not composting down then take it out turn it and put it back again this aeration will accelerate the composting. If it is too wet add some dry materials, if it is too dry then water it. Cover it up again. This method of composting can take between 6-12 months before it is ready for use.
The quicker method of composting, called the "hot" heap; you need to gather enough materials to fill compost bin completely, remembering to use a mixture so that too many soft or too many woody items together, but alternate them and mix them well. Be sure to have finely chopped the woody trimmings, water the heap as you are filling it, when it is full then cover it, within a few days the composting will have started to heat up. Within a week or two depending on the weather the compost will have cooled down, empty out all the contents, and get the out side materials into the middle and the inner materials to the edge, adding water if it is dry, or dry waste if it is too wet. Replace it into the bin, and wait for it to heat up and cool down again. This process can be repeated several times, if you can be bothered, it does increase the speed that the materials compost down. Each time you turn it the heating process will be less noticeable. Leave then, undisturbed to finish composting. If done properly you can have the compost ready in 6-8 weeks, but longer depending on how perfect the conditions were.
What should it look like when it is ready?
When the compost has turned into a dark brown, earthy smelling material, the composting process is complete. For perfect compost it should then be left for a month or two to 'mature' before it is used. The compost does not have to be fine and crumbly, if it still has a few particles to be seen you can still use it. If it is lumpy, sticky or stringy, with bits of twig and eggshell still obvious, it is still quite usable.
Enjoy Your Composting
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