This year the theme for International Composting Awareness Week is Recipe for Regeneration : Compost.
Regenerative Agriculture is a system that focuses on improving soil health which creates healthier, nutrient rich crops and ultimately less carbon in the atmosphere through increased carbon sequestration.
The world is wasting ⅓ of the world's food, Australia on its own wastes approximately 7.3 million tonnes of food per year, that equates to about 1 in 5 bags of groceries bought that end up in the bin! What a waste! Composting helps us reduce food waste as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfill food waste.
Recycling organic matter and turning it into compost means you are using them to add nutrients and increase the quality of your soil, making plants healthier at no extra cost!
Composting, quite simply, breaks down organic matter and is an easy way to recycle organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill or into your green council collection bins.
It’s best to plan ahead to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!
A few key points to consider when getting started with your composting;
What are your space requirements? It’s important to choose a composting system that suits your needs in terms of space and what you can manage easily.
Do you have any mobility issues? Be sure to choose a composting system that is manageable for you if you have any mobility issues.
How much organic matter will you be composting? Choose a composting system that will suit how much organic waste that you will be using.
Where is your composting system going to be located? Choose a spot that has some shade, so your material doesn’t dry out.
What can and can’t be composted? This is discussed further below.
There are heaps of different options when it comes to composting systems and can be found online, your local Nursery or Bunnings type stores.
Benchtop Kitchen Compost Bin
What can and can’t be composted?
There are two main categories of compost ingredients - green and brown.
Fruit and vegetable scraps and peelings
Newspaper and paper - shredded
Green plant cuttings
Old flowers from vases or the garden
Sawdust - not from treated wood
Used tea - no mesh bags
Weeds - no seeds!
Weird things you can compost!
Hair and fur
Home brew waste - hops and malt
Old herbs and spices
Unpopped or burnt popcorn
No No’s - Don't add these to your compost!
Black walnut tree parts
Citrus - can be used in small amounts but best to omit completely in case too much is added
Compostable packaging - these require commercial composting systems to properly biodegrade plastics
Diseased or insect infested plants
Egg shells - can be used in small amounts but best to omit completely in case too much is added
Meat and fish scraps
Non organic matter
Pet poo - no cat or dog poo
Plants or wood treated with pesticides or preservatives
Oils or fats
Onion - can be used in small amounts but best to omit completely in case too much is added
Weeds that have gone to seed
Types of composting
Cold - yard waste, fruit and veg scraps, coffee grounds and filters, egg shells (small amounts), etc, and put into a compost pile or bin/tumbler - this can take about a year to decompose and break down enough to be used in the garden
Hot - this requires more work but works faster taking approximately one to three months to break down. Needs nitrogen, carbon, air and water, these together feed microorganisms that speed up the process of decomposition. This method is usually done in compost bays so a larger area is required.
Vermicompost - made with the help of special composting worms called ‘Red Wigglers’ (these are not just regular earthworms) and are easily found online and in stores. The worms eat the food scraps, release castings that are high in nitrogen (worm wee and poo).
How to get started
After working out what composting system will work best for you, purchase a bin/tumbler, etc or make your compost bay and put it in a site that gets some shade.
Put a container in your kitchen and start collecting kitchen scraps while preparing food, it’s that simple! I personally use a lidded small bin that sits on my kitchen bench and I leave it out of the way until I need to use it, then empty it into our compost tumbler or our worm towers. All bought systems should come with detailed instructions on how to use them.
How to make a Hot Compost Bay - Best for larger gardens
Combining green and brown materials
Wait until you have enough material to make a pile about 1m deep.
Combine wet green items with dry brown items, for best results mix three parts brown and one part green organic matter. If your compost pile looks too wet and is a bit smelly, add some more brown items and aerate it more often, if it looks extremely brown or dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.
Water the compost pile
Spray water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge, don’t add too much water otherwise the microorganisms will get waterlogged and drown which will then make your compost pile rot instead of decompose.
You can monitor the temperature of your compost pile by putting your hand into the middle with your hand, it should feel warm or by using a compost thermometer that can be purchased online or in stores, this will help you ensure the materials are decomposing properly.
Stir and aerate the compost pile
Turn your pile once a week with a garden fork, the best time to turn the compost is when the middle of the pile feels warm or when it reaches 55 - 65°C.
Mixing the pile will help it decompose faster and prevents material becoming matted down and developing an odour.
Be sure to stir thoroughly.
Feeding the garden
When the compost is no longer giving heat and becomes crumbly, dry and brown, it is ready to use!
Add 10 - 15cm of compost to your garden beds and into your pots at the beginning of the planting season.
Make a compost tea - use the finished compost to brew in water for a few days and strain to turn it into a liquid fertiliser, this can be then watered over plants and pots.
Composting is super easy and a cost effective way to help your garden grow to its full potential, as well as being great for the environment, there is no better time to get started!
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