Home Composting

What is composting?

Composting means the controlled decomposition of organic material such as light garden waste, vegetables scraps, wood shavings, cardboard and paper. It is a means of recovery or recycling of organic matter into compost, for soil improvement or as a fertilizer.

The compost you can make at home is rich in nutrients and full of life and when used in your garden and on your plants, feeds the ecosystem of the soil and slowly releases nutrients that plants can absorb. Using compost is the foundation of maintaining healthy soil for stimulating all plant growth and creating a beautiful garden

Why compost at home?

Home composting will help to reduce the amount of waste that goes to the landfill or incineration [if you don’t have a food waste collection service] and re-uses valuable nutrients that would have otherwise gone to waste. Food waste is a huge problem worldwide and throwing out a big portion of the food produced is a lot of wasted energy.

How does composting work?

Composting is a biological process that requires food (organic materials), water and air. The process involves a wide variety of organisms, which are naturally present in our environment.

The ingredients for good composting

The main thing to realise is that composting is different from natural decomposition because it is normally a carefully controlled environment.

A good compost heap is one in which:

  • all of the material is broken down relatively quickly, with reduced odours;
  • is hygienic (has destroyed all pathogens, make sure no pet waste goes in there);
  • does not contain viable seeds from weed plants [as these can end up growing];
  • emits lower greenhouse gases while breaking down and
  • Retains the highest possible amount of nutrients for later use as fertiliser.

In order to maintain this, control of the following variables is key:

  • temperature
  • moisture
  • oxygen
  • chemical and physical composition
  • the size and shape of the heap.

There is an optimum range for each of these elements to produce the most efficient compost.

However, in general, a good compost heap simply has a good mix of materials (woody, dry material and rich, organic material), is kept moist, is aerated, and is maintained at a size and shape that is sufficient for the process to occur but is not so big as to stop oxygen from reaching the centre.

How do I know when it is ready?

Use your senses to tell when compost is ready:

  • look at it:
    • If the compost is dark in colour and it is hard to recognise the original raw materials – it looks ready.
  • touch it:
    • If the compost is not hot or warm and has a texture of rich soil, breaks apart easily and is crumby to the touch – it feels ready.
  • smell it:
    • If the compost has a pleasant earthy smell, and it looks and feels ready, then it is ready!

If the composting material is hot, smells strong, or you can recognise the raw materials in the pile- then it is not ready to use and will need more time. Just let it rot a while longer.

How Do I Use Compost Around My Home?

Where there are plants, there is a need for compost. Compost has so many uses you will never run out of ways to use this black gold.

Compost can be used as a:

  • Mulch in annual or perennial planting areas.
  • Topdressing on lawns or turf areas.
  • Soil amendment when preparing the soil for planting turf, annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.
  • Ingredient in a potting mix of two-thirds garden soil and one-third compost.
  • Ingredient in a seed starting mix of half sand and half compost.
  • Way to make compost tea.

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