By Cathy Leov
Composting is a cheap and easy way to dispose of a large proportion of your household waste.
It can be as simple as digging a hole and burying scraps but, with a little bit more thought and effort you will be amazed at how quickly your pile of waste disappears and lovely dark compost appears.
First, decide where to put it – for preference a sunny spot as the heat will speed up the composting process. Your first layer should be twigs and sticks up to as thick as your finger – this keeps the compost up off the ground and helps the air to circulate. You can just build a pile, or contain it in a bin or wrap some netting around 3 stakes. Once you’ve made each addition, cover with some sort of lid, old carpet works well.
The experts say to carefully layer your additions, alternating between carbon rich (brown) and nitrogen rich (green), at a ratio of about 25 carbon to 1 nitrogen. But, realistically, high nitrogen materials are what you will have most of (vege peels, weeds, lawn clippings). The most important thing is not to put too much of the same thing in at a time, and try to mix in what you’ve just added with the layer below.
You can add almost anything to your compost that has ever been alive, but be aware that if you put in meat scraps, dairy products or cooked leftovers you could attract rats and mice.
Here’s a few ideas of things that can be put in the compost to start you off:
- Vege peelings, apple cores, banana skins, egg shells etc
- Tea bags and coffee grounds
- Vacuum cleaner dust
- Egg cartons, shredded paper (junk mail, newspapers)
- Pulled weeds and lawn clippings
- Autumn leaves
- Animal manure (not dog, if you plan to use your compost to grow food)
- Paper towels and tissues
Once your bin is full or your pile is becoming too tall, if your compost is well decomposed you can spread it around your garden, up to 4-6 inches deep – the worms will soon pull it into the soil for you. If there is too much un-composted material to add to the garden immediately, start a temporary pile elsewhere and add to that until your first lot is ready. Having a system of 2 or 3 bins in different stages of decomposition works well.