Our family has always had a compost heap as it is often called, and it is a great way to reduce your garbage while creating a great medium to add to your garden soil. Compost is the way nature recycles but we can speed it up a bit.
What is compost? Well it is organic waste plant material that is allowed to rot away in a controlled fashion. Because of its friable nature and concentration of goodies, it is excellent for adding to soil and for growing plants.
The first step in making compost, although it is not necessary, is to reduce the size of the compostable material by shredding or chipping it – CLICK HERE to see how – especially if you have large leaves or sticks etc. Using a shredder and/or chipper achieves two things: As mentioned it reduces the volume, but it also reduces the size of particles in the waste and makes them more even in size which assists with a more rapid break down and more even textured compost.
We usually had three compost heaps or compartments and you can buy them to assemble, make them with material you may have about your property. One idea I have heard of is to get hold of some non-reusable pallets and use these as the front, back and sides, so you will need 7 pallets. The pallet idea is a good one because of the slatted sides it helps to keep the composting material aerated which is important.
Place your compost bins somewhere convenient in your garden, in the sun or semi shade and placed on the earth so that worms etc. can colonize it.
Although making compost is a simple process there are some basic rules to abide by to ensure your compost heap remains “sweet” and does not get “sour” . For example, too much grass from mowing your lawn is not a good idea. The idea is to layer the material you add to the compost heap: e.g. leaves – grass clippings – garden trimmings – household material. Sometimes if you can’t layer you can add soil as a layer.
OK what can and can’t do when making compost:
1) Basically anything organic, i.e. that once lived. EXCEPT meat products and dairy food . The reason being that you don’t want bad smells coming from your compost heap and you don’t want to attract vermin or dogs etc.
2) As a guideline on how to add things there is a proportion of three parts of brown material to one part of green material. This is too ensure that you don’t end up with too much moist stuff which can suffocate a compost heap – you see the brown colored material for making compost is generally dry:
- Fallen Leaves
- Hay, straw, dried grass (watch for seeds), dried stalks
- Shredded paper and cardboard
- Tree prunings and bark etc.
- Things like pine needles are OK but not too many (< 10%) because they are hard to compost and are acidic in nature.How To Make Compost
Green Stuff for the Compost:
- Vegetable and fruit waste from the garden or house
- Tea, tea bags and coffee grounds
- Weeds and other garden type plant waste
- Grass clippings in moderation as mentioned above.
- Seaweed - pays to soak it so that it is easier to compost
Manure for the Compost:
Any herbivorous i.e. plant eating animal manure like Horse, rabbit, chicken, goat, sheep, rabbit. Again not too much because it requires a lot of oxygen to compost, so mix it with a bit of compost when adding it.
If you can add finer material like stuff that has been through a garden shredder, this will shorten the time for making compost, and you will get a finer, more even composted product. But shredded material will also require a little more management , like “loosening” it up with a fork because it can pack down more than coarser material.
Generally if you keep to these guide lines your efforts in making compost should be successful. Just keep away from animal products, raw and cooked; oils like plant or peanut butter etc; and nuisance type plants with mature seed heads.
The size of the compost bins is equal to the amount of stuff that you want to compost: Big garden, big family, then big sized bins. Mine are three feet by three feet, and I fill them to about 2 feet which on the big side.
The best system of how to compost is to start with number one compost bin and when that is full start with the second bin and the contents of the first will start making compost; When the second bin is full, start the third bin with the plan being that when the third bin is full the first bin will have made good compost, ready to removed to the garden. In this way you are making compost in a continuous cycle.
When a compost bin is full you can top it off lightly with soil to keep it moist.
When making compost in really dry conditions make sure your compost bin does not dry out – for best results the contents of the compost bin must be moist – NOT WET.
In winter you should see your compost bin steaming because the process of making good compost or breaking down does generate heat which is good for killing nasties like some fungi and plant seeds.
So now you know how to make good compost and the continuous method for making compost – Recycling at its basic best!