A beginner’s guide to composting
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.