These days we know that we need to recycle as much as we can, and anyone with a garden has a head start and can make a great contribution. To many novice gardeners, this subject can be somewhat difficult to grasp;new composters sometimes feel frustrated as they struggle to learn more about how the process works — an understandable problem since there is a wealth of information available about composting and not one, absolute “right way” to do it. But in fact it is really straightforward – there are just a few very simple rules:
You need a compost bin, and the type you decide on rather depends on the size of your garden. There are a couple of options. A purpose built plastic bin purchased from a garden centre, not too expensive, and you just fill up from the top and a few months later, you can take compost from a small hatch at the base.
Alternatively, you can make a wooden slatted enclosure, one metre square – or you can buy them ready made – and cover it with a piece of old rug to keep the worst of the weather off.
What you can compost:
– all uncooked vegetable and fruit peelings
– teabags, tea leaves and coffee grounds
– egg shells
– dead flowers from the house
– and from the garden, soft prunings
– spent bedding plants, dead leaves, lawn mowings
– spent compost from hanging baskets or containers
– some dryer materials such as shredded pape
– rabbit and guinea pig bedding.
Compost is made of many things that can be found in your garden and around your home. Toss garden wastes, table scraps, lawn clippings, leaves and anything else that can be composted into a black plastic bag lining a trash can. When the can is filled, add a quart or two of water, just enough to moisten the contents, do NOT use excessive water.
The only thing you have to be careful about is to mix different types of material; if you have too many grass clippings in a big mass, they will turn soggy and slimy, or if there is too much paper and prunings, it will be too dry. So keep an eye on it, especially if you are using the wooden enclosure, and mix it with a fork occasionally.
What NOT to compost:
– all meat products and bones; bread, cooked food – these will attract vermin
– dog or cat waste
– woody material – which takes too long to compost
– weeds – these can ‘infect’ your compost with their seeds
– anything that is non-biodegradable.
And because you won’t always feel like taking a trip to the compost heap when it’s wet or cold or every time you peel vegetables why not keep a lidded container by the back door which you can fill up and then make the trip to the compost bin every one or two days?
Over a period of time – 3 months to 1 year, depending on conditions – all this matter will have broken down into perfect dark brown crumbly compost, which you can fork into your beds and borders. It makes an excellent soil conditioner and can be used as surface mulch, helping conserve moisture and discourage weeds.
You can also convert fallen leaves into wonderful compost. Rake up any leaves from your lawn – you may have to do this several times over the fall – and collect them from the borders. Carry them to a shaded area of your garden where they can be sorted. Put them all into a black waste sack, sprinkle with water, put a few holes around the sack with a fork, tie the top, and leave it in a corner for about a year. What you end up with is known as leaf-mould.