Did you know there’s something you can do in your garden that’s really easy, and it can save you money? Once you get into the rhythm of composting, you free up space in your bins and produce a wonderful rich compost for your garden. I’m no composting queen, but it’s something I’ve been researching in the hopes that our next house has some sort of gardening space, and I’m eager to start.
Where to start?
First things first, with a toddler around a compost bin is a must. I don’t want to worry about a certain young man getting stuck into the compost while we play out in the garden. When I was growing up, my parents had a ‘compost corner’ and it worked really well for them, but.. I think I need to invest in a bin.
These days there are so many available and to suit most gardens and circumstances – as long as you place them somewhere that drains well underneath and allows worms in then you’re onto a winner. Worms are the hero of the composting world, they break down what you chuck into the compost bin and turn it into rich liquid fertiliser and compost – don’t fret if you see them in your compost! It’s a great thing!
What can be composted?
The trick to a good compost is finding the balance between your ‘greens’:
- Annual weeds and nettles (don’t compost invasive weeds like Bindweed!)
- Vegetable peelings, banana skins, fruit peels and pulps
- Coffee grounds and teabags or tea leaves
- Cut flowers, grass cuttings
- Old house plants, old bedding plants
- Natural wool and cotton fibres
And your ‘browns’:
- Dry leaves – especially during this season!
- Paper and cardboard, shredded
- Egg boxes and crushed egg shells
- Hedge and tree cuttings
- Animal hair
- Wood ash – perfect with bonfire night on the horizon!
- Wood chippings
It’s essential you keep these balanced in your compost bin to create a rich, useable compost. Too wet? Add browns. Too dry? Add some greens!
Obviously, there are some huge composting no-no’s too. These are pretty self explanatory, but absolutely do not add meat, dairy, poo (animal or human!), diseased plants, nappies.. These will all make your compost bin smell and could attract pests like rats. Another thing you don’t want is perennial weeks such as thistle or dandelions – your compost bin would end up filled with seed heads.
What is ‘turning compost’ and why do it?
It’s important to make sure the mixture is aired too – scrunch up your cardboard and add it, it creates the perfect pockets of air throughout the mixture. This keeps it healthy. Regular ‘turning’ of the compost is essential.
‘Turning’ means you’re fluffing the mixture, introducing oxygen to the microbes breaking down the materials into that valuable compost. Decomposition happens thanks to these microbes and it’s important they get enough air to do their job – if not, decomposition slows down. Turning also prevents the compost being to compacted, which will deprive the microbes of oxygen too.
You can get specialised aeration tools to do this, or use a fork with a twisting motion. Keep on top of your turning!
When will the compost be ready?
When there is a dark brown or almost black layer at the bottom of the bin it means your compost is ready. It should be spongy in texture and will be rich with nutrients for your soil. Spreading it over your beds reduces weeds, and helps your beds retain moisture – it really is a win-win situation.
Will you be turning your waste into gardening gold? Why not have a look at some other essential garden chores to do this season?