Environmentally friendly gardening series: a guide to composting
We all know that planting trees is good for the environment, but there are lots of simple things that you can do to make sure your garden is running at its optimum eco capacity. Over the next few months, we will be adding posts that give you advice on creating and maintaining a truly environmentally friendly garden. This post focuses on composting.
More and more people are using a compost bin as a way of utilising their household waste. It’s cheap, easy and it yields great results. Creating your own compost heap has never been easier: not only can you buy ready-made bins, but you can easily make your own if you have some old pallets or lengths of wood lying around. You can click here to read North Ayrshire council’s guide to building your own compost heap from unwanted pallets.
Filling your compost heap
Once you’ve got your heap, the most important part about having it is making sure that you put the right waste in it.
You can put in:
- Vegetable peelings
- Fruit waste
- Grass cuttings
- Plant cuttings
- Crushed egg shells
- Fallen leaves
- Shredded egg cartons
You should avoid:
- Meat products
- Dairy products
- Any plastic/glass
- Diseased plants
- Pet waste
You need to aim for a 50/50 ratio of both ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste. ‘Green’ waste is the ‘wet’ waste, which includes your veg peelings, fruit waste, tea bags, egg shells and fresh green grass cuttings. Brown waste is your ‘dry’ waste, and this comprises of your dried grass cuttings, dry leaves, wood shavings and shredded egg cartons. You want a good mix of both in your compost heap because the green materials are rich in nitrogen and the brown materials are rich in carbon: mix them both together and you’ve got a very efficient compost heap.
Maintaining your compost heap
In order to have a healthy compost heap, you need to give it regular airing; this involves turning the waste regularly and mixing it up. Air circulation is key to efficient composting because the microbes that break down the waste rely on air for survival. You can make this job a lot easier by getting an aeration tool, but a large garden fork will suffice if not.
Using your compost
Compost can take between 3 and 12 months to be fully ready and this depends on what you added to your compost heap and also how often you aired it. You can check to see if your compost is ready by looking at the consistency of it and feeling it. It will be ready when you have a dark brown-black layer at the bottom of your heap and it will feel almost spongy to the touch. You want to make sure that you cannot see any of the individual matter that you added to your compost as it should have decomposed fully if it is ready.
Compost adds a healthy boost to any garden soil and it greatly improves the quality and structure of the soil. Not only is your homemade compost full of nutrients, it is also fantastic for suppressing weeds. You can use your compost in many ways, including mixing it with your existing soil when planting new trees and shrubs and spreading it around your flowerbeds to enjoy the benefits of improved soil quality.
Let us know how you get on with your composting. If you build your own compost heap then please send us a photo of your handiwork.
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