Sunday, October 10, 2010

Composting Bananza!

What is Compost?
com·post   /ˈkɒmpoʊst/


1. a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil.
2. a composition; compound.

But I hear of people using kitchen scraps, do I just just throw leftovers in a bucket?


It is a little bit more complex than that.

First things first you need a composting bin. If you have the finances, you may spend a hundred dollars or two on a factory made one. BUT If you are like me, I like to save mulah (money).

I found a site with step by step photos on making your own compost bin out of a trashcan! (I am so doing this!)

Click here for the site!

Compost able items -

'Greens' or nitrogen rich ingredients

Urine (diluted with water 20:1)
dead leaves
Grass cuttings

~Other green materials

Raw vegetable peelings from your kitchen
Tea bags and leaves, coffee grounds
Young green weed growth � avoid weeds with seeds
Soft green prunings
Animal manure from herbivores eg cows and horses
Poultry manure and bedding

'Browns' or carbon rich ingredients - slow to rot

Cardboard eg. cereal packets and egg boxes
Waste paper and junk mail, including shredded confidential waste
Cardboard tubes
Glossy magazines � although it is better for the environment to pass them on to your local doctors� or dentists' surgery or send them for recycling
Newspaper � although it is better for the environment to send your newspapers for recycling
Bedding from vegetarian pets eg rabbits, guinea pigs � hay, straw, shredded paper, wood shavings
Tough hedge clippings
Woody prunings
Old bedding plants
Wood shavings
Fallen leaves can be composted but the best use of them is to make leafmould

Other compostable items
Wood ash, in moderation
Hair, nail clippings
Egg shells (crushed)
Natural fibres eg. 100% wool or cotton

Do NOT compost
Cooked food
Coal & coke ash
Cat litter
Dog faeces
Disposable diapers

Now onto the composting process! Away we goooo!

You can make compost by adding compostable items to a compost heap when you feel like it. It will all compost eventually but will take FOREVER mix is unbalanced, and may not produce a the best compost in the end. With a little extra attention you could improve your compost.

I did find a website that talks about two spicific ways to do compost. website can be found by clicking here.

They use a hot and cold method.

The Cool Routine -

1.Try, if possible, to collect enough compost materials to make a layer of at least 30cm or more in the compost bin. Weed the garden, mow the lawn, empty the kitchen bucket! Mix in some straw, woody prunings, scrunched up cardboard packaging eg cereal boxes � this helps create air spaces within the heap. It may help if you place a few woody plant stems or small twigs on the bottom first as this will improve the air circulation and drainage.

2.Continue to fill the container as and when you have ingredients. If most of what you compost is kitchen waste, mix it with egg boxes, toilet roll middles and similar household paper and cardboard products to create a better balance.

3.When the container is full - which it may never be as the contents will sink as it composts - or when you decide to, stop adding any more. Then either just leave it to finish composting (which could take up to a year) or go to Step 4.

4.Remove the container from the material, or the material from the container � whichever you find easiest. If the lower layers have composted, use this on the garden. Mix everything else together well. Add water if it is dry, or add dry material if it is soggy. Replace in the bin and leave to mature.

The Hot Routine -

1.Gather enough material to fill your compost container at one go. Some of this may have been stored in a cool heap and have started to rot slightly. Make sure you have a mixture of soft and tough materials.

2.Chop up tough items using shears, a sharp spade (lay items out on soil or grass to avoid jarring) or a shredder.

3.Mix ingredients together as much as possible before adding to the container. In particular, mix items, such as grass mowings and any shredded paper, which tend to settle and exclude air, with more open items that tend to dry out. Fill the container as above, watering as you go.

4.Give the heap a good mixWithin a few days, the heap is likely to get hot to the touch. When it begins to cool down, or a week or two later, turn the heap. Remove everything from the container or lift the container off and mix it all up, trying to get the outside to the inside. Add water if it is dry, or dry material if it is soggy. Replace in the bin.

5.The heap may well heat up again; the new supply of air you have mixed in allows the fast acting aerobic microbes, ie those that need oxygen, to continue with their work. Step 4 can be repeated several more times if you have the energy, but the heating will be less and less. When it no longer heats up again, leave it undisturbed to finish composting.

When is it ready?

Compost can be made in as little as six to eight weeks, or, more usually, it can take a year or more. In general, the more effort you put in, the quicker you will get compost.

When the ingredients you have put in your container have turned into a dark brown, earthy smelling material, the composting process is complete. It is then best left for a month or two to 'mature' before it is used. Don't worry if your compost is not fine and crumbly. Even if it is lumpy, sticky or stringy, with bits of twig and eggshell still obvious, it is quite usable. Any large bits can be added back into your new compost heap.

I hope this blog answers any of your composting questions!

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