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Composting & How You Can Make Your Own at Home

Making your own compost at home is an inexpensive, low-maintenance and easy gardening project that can yield some amazing results and is great for the environment.

In this blog post we will be guiding you through the best compost bin for you, best materials to use, do’s & don’ts, a how to guide on starting your bin and a guide to a few common issues. So, sit back, have a read and you’ll be creating your own compost before you know it!

Part 1 – Which Compost Bin Is Best for My Garden?

There are a few variables that come into play when picking the correct compost bin for your home; you need to think about home much waste the home produces, how much space you have to spare, how big your garden is and what your budget is.

The other thing you need to take into account is locations; you need to make sure your bin is in either full sun or part shade & if possible on a soil or grass base to help encourage worms to come help speed up the composting process.

Plastic Composting Bins
A plastic compost bin is typically cylindrical and has a lid on its top so that you can add more waste and a hatch at its base so that you can pull out the finished compost.

The only real downside of a plastic bin is that they are smaller than a traditional wooden bin and is more difficult to turn the compost than with a tumbler composting bin.

Wooden Composting Bins
These traditional square shaped bins come with no lids making it easier to turn the compost, and also have plenty of ventilations slats to help speed up the process of creating compost.

The downside is that these bins can only be used after the entire pile has composted down. If you are lucky enough to have the space then having two bins going at the same time is a great way to fix this (one ready to use and one to add new material to)

Tumbler Composting Bins
For a faster and neater composting bin, the tumbler bin is the ideal solution. This bin can be filled with waste material and then turned on its frame to help aerate the compost.

The downside is that once the bin is full of waste material and the composting process has begun, you will not be able to add to it again. Because it is more of a sealed unit, you will lack any added nutrition added from worms & insects.

Part 2 – What Materials Should I Use in My Compost Bin?

To avoid ending up with a big pile of smelly sludge in your composter instead of nutrient rich compost, you need to add a 50/50 mix of both green & brown materials. When you are finished your compost should have a crumbly texture, be dark brown and have a sweet but woodland odour to it. Here are some examples of good green & brown materials to add to your compost bin:

Green Materials
Green materials have a high moisture content, are quick to rot and most importantly rich in nitrogen! These include: Annual weeds, Banana skins, Soft garden prunings, Cut flowers, Coffee grounds, Natural wool, Rhubarb leaves, cotton fibres, Old houseplants, Teas leaves & bags, Bedding plants, Grass clippings, Fruit peels, Fruit pulp and Vegetable peels.

Brown Materials
Brown materials are slow to rot, have a high fibre content and are rich in carbon. These include: Wood ash, Animal hair, Dry leaves, Shredded cardboard & paper, Egg boxes, Crushed egg shells, Wood chips, Dead plant stems, Straw, Shredded hedge trimmings and Vacuum cleaner contents.

What Not To Put In Your Composter
A big no no when adding to your composter includes: Meat & fish scraps, Dairy products, Weed seeds, Cat litter, Coal ash, Glossy magazines, Anything containing metal, Diseased plant materials, Oil, Fat, Grease and Bread - avoid these at all costs.

Please note that most councils operate a food waste bin scheme - please check locally for specific do's & don'ts.

Part 3 - Creating Your Compost Bin

Now that you know which type of composting bin you want to use and you know what kind of materials to use as well, it is time to start thinking about putting it all together. Here is out step by step guide on how to create your very own compost bin at home:

Step 1 - Start with a good 10cm layer of coarse materials at the bottom of the container to help air circulation and drainage. This can be something like straw, woody prunings, scrunched up cardboard or even twigs.

Step 2 - Now add alternating 15cm layers of both green & brown materials. It is key to alternate these layers as it produces a good balanced compost and more importantly reduces the need for turning the compost. You can also add some existing garden soil on top of each layer to help introduce bacteria and fungus to help start the breakdown of materials. Be sure to add garotta between each layer to help the decomposition and increase nitrogen levels

Step 3 - For the fastest results you can fill your bin in one big go; a large pile can generate more heat and will decompose down faster. However there is nothing wrong with filling a bin gradually and we understand that this is a more realistic option for most homes. When filling the bin follow the simple rule of 50% green & 50% brown; this will ensure that you have good air pockets and that your mixture wont become slimy and wet.

Step 4 - Keep the compost pile covered to keep out rain to prevent it from get slimy. Turn it over once every 30 days or so to aerate it and help speed it up. Be sure when turning to use a garden fork to mix the outer content towards the middle. When you are happy with the level you are at in your pile you can stop topping it up and leave it to mature; or with a plastic bin you can use the hatch to access the bottom layers which have finished composting. You will know your compost is ready when it is crumbly, a deep shade of brown and smelling sweet. If the smell is still a rotten one that leave it to mature further.

Part 4 - Tips, Tricks & Aftercare

Too much water can turn your compost into a slimy mess and too little moisture will slow down the composting process. To check the moisture level of your compost simply turn it over with a garden fork; it should look damp but not drenched all the way through. If it is too wet then you can add more brown materials like cardboard, sawdust or straw, turn the compost regularly to aerate it and ensure it is covered from the rain. If it is to dry then add some water, give it a turn and check on it again in a few days.

If your compost is not breaking down and is more woody than you’d like, then add some more green materials like clippings or cut flowers - a good mix is key!

If your pile is beginning to attract fruit flies then cover the pile or put on the lids. Try to also bury and fruit or vegetable scraps rather than tipping them on the very top. Please note that they may be a nuisance but will do no harm to your pile.

A compost caddy is a great way to save up all those leftover scraps in your kitchen and avoids a trip to the compost heap or bin after every meals.

A wooden compost bin is a great excuse to get creative; either decorate and paint it fit the environment and hide away or really make a show piece of it and paint it something bright and colourful.

Add a compost accelerator like Garotta between each layer of green and brown material; it is safe for children, pets and wildlife and is a great natural way to speed up the composting process in your garden.