We show you how you can help the environment and give your plants a healthy dose of TLC with some home-made compost
The plus points of composting are endless. Apart from the obvious benefit to the environment whereby it saves more waste rotting in landfill sites, it also provides cheap but rich, nutritious fertiliser for your plants and garden. The process of composting is a really simple one, it just takes a bit of thought. A good idea is to have a small bin next to your sink which will remind you not to throw peelings and tea bags straight into the dustbin.
What you need:
Garden and food waste
Space in your garden
Gardening fork to turn the mixture
How to compost
- Normal, or cool, composting can take quite a long time, but it’s easy to do and worth it if you have a small garden and can’t fit in a compost area. Start by putting a few thin branches at the bottom of a composting bin, add a thick layer of food and garden waste like grass cuttings and foliage. If it starts to look dry, give it some water, but be careful not to make it too soggy. If it does start to look a bit too wet, turn it with a fork and add some bulky materials. The whole process will take a few months, it’ll be ready when it looks dark brown and fully rotten.
- Alternatively, the ‘high speed’ method, takes only six to eight weeks, but you do have to put in a bit of elbow grease and have room for a bigger area which will allow loads worms and beetles to get into your compost through the soil – speeding the whole process along. Put all your garden and kitchen waste in and leave to develop for two weeks. Start turning the mixture after two weeks, which will give it oxygen and then leave it for another two weeks, after which you’ll need to turn the mixture again. Repeat this process every fortnight until you have lovely naturally fertilised brown compost!
- Composters are available in plastic or wood. If you buy a plastic one – make sure it is recycled and if you use a wooden one, be aware that they don’t last forever and after about 15 years, you’ll probably need to replace it. They have varying degrees of success, but the most important factor is what you put in it as opposed to what the actual bin is made out of.
What can go in your compost?
As well as all your garden waste, you can put all sorts into a compost bin, but some things are better than others.
Pile high with...
Ground coffee and filters
Sawdust and wood shavings
Leave out completely...
Ashes from coal or charcoal
Dog and cat waste
Diseased plants and aggressive weeds
Fish or meat scraps
Glossy magazine paper
You need a big garden to have a composter... WRONG!
Composters come in all sizes, there are lots that are made especially for small gardens. Recycle Now have a good selection to choose from and have a guide to show you how to set your bin up. Visit http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting for more information.
Compost should be kept moist... TRUE!
Although not too wet. If yours looks a little dry, add some water left over from boiling vegetables for dinner. This means you will also be recycling water! If it ever looks too wet and sludgy, get the balance right by adding some dry grass cuttings or leaves and turn over with a fork.
You have to use accelerators... WRONG!
Accelerators like Bokashi Bran in specialised composting buckets and Tiger worms in wormeries, can be good to speed up the composting process, but they’re not essential. Garden and food waste and a bit of patience are really all you need to get started.