Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Compost Materials - How Do You Make Good Compost?

Like anything in life, the quality of your home compost will reflect the compost materials you put in. There are many products around the home that can be safely composted. It is estimated that around 40% of trash in your household dustbin can be composted.

How do you make good compost?

Compost happens naturally, anything that was once alive biodegrades and rots down. Getting it to rot down to great compost and not a smelly mess takes a little thought.

To make good compost you need approximately a 50/50 mix of "brown" and "green" compost materials. Technically, you can compost anything that is biodegradable but avoid meat, fish, dairy products and faeces from carnivore animals.

Brown compost materials:
  • Straw
  • Wood shavings
  • Wood ash
  • Sticks
  • Paper (shredded confidential paper is ideal for composting!)
  • Cardboard
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Bedding from vegetarian pets – mice, hamsters, rabbits etc
  • Woody prunings
  • Bracken
  • Hair and nail clippings
  • Natural fibres – wool and cotton

Brown materials are carbon rich and slow to rot. They give your finished compost "body". Shredding or finely chopping the materials first helps them to break down quicker.

Green compost materials:
  • Vegetable peelings
  • Teabags and coffee grounds
  • Green prunings
  • Grass
  • Weeds (avoid weeds with seeds)
  • Nettles
  • Poultry manure and bedding
  • Animal manure – herbivores e.g. horses

Green materials are nitrogen rich. Without the brown ingredients and regular turning, they will often decompose to a slimy mess.

The secret to how to make good compost is air. Aerating your compost pile or bin is essential and helps to break down the compost materials much more quickly. This is why compost tumblers are such a great investment; they save on the backbreaking work of manually turning your pile with a garden fork.

Other benefits of using a compost tumbler:
  • You'll find you won't have to add water as often as moisture is retained
  • They help produce "fast" compost – if your bin stays warm, you can expect to see useable compost in around 12-15 weeks.
  • They are animal (and kid!) proof
  • They're less work. Throw in your compost materials, turn and leave it.
  • They are not an eyesore. If you are composting at home in a built up area, the last thing your neighbors want is a compost heap on their landscape!

As a side note, there is no need to buy compost activators if you are composting grass cuttings or animal manure as these are natural activators. Other natural activators include:

  • Comfrey
  • Nettles
  • Urine (yes, a tip an old composter gave me! Dilute it down aprox 4 parts water, 1 part urine before adding to your compost pile or tumbler)

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