So, we’ve all herd of composting, but I'm sure that the average urban family has dismissed the idea as something that seems out of step with the busyness of modern family life and should just be left as an activity for the avid gardener.
In fact the basic principle of composting is not to different to placing your house hold waste into a bin, the only difference is there are a few more simple steps to the process to get your organic waste looking and smelling like a rain forest floor.
Composting is nature's process of recycling, turning decomposed food scraps (anything that was once living) into rich soil known as compost. By composting you’re not just returning nutrients back into the soil, you’re producing your own highly nutrient rich soil free of charge, something I’m sure will help the often stretch family purse strings.
There are a few types of composting methods with the better known and simplest being backyard composting followed by worm composting and grass cycling.
So let's start with the basics of composting your food and garden scarps. Composting requires four equally important components to work effectively being nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and water;
Nitrogen - This is the green ingredient (often green and wet) kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, weeds.
Carbon - The brown ingredients which supplies carbon for energy and heat. (often brown and dry) leaves, branches, hedge clippings, paper and straw. The carbon is very necessary but again, too much has its consequences as it takes almost forever to breakdown.
Oxygen - Done regularly by turning the mixture, it adds air and oxygen to the carbon which helps decomposition. Also if your compost is starved of oxygen it will start to produce greenhouse gases and will start to smell awful. Your aim is to get your compost smelling like a rainforest floor (sweet-smelling).
Water - Your compost should be moist, not soaking wet, but needs enough humidity to create the perfect condition for the micro-organisms in your compost to thrive.
So let's get started. First you're going to need a place for your compost, either a compost heap or compost bin will do. There are so many options available in the market now which can even accommodate apartment living. Make sure you place your compost bin in a well-drained shady area, as to much sun will just dry out your compost.
The first step is to layer, I always start with some garden waste (grass clippings, fallen leaves, dead flowers or shredded newspaper/paper) to help with drainage, followed by food scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, vacuum cleaner dust, coffee grounds, tea leaves and bags).
I then add existing soil or compost to introduce already living micro-organisms into the mix to assist the break down process as well as aiding and preventing greenhouse gasses and horrible smells as we don’t want those.
Then just give your compost mix a good shower with a watering can or hose dependant on the size of your compost bin/heap. There you have it…you’re now composting.
To maintain your compost make sure you aerate your mix with a garden fork or spade and continue occasionally adding water if it starts to look a little dry.
Dependant on your compost mix it can be turned into rich soil anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months, and you can always continue adding food scraps as these tend to take no time at all to breakdown.
So happy composting and enjoy your highly rich free soil that your plants and gardens will love you for.