Beginners Guide to Composting

Garden Composting

A backyard compost bin / site

1. Select the Site

The best spot of a compost site is a place where there is good drainage and well shaded in summer. You should also make it accessible for shovelling and bringing organic waste to the site. Keep in mind that it may attract insects and have a odour.

2. What to Compost

Compost is only works on organic (carbon-based) materials. Since pretty much all plants and animals are carbon-based you can safely compost anything that used to live. Some excellent household compost items include;

  • kitchen organics such as fruit and vegetables peelings and off-cuts
  • green garden organics such as fresh grass clippings, weeds, and manure
  • brown garden organics such as dry leaves, twigs, paper and straw
  • waste products like egg shells, dead flowers, human hair, animal hair and newspapers

Be careful not to include any materials that are completely void of moisture as they will not break down. To help the compost along you should consider adding some dirt from the garden as it will contain micro-organisms that will jump start the process.

3. Layering

To build the compost you should start by building on a thick layer (15cm or greater) of  twigs or coarse mulch at the base to help with drainage. After doing that you should then layer green layers (nitrogen rich) on top of brown layers (nitrogen poor), and then moisten the brown layer and then repeat until all your organic waste is in the compost.

4. Maintaining the Compost

The final important step is to ensure that air is added to the compost so that it doesn’t start smelling. This can be done by turning it with a garden fork or by placing garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air to flow through. You also need to make sure the compost doesn’t get too wet either – it should be moist but not saturated.

And that is it! In 8 weeks you will have fresh organic compost that can be used as potting mix for seed raising, or to enrich soil around your favourite plants to encourage healthy plant growth, or to top dress lawns.


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