Theres a couple of things you should know before we get started.
a) I am not a composting expert. I do compost but in order to make sure I didn't feed you guys a whole heap of misinformation, I had to go down a website compost rabbit hole for approx 3456 hours and educate myself.
b) I went out in the rain to take the cover photo of my very professional looking composting situation.
So, if you'd like to know what I know, buckle in and read on.
What is Composting?
Put simply, it's the natural process of recycling organic matter such as garden matter and food scraps into a valuable fertiliser that will enrich your soil.
And it's easy. Like really, really easy and you don't need some big fancy set up. You don't even need one of these rotating compost bins like I have (mine's just from Bunnings) but it is helpful if like me you have dogs and cats and chooks that insist on fighting their way into any normal compost heap, digging around and helping themselves to anything they see fit to eat. Otherwise, there are bottomless stationary bins you can buy or if you're strapped for cash, a compost pile in a corner somewhere is a good place to start. It's just a good idea to cover it up to keep the vermin out.
If you've never composted a thing in your life, it can seem daunting. Especially if you've heard the experts talk about ratios, microbes and enzymes but it really doesn't have to be difficult. There's no right or wrong way to make compost but it's important to keep a balance of carbon rich 'brown' material and nitrogen rich 'greens'.
How do I get the balance right?
If you want to get technical about it, the ideal ratio is around 25-30 parts carbon (brown) to 1 part nitrogen (green) but please don't stress about perfection. At the end of the day if your compost has too much brown it will be drier and take longer to break down. Too much green on the other hand and it can end up a bit on the slimy, smelly side. Luckily both of these situations are easily fixed by adding some extra brown or green as needed. See, I told you it's easy, it's just a little trial and error.
So, what is brown and what is green?
Brown is things like dry leaves and twigs, hay or straw, ripped up paper and cardboard and wood chip.
Green includes materials such as fresh grass clippings and weeds, kitchen scraps including tea leaves and coffee grounds and even feathers and chook poo.
How do I start?
Once you've got your bin or picked your patch of bare earth to start your compost pile, start by putting down a layer of brown material a few inches deep. Next add some green. Continue adding in layers alternating brown and green or dry and moist.
How long does it take compost to break down?
The time is takes for compost to decompose depends on a variety of factors including the size and type of materials used and the climate. The 'no turn' method described above is the slowest, taking anywhere from 3-12 months to break down.
You can speed up the process a little by turning your pile every few days. Turning (or mixing) helps to create air pockets and avoid excess moisture in your hot compost pile.
You could also add some worms to help break it down or add layer of insulation like hay or straw to heat up your compost.
Keen to get started yet?
If you're more of a visual learner here's a link to a quick little video I came across in my research that will help you get a better idea.
Composting for Beginners this video also gives a bit of direction as to what you should and shouldn't put in your compost.
So now we've dealt with the how, it begs the question,
Why should you compost?
In a nutshell, composting reduces waste, and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. It reduces the need for synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and strengthens soil for healthy plant growth.
Plus it keeps the stinky stuff out of your bin and doesn't it always feel good to know you're doing your bit to help the planet?
It's true that traditional composting methods take up a fair amount of space but even if you don't have a back yard there are some amazing products on the market these days that allow you to compost on your kitchen bench! I'm going to let you do your own research on that if it's something you're interested in so I can stop before I've written a novel.
If you have any other tips or tricks, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
Until next time