Did you know that it’s International Compost Awareness Week? If you have a garden, creating your compost heap is a great way to enrich your soil, retain moisture and reduce household waste.
About half of our household rubbish is made up of food and garden waste, which are perfect for making your own compost. Check out our list to see what you need to get started.
Now that you know what should go into your compost heap, it’s time to get started.
Starting your own compost heap
Compost ingredients are generally divided into two categories; “green” and “brown” materials. You’ll need a 3:1 ratio of brown to green items to ensure your compost is a success. On our list, waste such as fruits, vegetables, egg shells and tea leaves are “green,” meaning they are generally rich in nitrogen. Material such as garden waste, straw, sawdust from untreated timber, cardboard and paper are “brown,” meaning rich in carbon.
- You don’t need an expensive bin to start your compost heap. An old garbage bin (with holes punched in the side and bottom for aeration) or a wooden box is enough. You can also buy them from hardware and garden stores.
- Ensure your heap is in the shade, protected from the rain and in contact with the ground so that earthworms can get to. Keep your bin closed to stop it attracting flies and rodents.
- The first layer of your heap should be coarse, “brown” items such as garden clippings, dry leaves and torn newspapers to allow air to circulate.
- Layer green items on top of this and continue alternating between “brown” and “green” material as it comes to hand. Add water on top of each “brown” layer, enough to make it moist, but not dripping wet. The “green” material does not require water.
- End your topmost layer with “brown” items, and that’s it!
Once you’ve created your compost heap, check it now and again to see that it does not become too dry or dense. If these become an issue, turn the material with a garden fork and moisten with water. Your compost is ready for use when you have a nice, uniformly dark, rich earthy-smelling mix with no undecomposed clumps. Finding woody sticks in your finished compost is normal, so don’t worry about them. The whole process takes about 12 weeks or more, so be patient!