A be­gin­ner’s guide to com­post­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SARAH MOORE

I fill my fridge at the start of each week with fruit and veg­eta­bles that I plan to turn into de­li­cious meals.

But I in­evitably end up throw­ing away all of the pro­duce that I just never get around to cooking.

Chances are your rub­bish bin looks a lot like mine; filled with 40 per cent food waste.

But with land­fills brim­ming to over­flow­ing and the coun­cil charg­ing for rub­bish bags, there’s got to be a way to make your wal­let and Mother Na­ture a bit hap­pier.

Com­post­ing is a sim­ple way to save on rub­bish re­moval while help­ing out the en­vi­ron­ment. Com­post is the dark soil-like sub­stance that’s pro­duced when or­ganic ma­te­rial like food and gar­den waste breaks down. It’s nu­tri­ent-rich too, so when you add it to your gar­den it sends that good­ness straight back into the soil.

And it turns out com­post­ing re­ally isn’t that hard. The first thing you need to think about is how much room you have to set up. Your avail­able space will de­ter­mine what kind of com­post­ing sys­tem you choose; if you’re on a life­style block, you’ll prob­a­bly have a bit of room to spread out. If you live in a 14th-floor apart­ment, you won’t have a lot.

Most hard­ware stores sell ready-made com­post bins but you can make your own out of a bucket or a few old pal­lets. Worm-based or bokashi com­post­ing sys­tems are good op­tions for apart­ment­d­wellers be­cause they don’t need a lot of space, although worms do need a lot of on­go­ing at­ten­tion. An open com­post pile could be a good op­tion if you have more room be­cause it’s to­tally free and re­quires min­i­mal ef­fort, although it can en­cour­age pests and ro­dents to hang out around it.

Don’t for­get gar­den­ing equip­ment like a shovel, turn­ing fork and gloves.

Next it’s time to start adding in­gre­di­ents to your bin. Make sure you know the com­post­ing dos and don’ts be­fore you get started. Or­ganic ma­te­rial like lawn clip­pings, leaves, fruit and vege scraps, tea bags, cof­fee grounds and eggshells (crushed) are great. Meat, dairy prod­ucts, chem­i­cally treated wood, bones, fats and oils and dis­eased plants are not. Re­mem­ber to break any­thing that’s big­ger than your thumb into bits, oth­er­wise it’ll take its sweet time to com­post.

Fi­nally, when your bin has pro­duced its ‘dark gold’, work it into your gar­den beds and around your trees to send its nu­tri­ents back into the soil. Fin­ished com­post smells earthy, is moist like a wrun­gout sponge and is dark like cof­fee grounds.

But doesn’t it take ages to make com­post? Well, if you just dump food waste into your pile, it will take roughly a year to pro­duce com­post suit­able for your gar­den. But if you reg­u­larly turn and wa­ter your pile, you could ex­pect to see the fruits of your toil within just a few months. To make the process even quicker, pop a lid on your bin or buy a spe­cial­ity com­post­ing prod­uct from your lo­cal gar­den­ing store.

Isn’t it all a bit smelly? If it’s done prop­erly, no. If a nasty aroma does em­anate from your bin, it might not be get­ting enough oxy­gen so turn it more reg­u­larly. Too much wa­ter can also cause a stench, so add some dry ‘browns’ like saw­dust and leaves to dry it out.

Com­post­ing might not be that sexy but it’s one of the eas­i­est ways to re­cy­cle your kitchen waste, show the planet a lit­tle love – and to treat your gar­den. If you need more help with set­ting up a com­post bin, visit your lo­cal hard­ware or gar­den­ing store.

Worm-based com­post­ing sys­tems are among op­tions avail­able to home gar­den­ers.

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