Starting your own compost heap uses up very little space or time and reward you with ample hygienic, useful humus to nourish your garden or vegetable plot. The heap can be set up in any out-of-the-way corner.
A bin is neater than an open heap and there are a number of commercially-made bins you can buy in sizes to suit your garden.
The main requirements are:
- It must keep the compost ingredients together. Ideally without seepage of odors or liquid.
- It must allow ventilation.
- It should harmonize with the garden.
Nearly all garden and household waste is suitable such as vacuum cleaner contents, rags, tea leaves, food scraps, fat and vegetable wastes and all normal garden refuse such as grass cuttings, leaves, wood, straw and organic waste. As one maker of compost bins expresses it “what you don’t eat feeds what you eat”.
Ideally you need a mixture of matter that decomposes rapidly blended with slower to decompose materials. If using grass clippings only, the pile would have to be turned every 2 or 3 days with a fork and watered after each turning so the anaerobic bacteria have a chance to work. Instead of turning, you can mix different layers of materials such as clippings, leaves, food waste, etc, to ensure good aeration throughout the heap.
To make the compost bin.
- Site the bin in a convenient, reasonably sunny location.
- Fork the ground underneath the bin for easy entry of earthworms and soil organisms.
- Pack in the first layer of about 20 mm of organic matter.
- Sprinkle each layer with a handful of lime or dolomite to reduce acidity, then blood and bone to activate conversion. Cover with about 25 mm of soil.
- Repeat until bin is full. It will reduce in volume gradually as it changes into compost so continue adding material to top it up until the bin is full of compost. When the bin is full, leave 10 to 12 weeks to mature. If too dry at times, sprinkle with water to dampen.
When the compost resembles peat moss, it is ready to mix in with the topsoil of your garden.
Note: do not place materials such as glass or plastic, coal or ashes in your bin.
Diseased plants or perennial weeds should be burnt.
Materials you’ll need:
- Compost bin
- Assorted organic waste material
- Lime or dolomite
- Blood and bone
Tools you’ll need:
- Spade Garden fork
- Hose or watering can