For most people starting a compost is the best way to get rid of food scraps and limit what they put in their landfill bin. However, if you were like me when I first started my compost I could only find information about ones that were already up and going, yet I really needed help with what to do in the beginning. Things like, how to pick the right type of compost for my yard, what type of foods are best, how many worms.
Have you been contemplating a compost? Then this blog is for you! My parents recently grew an apricot tree out of their compost, so its amazing what can happen when you let nature do its thing!
Selecting Your Compost
First thing is first, review your yard, is it big enough to have a ground compost, will you need a bin or worm farm.
For larger rural places I would advise a compost on the ground as you would have space to have it away from the house so can keep the smell away. Also having a larger area you could hide it away from animals and children.
Most people who live on a standard residential block they will find that a compost bin is the best. A compost bin keeps all food scraps secure and you do not have to be worried about pets or children playing in it. The bin will also limit smells that may arise.
Are in an apartment or very small residential block a worm farm would suit you best as they are not very messy and take up limited space. Perfect for a balcony!
How to fill your bin
Start with a thick layer of coarse material (around 15cm), such as twigs or mulch. This will act as drainage, and is a very important measure to avoid sludge. Then begin to fill your bin! Use a three layer system, starting with garden clippings and kitchen scraps. Top these with dry leaves and paper, and then sprinkle with water. Sprinkling soil or finished compost on top of food scraps will make a richer compost and help reduce odours.
If you are using an on the ground compost, do a similar thing but make sure it is spread out across your entire “allocated” area for the compost.
How Many Worms?
It all depends on how many scraps you will be throwing away, compost worms are amazing and my rough guide below will give you an estimate of what you need. I do advise that you start with 1000 worms and then go from there. That way you can judge how much you are actually composting.
1/8kg = approx 500 worms
1/4kg = approx 1000 worms
1/2kg = approx 2000 worms
1kg = approx 4000 worms
You will need to assess how you will get food scraps to the bin? Smaller bins that can be emptied into the compost at the end of the day are a good solution, as is a roster of ‘bin emptiers’ and ‘compost turners’ (this needs to be done weekly in the first few weeks and then switch to monthly once you have a good system). I find having an ice-cream container in the kitchen works great, then once I am done with making lunch or dinner, I head straight out to the compost to deliver my scraps. This limits old food smells in the kitchen and keeps my worms super happy!
The key word here is ‘aeration’. Aerate your compost heap weekly to avoid unpleasant pongs and methane by turning it with a garden fork. Or you can place garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air to travel through your compost heap. You can buy the very fancy Aerobin that requires no turning or mucking about. If you purchase a tumbler bin, these composts have spikes that when you rotate will complete the aeration process for you. I recommend doing this weekly in the first part to keep everything moving.
The Do’s and Dont’s of what to put in your compost
What to add to your compost bin:
• Vegetable and food scraps
• Tea leaves and tea bags
• Coffee grounds
• Egg shells
• Used vegetable cooking oil
• Vacuum cleaner dust
• Soft stems
• Dead flowers
• Grass cuttings in layers
• Fallen leaves (in layers)
• Old potting mix
• Old newspapers (wet)
• Sawdust (not from treated timber)
• Wood ash
• Human and animal hair
What to keep out of your compost bin:
• Meat and dairy products
• Bread or cake (may attract mice)
• Animal manures (especially the droppings of cats and dogs)
• Diseased plants
• Large branches
• Weeds that have seeds or underground stems
• Metals, plastic, glass
• Sawdust from treated timber
• Citrus, leek and onion
Join our Facebook group for more hints and tips on becoming more resourceful in every day life!