Composting is a one of the most important supplement you can give to your garden. Its natures own recycling system and an easy way to add nutrient rich humus, which helps plant growth and restores life to depleted soil. Its free and easy to make yourself at home and good for the environment. Composting can use alot of household waste away from the rubbbish bin to be used on your lawn and garden.
Introducing beneficial organisms such as worms to the soil helps to aerate and break down organic material which in turn helps retain moisture in the soil and ward off plant disease. Its a natural alternative to chemical fertilisers. Air and water are also important in the process. The best way to reduce food and garden waste is to recycle it.
To start out you have to find a sunny spot then put a layer of coarse material such as twigs, sticks, prunings, dry leaves and newspaper on the bottom, this allows ar flow through the heap. Pile it about 8-10cm thick. The add a layer of rich soil or old compost and water to make it moist. Now you can start adding food scraps or any of the materials listed below: grass clippings, soil or compost, tree prunings, sticks and leaves, shredded newspaper or cardboard, even old rags, lime, fresh herbs, corn cobs, crushed eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, garden plants and weeds, straw, chicken manure, coffee and coffee grounds, flower cuttings, seaweed (rinse first) sawdust, wood ash or charcoal. Adding a strip of wire garden trellis into the middle of the compost pile will allow air to get into it. Also if you have some stale mouldy bread slices throw these into the mix, it helps to activate the decomposing process.
Do not put any of these into the compost as they may attract mice, rats or flies: meat, fish bones, diseased plants, perennial weeds, pet manure, banana and orange peel, and dairy products eg. cheese.
When finished layering, cover the heap with hessian bags, underfelt, carpet scraps, wood, plastic sheeting or mulch. Covering helps retain moisture and heat and prevents the compost from being over watered by rain as it should be moist but not sodden. You need to turn the heap every few weeks with a fork or shovel. If the heap gets wet and smelly turning will help to dry it out. Alternately if pile is too dry, turn it and add water. Compost heaps need to be hot to make everything break down quicker. There will be many creatures that will live in the compost, they all help to break down the waste and turn it into rich fertiliser. You may have slaters, beetles, bacteria, fungi and earthworms. If you are getting ants, add lime and turn. If compost becomes smelly the problem could be its too wet or not enough oxygen so add some dry ingredients such as shredded paper and mix through, leaving some pockets of air. If its too dry, add lawn clippings or kitchen scraps and lightly water in. If its getting too hot, turn it over with a large stake or pipe.
You could always put fine wire mesh around bin to discourage rodents and cockroaches if they become a problem. You can also buy different types of compost bins ready made. Barrel composters use a tumbling action to aerate the compost when turned every few days, could be ready to use in 3 weeks. A homemade patch may be ready to use in 8-10 weeks if turned through regularly. You know when its ready when it becomes dark, loose and crumbly, smells like fresh earth and you can’t see any waste or food lumps. You can then use the compost to enrich vegetable, flower or general garden beds. A thin layer of compost can also go over the lawn once or twice a year to encourage healthy growth. Can also be used as a mulch or bedding for a worm farm.