What exactly is composting?
Composting is an age-old practice,
which is a natural decomposition process of organic matter in nature.
Composting today is the process for allowing household waste to decompose
in a controlled environment. Naturally occurring soil organisms such
as bacteria and worms break down the organic waste material into a
rich natural fertiliser. Once composted, this waste becomes a nutrient
rich fertiliser and conditioner for plants and shrubs, while also
helping to improve soil structure and composition.
Why should I compost my organic waste?
There are many benefits to composting. Take a look at the list
below to see what some of them are.
- Composting at source not only reduces the amount of waste
that you send to landfill, but also reduces the expense and pollution
caused by transporting this waste.
- Removing the kitchen waste from your bin will greatly reduce
- Using the compost that you produce
reduces your reliance on chemical fertilisers, which if overused,
can be harmful to the environment and can be expensive.
What can be composted?
Anything that is biodegradable (can decompose naturally) can
be composted. Below is a list of all the goods that should go into
the compost bin:
- Fruit peels
- Potato skins
- Coffee grounds
- Uncooked vegetable scraps
- Fruit and vegetables that have passed their use by date
- Apple cores
- Egg shells
- Egg cartons
- Paper and cardboard (even egg boxes)
- Grass Clippings
- Bedding plants
- Leaves and plant trimmings
What should I not compost?
- Meat, fish fats, dairy products, bone and grease (these items
can give of a bad smell and have the potential of attracting our
four legged friends!)
- Pet wastes – this category contains extremely harmful bacteria.
- Materials that have been treated with chemicals or herbicides.
- Weeds with mature seeds and plants such as crabgrass, ground
ivy, or day lilies – these items may not be killed by the heat of
- Coal and peat fired ash.
- Glass, metals, plastics and other
no idea of how to compost, and to be quite honest, the sound of it
rather scares me. Perhaps you could explain the process to me?
Yes, the whole concept of composting
can sound very complicated, but in actual fact it is really simple!
There are a number of ways that you can compost:
- Home composting using home composting bins provided by your
Local Authority. Take a look below for a Home Composting Recipe.
- Community-composting schemes. All
you usually have to do is separate your organic waste from the rest
of your waste and put it out for collection.
Home Composting Recipe
The ingredients required for successful composting are no different
than those required to sustain you own body, i.e. air, food and water.
A mix of Greens and Browns of about half-and-half is necessary
for good compost.
The Browns tend to be bulky and dry in nature, and this is compensated
for by the Green material, which is high in moisture. The ideal
is to have 10 times the amount of carbon than nitrogen for good compost.
Good compost therefore requires air, food and water. This
will create the right degree of heat (50-650C) to keep the compost
cooking and kill off any weed seedlings that may be present.
Helping your composter to compost
- Site the composter on a patch of bare earth in a well-drained,
- Clear an area around your composter for storing and preparing
your waste prior to adding it to the composter.
- Filling your bin: Start off with some coarse garden waste
and cabbage stumps to allow air to circulate. Add in some leaves
or weeds and vegetable peelings and a little loose soil if available.
This is a good starting mix and remember, it is very important to
mix Green and Brown material when adding further waste. Turn the
material from time to time to help the composting process along.
Tackling the most common composting problems
- Compost material is dark and soggy: Try adding new fresh material. Avoid adding too many grass
clippings at once, as these will make the material wet. If the compost
is in a cool place, try moving it to a warmer spot.
- Compost heap smells: If the pile is not getting enough air, nitrogen builds up,
causing odour problems. Turn the material each day and add some
soil and woody material to create air pockets.
- Compost bin attracting pests: Avoid adding meat bones, dairy products and grease, which
attract vermin and dogs etc. Narrow wire mesh attached to the bottom
of bottomless bins should help.
- Slugs in the bin: Slugs are one of the creatures that help the composting process.
You can take out any visible slugs and dispose of them in an organic
fashion. The numbers will not increase dramatically as a result
- Spread of compost encourages weed growth: The bin is not getting hot enough to kill of the weed seeds.
Make the mix hotter by finely shredding the materials and by not
adding plants that contain seeds. Digging the compost into the garden
will reduce the chances of the seeds growing.
- The pile is dry and not doing anything: Add some fresh greens and mix in.
- Flies: Add a soil layer to distract flies.