COMPOSTING 101 // The Whys, Hows, Dos and Don'ts of Composting

Food waste is a world wide problem, with over one third of all food produced being wasted. That's scary, because it's not just the food that is being wasted but all the resources that go into growing that food as well. But, here's the good news. We can change that, and if you're worried that you might be wasting some unnecessary scraps of food then I've got you covered. Today I'll be sharing with you some simple ways to compost your food scraps at home so that you can reduce your waste and make some excellent nutrients for your garden! Composting is also a great way to put your garden scraps and trimmings to good use, things like grass clippings, leaves, and trimmings are fantastic to add to your compost piles.

COMPOST: Organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner.

Compost comes in many different forms and you can make it in many different ways. Technically speaking compost happens whether we do anything to it or not - it's just natures way of reusing waste. But we can speed up and manipulate the process (because that's what our human brains do best!), and this can be done in a series of different ways depending on your end goal.

If you're looking for some new pets, why not start a worm farm? Worms will chow their way through your food scraps and will provide you with nice compost and worm tea for your garden. An easy and minimal effort way of making compost is to make a compost hole or trench in your garden. Simply dig a decent hole/trench, fill it up with your food and garden scraps and then cover it with soil. In a few months you will have nice fertile soil and you didn't even have to do anything! Leaf compost is another way to make a beautiful fluffy compost, especially for seedlings. It requires some time but little effort. Simply gather your leaves, put them into a bag, making sure to poke a few holes for aeration, and then wait for anywhere between one to two years, depending on the leaf type. Turn the leaves once a month to keep the air flow steady and add a little water if it become too dry. It takes some patience but the end result will be worth wait!

Today, however I'm going to be sharing a more hands on way of composting and the methods that I personally use to produce compost for my garden.

Hot VS Cold

When it comes to compost piles, there are to two different categories and methods to be used.

Hot Composting - this method is more hands on and labour intensive, however it produces compost quickly and you'll have some beautiful black gold for your garden within 6-12 weeks. This method is perfect for busy gardeners who need a steady supply of compost for their plants.

Cold Composting - this method requires much less effort, though it produces compost at a much slower rate, from anywhere between one to two years. This method is great for big pieces of material and garden clippings. Things such as large branches or tree stumps and very woody material.

Hot Composting

Hot composting requires a few steps and a bit of effort but its really nothing to be afraid of. At the end of the day, you can't really go wrong with composting since it'll happen either way, it might just naturally take a little longer.

1. To start your hot compost pile, you will need a clear patch of ground. Ideally you'll want to remove the grass, as it may just start to grow into your pile, and this way its easier for all the little critters to move in and do their job. This is also when you can decide whether or not to contain your pile. Either way is fine, but containing it can be easier. A simple wire mesh circular cage is a great way to keep your pile contained, whilst still providing it with air.

2. Next you'll want to gather your ingredients. These can be divided into two categories.

  • Nitrogen - this is basically all your fresh "green" stuff and things that are high in nitrogen. Fresh grass clippings, green trimmings, fruit and veggie scraps, as well as animal manure like horse, cow, pig, sheep, goat, and chicken manure (no pet or human waste).

  • Carbon - this is all your dry "brown" stuff and things that are carbon rich. Dead leaves, dry grass, wood chips, dry branches and old garden clippings. Shredded paper or cardboard can also be used provided there aren't any toxic inks or dyes on them.

Don't put meat, dairy, fish, oily or greasy foods/scraps into your compost.

3. Once you've gathered your materials you can start layering your pile. The ratio for a good hot pile is 2 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. So basically aim for more or thicker piles of carbon rich ingredients to nitrogen rich ingredients. Adding some soil, compost or animal manure can also really speed up the decomposition process and heat the pile up. Water the pile between every few layers. You want your pile to be moist like a wrung out sponge.

4. Once you've layered all your layers, making sure your pile is a decent size (at least mid-thigh in height and 80cm - 1m across), you can then either cover it with old feed bags/hessian sacks, plastic tarp or natural materials such as grass, leaves or clippings. Covering the pile allows it to stay moist and heats it up - basically the warmer your pile gets the quicker it'll decompose. If you cover your pile with something water proof, like plastic tarp, then make sure to check the moisture level and water it when it gets dry.

5. After about six weeks, you can turn your pile, by moving everything from the edge to the middle. This provides aeration and again speeds up the process. Continue to turn your pile every few weeks until your pile has turned into nice fluffy compost.

And that's it! I hope you found this post useful and that you get down to making your own compost - its honestly so worth it.

Wishing you all a fantastic weekend!


Copyright Sahara-Naomi 2019