Home composting has many environmental benefits. In some cases, this will prevent food waste from being sent to landfill. Even if your local authority collects and recycles food waste, industrial scale composting produces much more harmful methane gas than composting at home, due to a small heaps having access to greater levels of oxygen. Even if your local authority has great green recycling facilities then they still need to use vehicles to collect the waste, adding to pollution.
If composting is done correctly, then the final product will be nutrient rich, help keep your soils pH balance in check and also help suppress plant disease. Using your own compost will also reduce the need for you to purchase ‘new’ compost and fertilisers, saving you money!
Modern compost bins are often made from plastic and are council issued but traditionally they are made from wooden slats. If you have some old pallets or scraps of wood then these can be used to build a structure to place your waste in for composting. Be careful not to use any heavily treated timber, as this can cause harmful chemicals to leach into your compost. Your compost bin should not have a bottom and placed on exposed soil as this makes it easy for beneficial microbes and insects to gain access to the rotting material.
It is important to use a balance of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials in your compost bin. There are also materials that should no go into your compost. Below is a graphic with examples…
Once your compost has been standing and rotting for a while you will need to know when it is ready to use. Your compost should be dark brown in colour and smell earthy. There may be lumps such as twigs and eggshell left in the compost, just remove these and place back in your compost bin. To use your compost simply spread a thin layer (5-10cm) on flower beds or around the base of trees. Be sure to leave a small gap around soft stem plants and around the base of trees. Your compost will contain a great mix of nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which will replace nutrients and re-enrich the goodness that has been lost in your soil. You can mix the compost in a little or just leave this for the worms to do. You can also mix your compost with regular soil to make a great filler for new pots and planters.
Spring is a great time to start thinking about home composting, and with the extra time we all have in our gardens thanks to be stuck at home why not give it a go? It is also a great idea to get your children involved as it gives them something practical to do while also reinforcing the education on the lifecycle of plants.