Dear Readers,

Making compost is easy and there are many ways to make it; from worm compost to anaerobic bacteria (Bokashi) composting as well as the traditional compost heaps known by gardeners the world wide.

To an organic grower, compost is very important.  It helps with drainage in heavy soils, it helps to retain moisture in sandy soils or when used as a mulch.  It provides nutrients to the plants you grow and can help suppress weeds if used in a mulch thick enough.

Composting is pretty easy; you collect organic matter and pile it together, turn it to introduce some oxygen to the billions of microorganisms which are turning the waste to gardener’s gold and eventually, everything rots down to be a sweet forest floor smelling dark almost black compost.

It starts by collecting the waste to make compost.  Pretty much anything which was once living can be composted.  Some examples include cardboard, cotton, food waste, vegetable peelings, grass clippings etc.  Cooked and raw food scraps such as meat, fish, bones etc can be composted but may attract rodents, raccoon or even bears to the compost pile unless they are treated via a hot composting method or Bokashi system.

We  collect the kitchen waste in a small trash can we picked up from the store for less than $7 but you can pick up nice ceramic 1 gallon crocks for compost if you want a more stylish addition to your kitchen.  Ensure you chop and shred everything up small to encourage faster composting in the main composter.

Compost Can

The compost can is right next to the normal trash can so no-one forgets to put the compost stuff in there rather than the trash.

We include cardboard, newspaper shreddings, vacuum waste, fur from grooming the dogs (but not too much, it takes a long time to break down), vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee grinds etc.  We layer the green, nitrogen rich waste with the brown, carbon rich waste throughout the can and take it out to the main composter once full or if something particularly bad smelling (bad broccoli comes to mind) has gone in.

Researching compost and you will hear about greens and browns.  To have good compost quickly, you need to have the optimum level of green material to brown which doesn’t normally happen for the average backyard gardener.

But what are greens and browns?  These refer to materials high in nitrogen and decompose quickly – the greens and the browns are lower in nitrogen and contain more carbon and take longer to decompose.  Usually the brown materials are dry and need to be moistened in the heap.

A view in the Compost Can
Some green materials you can compost include:

grass clippings
dead-headed flowers
vegetable peelings
fruit peelings
manure (chicken, farmyard, zoo)
tea leaves/bags
coffee grounds
spent hops and grain from brewing

Some brown materials you can compost include:

junk mail (there is some conflicting information about the leaching of inks from newspaper and paper based wastes, we don’t compost glossy paper because it takes too long)
tumble drier lint
vacuum cleaner waste
shrub and tree prunings
chipped/shredded branches and twigs

A diverse mixture of materials in the heap to rot down will help to insure a good mixture of nutrients in the resulting compost.  When I lived on the coast in England I would add washed seaweed to my compost after a storm had washed it up on the beach which added lots of trace minerals to the compost.  Some gardeners also add rockdust; to ensure some additional trace minerals are incorporated.

The heap of materials for compost should be moist but not soaking wet all the time.  Check if the heap needs some water regularly, if it does then add some.  If the heap is too wet, cover it from rain if that is the problem or leave the lid off/open if there is too much water inside.

After adding the materials to the heap leave them for a few days then turn the materials using a pitchfork or a border fork to introduce oxygen to the pile for the microbes.  Turn the material from the outside to the inside.

There are many commercial composters available in the marketplace or you can make one using pallets or an old drum.  Ours is a tumbling composter made from a large drum which we turn when material is added to mix it thoroughly.