With a little tender loving care, food waste can be recycled into compost. Applied to your garden, it helps capture carbon in the soil, improve soil health of your soil and assist water retention.
Build Or Buy Your Bin
Choose a practical site with good access for you and – if you have one – your wheelbarrow.
Ideally, this will be a somewhere sunny and flat. Heating your pile with sunshine aids the decomposition process and helps get rid of pests and weeds.
As you know, every garden centre and dyi store sells compost bins and there is a wide variety to choose from. Alternatively, you can make your own from new or recycled materials, including planks, bricks and corrugated iron.
Many bins have lids for the simple reason, amongst others, that it’s good to keep pets, rats and other critters out and keep handy things like heat and moisture in.
Collect Your Ingredients
Before filling your compost bin, gather the raw ingredients. For a good result, you’ll need to have a rough mix of the following:
- Dry Mix: 75% carbon-rich ingredients, like dead leaves, very small twigs, dry grass or straw, and shredded paper.
- Moist Mix: 25% nitrogen-rich organic ingredients – fruit remains, vegetable peels, leftover food (except meat or dairy), fresh lawn clippings, fresh leaves, weeds and fresh manure.
Stacking And Managing Your Compost Bin
- Air and drainage layer at bottom: 15-20 centimetres of twigs or mulch.
- Add a layer of Dry Mix (see above).
- Add a layer of Moist Mix (see above).
- Spray on extra water but don’t soak.
- Build up several similar layers on top until the bin is full.
- If you have an open compost, you can finish off with a layer of straw, hay, hessian or even an old woollen carpet. This will aid the process.
- It will need several weeks to do its job, longer in cooler conditions. You should notice the bin temperature rise as material is being broken down. After a while, the bin will cool. This is normal.
- Turn it a little every week to increase airflow. Keep moist.
Warning signs: If the heap smells, it's probably not getting enough air. Remedy this by adding more Dry Mix (see above) and turn over regularly.
You compost should look deep brown and have a sweet, healthy smell.
It can be used to feed your plants, top-dress your lawn or be dug in with your soil to improve your garden.