Thursday, April 26, 2012

Composting At Home

Up to 40% of household waste is kitchen and garden waste, ideal for composting. Making your own compost reduces the need to buy soil improvers and mulches. Applying homemade compost to your soil improves its quality and helps it to conserve moisture. Composting at home also reduces waste and so helps the environment.
1. Find a site for your compost bin. It should be placed directly onto the soil or grass. Your bin should not have a base. This is to enable the worms to get in and to let moisture drain away. It does not need to be placed in a sunny spot. It is more important to place it where you can get to it easily.
2. Enclosed bins will have a neater appearance, help keep out pests, and hold in heat and moisture. You can construct a wooden bin out of salvaged wood; create a three-sided enclosure using bricks or cinder blocks and leave the front open; or even drill holes in the bottom and sides of a garbage can or steel water drum.
3. Air and water are very important to the composting process. Lightly churn the bin contents every few weeks to let air in. The compost mixture should always look wet. If you think it is drying out, you can always water your bin to return it to its ‘wet’ state.
4. Fruit and vegetable peelings, tea bags, grass clippings, eggshells, dead plants, hedge trimmings, woody prunings, rabbit and guinea pig bedding, leaves and newspaper are ideal for composting. However, there are a few things that you should exclude such as cooked food, meat, fish, bones, dairy products, pet faeces, diseased plants, glossy or coloured paper/card.
5. Use the compost. About one month before planting, apply 1-3 inches of the finished compost and work it into the top four inches of soil. Compost can also be used in the garden as a top dressing or mulch throughout the summer. Screened through a ½" sieve, compost can be used to create a potting soil by combining equal parts of compost, sand and loam. Large particles can be put back in the compost pile.  

1. Composting works best with a good mix of dry, tough materials with wet, sappy materials. Wet, sappy kitchen waste needs to be joined by drier types such as newspaper or hedge clippings to prevent the mixture from becoming slimy.
2. As a guide, it is best to use your bin a year before harvesting your compost. The compost you harvest will generally be the remains of the material you added during the first 6 months or so. Any material that is still recognisable can be put back into the bin to continue composting.
3. Composting should produce only a rich earthy smell. If a sharp ammonia smell is produced it is usually due to too much grass and not enough paper. Mix in some shredded paper to get it smelling sweet again.
4. To discourage flies, add a layer of soil to cover the bin contents. When the material is covered, the insects will disappear in a day or so. There is no need to add soil every time you add material, just do it when the flies appear.

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