Making your own compost is a practical way to reduce the volume of rubbish going to landfill and at the same time benefiting your garden. Composting is quick and easy to make and if made correctly, it does not smell unpleasant.

 

Step by Step Guide to Composting:

Converter:

A compost converter is an ideal way to make compost. Converters not only keep your composting neat and tidy, they also provide the ideal environment for composting to take place.

Composting requires heat and oxygen for the first stage (where microorganisms break down the organic material). The plastic container retains heat and speeds up the process. Placing the converter in full or partial sun will help but avoid excessive heat which can dry out the contents.

The converter should be placed directly onto soil or grass to allow beneficial insects and worms to enter. If you have to place your converter onto a hard surface, first put a layer of compost down.

Collecting for Composting:

Collecting waste at home will depend on how often you plan on a trip to the composter. If you can empty your waste into the composter after every meal then all you need is any small collecting tub – a small plastic bucket is ideal. If you only want to empty your waste every day or so then a small plastic swing-top bin is ideal. Make sure that your collecting receptacle has a lid otherwise fruit flies will quickly invade your kitchen. If you really want to collect in style, why not treat yourself to a purpose designed stainless steel collecting pail with an odour eliminating filter in the lid.

Open composter:

Traditionally, a compost heap was used to make compost. Although a plastic converter will make the process neater and quicker, an open compost heap is useful for large quantities of organic waste such as grass cuttings and other garden waste. Whilst it is possible to simply pile the waste in a corner of the garden an enclosed area will keep things tidy and also maintain the mass of the heap necessary to produce the required heat to begin the composting process. A simple mesh enclosure will also allow oxygen to enter.

All that is required is few wooden stakes and a roll of galvanised wire mesh. For a more sturdy structure you could use an ready-made open fence panel. All you need is two fence panels, approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet high. A roll of galvanised wire netting (at least 12 feet long) and 3 tree stakes.

Use one panel for the front of the enclosure and cut another in half to form one of the sides. Tack the mesh to the back of the panel then nail tree stakes to the ends of the panels with the pointed ends protruding about 18 inches from the bottom. Cut the top of the stake level with the top of the panel. Using a mallet, hammer the stakes into the ground to form the enclosure. Leaving one end open allows easy access for turning the heap and removing compost. It also makes it easy to extend the enclosure using additional panels if required.

DO COMPOST THESE:

Uncooked vegetable peelings & fruit
Hedge trimmings
Grass clippings (limited amount)
Leaves
Paper
Tea bags and coffee grounds
Vegetarian animal bedding (e.g. rabbits)

DON’T COMPOST THESE:

Meat/bones
Fish
Cooked food
Dairy products
Cat litter

Successful composting needs the right mix of conditions, which are determined by where you site your composter and what you put in it. Firstly, site your composter preferably on bare soil or at least on grass.

You need to get the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen. This is determined by the mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’. ‘Greens’ are fruit and vegetable scraps, grass cuttings (not too much). ‘Browns’ are dried flowers, cardboard etc. Try to keep an equal mix of greens and browns. You need a reasonable amount of material in order to generate the heat necessary for composting process. Chopping up larger items also helps.

Make sure the contents of your composter is moist (not wet). Add water if it starts to dry out.

The composting process needs oxygen to work. Occasionally turn the contents with a garden fork, or better still an aerator, and add more scrunched up paper.

Depending on the conditions, it will take between 6 months and 2 years for your compost to be ready to use. When it is ready it will resemble commercial compost – dark, with an earthy smell.

If your school is composting, the volume will mount up quickly, especially if your school has ‘Healthy School’ status (an award recognising the number of children who bring healthy food to school amongst other things). As a result ‘Healthy Schools’, they have a high volume of organic waste each day that can be composted.

You could even consider asking parents who don’t make their own compost to bring in their fruit and veg waste.

Schools can place colourful plastic collecting buckets by each of the waste bins on the playgrounds and in the dinner hall to collect compostable waste. Anything from around 15L to about 45L is ideal.

Children will be designated as ‘compost monitors’ to collect the bins at the end of lunch time and transfer the contents to the main composter at the end of the final break.

Make sure that the collecting buckets or tubs had small holes drilled in the bottoms to prevent rain water from filling them up and making them too heavy to carry. Two-handled designed are better as they allow two children to share the load.

Being able to sustain a self sufficient life always pays off in emergency planning and composting in your garden is a great step to take for your self sufficient lifestyle.