How To Make Your Own Compost!
Did you know that for every 1% of organic matter added to soil can help to retain 20,000 more gallons of water per acre. Reducing how much water your plants need!
What is compost:
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed in a process called composting, it recycles various organic materials found in your home and garden. Composting can take a while to happen naturally, however, by making the perfect environment in our gardens we can speed up this process.
Compost enables the soil to retain water, nutrients and air, nutrients needed for optimum growth such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. There are also many micronutrients in compost, these are copper, iodine, boron, iron and zinc. These nutrients are released slowly as and when your plants need them. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer and enriches the soil to help plants to grow.
Why you should make your own:
Making compost is the natural, environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Not Contributing To Landfill
Compost adds vital nutrients to the soil that encourages optimum growth.
Encourages Organisms To The Soil
Compost encourages organisms and microorganisms, these are great for helping to combat pests in your garden.
Making your own compost is simple when you follow our instructions below. Our top tip is to learn what can and can’t go in and remember to turn it every so often and you’ll make great compost.
Aside from the compost bin, composting is much cheaper than buying it in a shop. It uses household rubbish and garden waste that you would have otherwise thrown away!
Reduced Fossil Fuel Dependence
Commercial composting relies on machinery to make enough compost to keep up with demand, therefore using fossil fuels, this would not be necessary if everyone were to make their own.
What you should put in your compost:
Compost needs a consistent balance of two-thirds carbon to one-third nitrogen in order to maintain a working balance.
Carbon-rich matter includes:
- Dried leaves
- Coffee grounds
- Shredded cardboard
- Small bits of wood
- Paper bags
- Sawdust (Clean with no oil residue and scattered thinly)
- Grass cuttings
- Food scraps
- Kitchen waste
- Green leaves
If your compost smells, is dense and doesn’t seem to be decomposing it most likely has too much nitrogen matter. To resolve this add more carbon matter.
There are some things that should not be added to the compost, these will attract pests, spread plant diseases and may have pesticide residues.
- Meat, bones or fish (Unless you are using a composter designed for this)
- Perennial weeds and diseased plants
- Pet manures
- Banana peels, peach peels and orange rinds
- Black walnut leaves and twigs
- Dairy products
- Fats, grease, lard or oils
- Coal or charcoal ash
- Anything that has been treated with pesticides
Beginners guide to composting:
Start your compost pile on bare earth in a sunny spot, this will allow worms and microorganisms into the pile. They will aerate the compost and speed up the composting process.
Twigs and Straw
At the bottom of the pile lay twigs and straw a few inches thick, this will also aerate the pile but most importantly this will help aid drainage.
Next, layer up the compost by alternating between carbon and nitrogen-rich materials.
To activate and speed up the composting process be sure to add enough nitrogen materials whilst still keeping the balance.
It is important to keep the compost pile moist but not saturated. Try to let the rain fall on it occasionally, or in the warmer months add water.
It is vital that the pile retains heat and moisture, therefore, it is a good idea to cover the top at least, but even the sides of your compost. You can cover it with anything you have lying around that you think would work, alternatively, you can buy ready-made covers.
Remember to turn your compost pile every few weeks, this aerates the pile ‘adding’ oxygen necessary for the process to work.
Once your compost pile is established, continue to add in materials, there is no need for it to be added in layers anymore so just mix it in. However, be sure to still keep the right balance.
How you know when your compost is ready to use:
- This can take anywhere from 3-12 months depending on the size of your pile.
- Other factors that affect how long the process takes are how often you turn it, what type of composter you use, temperature and how fine the waste is chopped.
- Your compost will be finished when it crumbles easily and is dark and rich in colour, with a slightly sweet smell. You should also not be able to pick out any of the original materials.
- An easy way to use your compost is to mulch with it, this involves putting a thick layer on top of your soil. This will help the soil retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Compost is also great for using in your garden pots and containers so all you urban gardeners can get composting too!
If your composter is managed properly then you should not get any flies. When you add any kitchen waste to your pile be sure to add garden waste on top. Check the pile is also not too moist and there is enough air circulating.
- Dry with little rotting
This is most likely because your pile has not been getting enough water and has too much carbon-rich matter, try adding more green waste.
Strong odour and wet
Your compost pile is getting too much water and not enough air, make sure you have a cover to protect the pile from rain and add more carbon-rich matter to absorb some of the excess water.