The Dos and Don’ts of Composting

How to Compost at Home

Good and well-managed compost should be one of the cornerstones of any garden. It doesn’t only provide crucial nutrients and minerals that your plants need, but it also helps you recycle much of the organic waste which would otherwise end up on a landfill. There are some caveats, however, and you should pay attention to what is actually good for the compost and what could do more harm than good. However, it’s quite straight-forward once you know the basics. The key is to feed the compost the right material so that the microorganisms breaking down the mix work to your advantage. Read on and you will be ready to go in no time.

If you don’t compost already, you should definitely start right now. Here’s why:

What cannot be consumed by us, humans, is still dearer than gold for the soil in your garden. If you have enough space even for a small compost at the back of your garden, it should be a no brainer. Your flower beds and lawn will thank you.

While you might still need to use some fertilizer depending on the type of plants you grow, good nutritious compost can help you drastically cut down on the amount of fertiliser needed to cover the garden’s needs. There is also the added benefit of knowing exactly what you use to nurture your plants and that it is 100% organic. This is extremely important if you grow your own fruit and veggies!

There are two basic types of compost you should know about:

Green Compost

A green compost consists of items with a high content of nitrogen or protein. Items put into a green compost should be mostly still wet to help speed up the process of breaking down the mix. Such items include:

  • Freshly mowed grass
  • Tea bags or leaves
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Animal manure (most will do EXCEPT cat and dog waste)
  • Seaweed
  • Weeds (only the ones that haven’t set seed)

Brown Compost

This type of compost should, other than dirt and other brown material, also have a high content of carbon or carbohydrates. These are slower to break down but absolutely vital to the process as they help to form air pockets in the compost, thus ensuring the mixture can breathe. Such items include:

  • Chipped branches
  • Sawdust
  • Paper (no glossy paper)
  • 100% cotton fabrics
  • Cardboard (without wax or coats)
  • Corn stalks
  • Pine needles
  • Nuts and shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Dry leaves

Every healthy compost should include a well-balanced mixture of both green and brown compostable items. While you might be able to find some very precise recommendations for exact ratios, composting is not rocket science, and no one can be expected to actually weigh their organic kitchen waste. As a general rule of thumb, a good compost should be formed of roughly four parts of brown items (these will create most of the compost’s bulk) and one part of green items.

Some possible issues can be caused by the compost not heating up properly, thus taking a long time to break down the items. This can be solved by adding more green material. If, on the other hand, your compost is starting to stink, this is the sign that it might need adding more brown material.

Start With a Starter!

Using a compost starter will help you to make faster progress and will form the basis of a healthy compost. Essentially, it’s formed by microorganisms which ensure that the items are breaking down properly. The best way to start a compost is to ask your neighbours if they could give you a bucketful of their already established and broken-down compost as it already includes all that’s needed to start your very own. Alternatively, you can buy a compost starter in most garden centres.

We’ve covered all the dos, but now it’s important to highlight what shouldn’t be composted:

  • Meat and bones (can attract rodents or other animals and create an unpleasant smell)
  • Pet manure (cat and dog waste can contain a number of parasites harmful to humans, the environment and groundwater)
  • Plants with diseases (such disease can spread and render your compost worthless/harmful to your plants)

Let’s Get Started

As shown above, there are so many things people throw away without giving it a second thought which could be enormously useful for a flourishing garden. If you adhere to this quick guide, you will soon find that your waste bin doesn’t fill up as quickly as it used to, while at the same time your garden reaps the benefits of your composting efforts. It’s really not that hard and you can save time, money and do your bit for the environment. The process of composting is nature’s own invention and so far, any human efforts to surpass this fell well short.