Composting — a natural way to recycle your household waste

Everybody is composting these days. In a society where getting rid of waste can be both a laborious and costly task, it makes ergonomic, environmental, and economical sense.

Compost is simply decomposed or rotted organic material — organic meaning that the material was, at one stage, part of a living organism, whether plant or animal. By composting you can reduce the volume of waste you put out with your rubbish, and the resulting compost can in turn be used to feed your garden, potted plants, and window boxes. It is an excellent soil conditioner.

Some people can be put off the process because they think it will be time consuming, but it’s really easy. Because composting is a natural process, the minimum you have to do is dump your organic waste in a heap and composting will simply happen!

There are many different composting methods and containers, depending on your needs and the amount and type of organic waste you are composting. For most people the choice is between a composting cone and a compost heap. Heaps can deal with large volumes of waste and are best suited to large gardens with space to spare. Cones are suited to dealing with smaller amounts of waste.

You can make a compost heap by simply piling up your organic waste somewhere in your garden. To make things tidier, build a container for the heap using wooden pallets, bricks, or car tyres. Pre-made heaps are available from most garden and DIY centres.

If you are going to use a cone you can buy one from your local authority or most garden and DIY centres, or you can make your own by cutting away the bottom of a dustbin, turning it upside down and placing it on the ground. Ensure that the bottom of the compost heap has contact with the soil so beneficial creatures of the soil have access. The bin will also need a lid to retain heat.

What can I put in my compost heap/cone?

There are two types of materials, referred to greens and browns. Green materials are wet, soft, green and high in nitrogen, and brown materials are dry, harder, absorbent, and high in carbon. You should aim for roughly three times the amount of browns as greens in your compost heap/cone. This helps to keep the compost moist but not too wet.

Greens include grass cuttings, weeds (avoid seeds if possible ), urine and manure, raw fruit and vegetables, fresh plants, tea leaves, seaweed, algae, and garden pond cleanings, and wood/peat ashes.

Browns include straw and hay, coffee grounds, dry plant stems and twigs, scrunched up paper, torn up cardboard (eg, from cereal boxes, egg boxes, toilet roll centres, etc ), pet and human hair, and egg shells.

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