We all like something for nothing. Those of us with gardens no doubt spend a small fortune every year at garden centres and DIY stores buying up bags of bulky compost. But why? By using natural waste from your own home you can make an abundance of the lovely crumbly material and you’ll help save the environment twice by not only not depleting peat bogs (if you buy peat based compose, though this is being phased out) but by also saving road miles travelling to a DIY store or garden centre (not to mention packaging etc.).
In terms of how to make compost…that’s easy. Anything ‘organic’ can in theory be composted. Remember, composted really just means rotted down. Some of the day to day items that can be composted include fruit and vegetable spoils and peelings, dust and hair from vacuum bags, tea bags (careful, some tea bags are now contain a material made from plastic), paper (including some junk mail and shredded paper), toilet roll holders and coffee grinds. We would suggest not composting cooked foods, or meats though, as these can attract pests like rats.
Composting is just the effect of material being broken down by the elements; heat and water. Over time this will rot and cling together in a slimy mess and ideally, a compost heap would be turned at this point. A really good compost heap will be steaming, because the heat at its core will be that warm from the composting process. Professional gardens tend to run typically 3 compost heaps. The first is normally for fresh scraps, plus waste from gardens like grass cuttings, leaves and expired plantation. The second would be as the compost rots and starts to change shape and colour. Be warned, the compost may smell a little at this stage! The final heap would be for the compost that is at the end of the process. This can be in as little as 6-8 months.
To accelerate the composting process, you need only to spend a little time per month for maximum affect. Turn the heap regularly, water it (but don’t over-water) if it dries out, keep adding fresh material, and, if you are brave…add urine! Yes, urine can help the composting process and has been rumoured to warn off garden pests like foxes.
Compost heaps themselves aren’t pretty, but they needn’t be ugly either. You can even disguise your heap if you want to. The simplest and cheapest is to make a heap from wooden pallets that have been nailed together. This holds the waste together but allows air through too. If you add carpet to cover the heap during colder months it’ll rot quicker. The plastic ‘dalek’ types are available in most DIY stores and can cost from around £20. Some local councils also have a scheme whereby they’ll deliver these for a discount too.
For those who want to take your composting really seriously, you could invest in a spinner…these are containers on what can only be described as a ‘rotisserie’. The drum is simply turned on a regular basis and the rotting process can be accelerated to just a few weeks. And for those who would like to make a heap ‘disappear’…try looking online for the beehive composters. These can be posted and make an attractive feature, whilst also being very practical (as the lid normally just lifts off).
Regardless of how you decide to compost, you will be helping to save the planet, you’ll be saving yourself money, and you’ll be helping complete the cycle of living matter to earth, to living matter again…