Throwing food scraps away is like chucking your clothes down the loo (ok maybe not). But nevertheless our landfills are packed with bio-degradable food that could be nourishing, plants and vegetation in your garden! So let’s talk about how to make compost!
Not only does composting help food reduce landfill waste, but it also creates nutrient-rich soil for your garden. In this article, I’ll will cover everything you need to know about composting. From the benefits and basics of how it works, to what can be composted and choosing the right bin.
I’ll also give you tips on:
- How to make a compost heap or use a Tumbler
- Adding nitrogen for a healthy pile
- Gardening with compost
- Common mistakes to avoid.
So whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting out, this guide will help you create your own compost and reduce your carbon footprint.
How DIY composting works
Composting is a natural process that transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich soil, commonly known as compost. So what’s the science behind composting?
Organic waste, such as kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and plant matter, contain a variety of organic compounds. These compounds are broken down by microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and other decomposers. These tiny organisms feed on the organic matter, breaking it down into simpler substances through a process called decomposition.
During decomposition, the microorganisms release enzymes that break down complex organic molecules into smaller molecules. This process generates heat, causing the pile to warm up. The elevated temperature helps to speed up the decomposition process and kill harmful pathogens and weed seeds.
As the organic matter continues to break down, it undergoes chemical changes. The decomposers convert the organic compounds into more stable forms, such as humus, which is a dark, crumbly substance rich in nutrients. Humus improves soil structure, enhances water retention, and provides essential nutrients for plants.
What can be composted?
Compostable materials can include plant-based organic matter such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and yard waste. You can include eggshells but should avoid adding meat, dairy products, or oily foods to prevent attracting rats. Composting can be done in a backyard pile or in an indoor bin.
Choosing the right compost bin
To select the perfect compost bin for your needs, you should consider various aspects. Decide how much compost you want to make and choose a bin accordingly. You can find tumbling or stationary bins made of sturdy materials like plastic or metal.
Selecting a bin with proper ventilation is essential to ensure adequate aeration during the decomposition process. It’s also wise to examine compost tumbler options if you’re just starting since they’re beginner-friendly and create small batches quickly.
How to make a compost heap
Making compost at home is an easy way to reduce waste while providing nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. Start by selecting a spot with proper drainage before adding organic matter like grass clippings, vegetable peelings, and garden waste to your compost heap.
Remember to turn the pile regularly to promote decomposition while keeping it moist but not too wet. Avoid adding any dairy products or meats that might attract rodents or pests while keeping an eye out for any odors that may indicate excess nitrogen in the mix. In just a few months’ time, you’ll have a finished compost heap perfect for nourishing your plants.
How to make compost in a Tumbler
Creating compost in a tumbler is easy if you have the right balance of green and brown organic material such as food waste, peelings, grass clippings or dried leaves. Regularly turn your compost to ensure that it decomposes correctly and receives adequate oxygenation.
Ensure that you monitor the moisture levels of your compost, adjusting them as necessary to improve the speed of decomposition. The finished product can be used as an excellent fertilizer for both gardening enthusiasts or those new to planting.
Adding nitrogen for a healthy compost pile
Proper mixing and turning of the compost pile play a vital role in promoting decomposition. To achieve good composting results, you need to add nitrogen-rich sources such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds.
However, be cautious not to overdo it as adding excessive nitrogen can lead to an unpleasant odor. Follow these steps carefully to make sure that the composting process goes smoothly and you end up with nutrient-rich soil amendment for your garden or plants.
How to turn your compost
To ensure that your compost project is successful, it’s essential to turn your compost regularly and maintain a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio by mixing in green and brown materials. Use a pitchfork or shovel for turning the compost pile every few weeks and add water as needed to keep the compost moist but not waterlogged.
Monitoring the temperature with a compost thermometer can be helpful in gauging the progress of decomposition.
Keeping your compost moist
Maintaining proper moisture levels is crucial for successful composting. Add water as needed to keep your compost moist and cover your compost pile with a tarp or lid to prevent excessive drying out from sunlight and wind.
To create a hot-compost heap using garden waste and brown material, wait until you have enough materials to make a pile at least 3 feet deep. Use a moisture meter or simply squeeze a handful of compost to test the moisture level before adding more organic matter.
Worm composting for beginners
Worm composting is a great way for beginners to turn food scraps, garden waste, and other organic material into nutrient-rich fertilizer for their plants. To get started, choose the right type of worms for your composter, such as red wigglers.
Maintenance is key – make sure to maintain and balance your bin with a mix of green and brown materials like grass clippings, vegetable peelings, sawdust, cardboard, eggshells, dairy products, twigs, prunings, and manure. Harvest the worm castings once they are ready to use as an excellent fertilizer for your garden or patio planting.
Avoiding odors in your compost
Proper maintenance of moisture levels is crucial for successful compost. To avoid unpleasant smells in your compost, add enough brown material like cardboard, twigs or dry leaves along with green material like food scraps and grass clippings.
Regular aeration through turning can prevent odor formation. To keep rodents and pests at bay, avoid adding dairy products or meat and choose a suitable location for the compost pile away from high-traffic areas.
Autumn leaves and compost
To hasten the composting process, use shredded autumn leaves as they are an excellent source of carbon-rich organic material. Ensure that your leaf pile measures at least 4 inches in diameter and three feet in height to achieve optimal results.
While it’s important to note that too many fall leaves might dry out your compost, it’s equally vital to balance them with nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Composting using autumn leaves is a great way to reduce waste while creating nutrient-dense soil for planting a small garden or patio shrubs.
Creating a compact composting solution
To create a compact composting solution, choose from various methods. You can go for:
- A composter
- A small garden tumbler to fit your needs.
Composting requires both green material like dairy products, vegetable peelings, and tea bags; and brown material like cardboard, twigs, and sawdust. Regularly turning the heap speeds up decomposition and prevents pests. Finished compost is perfect as fertilizer for planting shrubs or making potting soil.
Gardening with compost
Creating your own compost is easy and eco-friendly. With vermicomposting, hot composting or cold composting techniques you can transform your waste material into good-quality compost for your garden.
Balancing the right amount of brown material like dry leaves with green material such as vegetable peelings will help in decomposition. You can even use grass cuttings or tea bags to enrich the composition of your homemade compost.
Using grass clippings in your compost
Mixing grass clippings with other organic materials in your compost pile can help speed up the decomposition process due to the nitrogen-rich content present in them.
For a well-balanced compost pile that has good drainage and moisture levels without any pests or rodents being attracted to it, turn the compost regularly. However, do not use grass cuttings from chemically treated lawns as they may contain harmful pesticides or herbicides.
By following these easy steps while maintaining your compost tumbler or heap properly with an array of different items like vegetable peelings and tea bags on hand for quick additions when needed will ensure good quality homemade compost.
Common composting mistakes to avoid
Avoid ruining your composting process by following these tips for success. Balance your green and brown materials properly and rotate your compost pile regularly while monitoring its moisture levels. Avoid adding dairy or meat products as they can slow down the decomposition process.
Be sure to stay away from non-compostable materials that could contaminate your pile such as plastics or metals. With proper attention to detail and maintenance of your composting material including carbon-rich (brown) and nitrogen-rich (green) material you can create nutrient-rich soil for gardening without using synthetic fertilizers.
Choosing the right composter for your needs
To choose the right composter for your needs, take into account several factors. Consider the available size and space for your composting system. Evaluate your composting requirements like the quantity of waste produced and desired speed of compost creation.
Select from traditional bin systems or advanced options like a tumbler or worm composter. Look for a composter with good ventilation and drainage that ensures optimal decomposition conditions.
You have a few options here, if you want cheap, cheerful and space-saving then the AIBAOBAO Environmental Compost Bag is a great option for £8.99. It has the least amount of litre space. You can grow potatoes in here as well!
Next, the Denny International Compost Bin 300L is good for most inner-city and suburban gardens. We used this one in our last house. Bear in mind that it can be hard to turn the compost in this if it’s packed too high but it has a handy door at the bottom for when your compost is ready.
Last, if you’re a beginner and are looking for a mess-free all-in-one solution then consider a tumbler like the 105L Tumbling Composter. You can conveniently turn the bin when needed and add food and green scraps when needed. It can also fit in most cosy garden spaces and at £59 is not a bad option.
Adding moisture to a dry compost pile
To keep your compost heap hydrated, spray it gently until it’s damp and not drenched. Make sure the water gets distributed evenly throughout the compost heap. Prevent evaporation by covering it with a tarp or lid to keep moisture in. Keep tabs on moisture content and tweak watering as needed to make sure conditions are ideal for decomposition.
How do you start a compost for beginners?
1. Choose a location: Ideally, should in shade and have good drainage. 2. Gather materials: You will need a mixture. 3. Build your pile: Start with brown materials. 4. Add water: Use a hose or watering can. 5. Turn the pile: Use a pitchfork or shovel. 6. Wait: 4-6 weeks.
How long does it take to make compost?
The time needed to make compost varies depending on the method and materials used. If you maintain the pile with proper moisture, temperature, turning, and a balance of green and brown materials, it can take one to two months to produce usable compost. However, full maturation can take up to a year due to factors like temperature and moisture.
Final thoughts on composting
Composting is a great way to reduce waste and produce nutrient-rich soil for gardening. It is a simple process that can be done in any backyard or even on an apartment balcony. With the right knowledge and tools, you can turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich gold for your garden plants and shrubs. If you’re looking to step up your sustainable living game grab your copy of my natural cleaning product recipes. They’re great for making easy eco-friendly swaps in your home today.
Want More Sustainable Tips?
If you’re looking for other sustainable tips check out my other articles.
- Best Natural Cleaning Products
- Ultimate Guide to Natural Laundry Detergent
- Sustainable Living Tips Made Easy
Want to level up your sustainability game? Then take our Sustainable Living Quiz to learn more about your sustainable living habits!