One of the most significant aspects of nature is that everything has a use. There is never any waste. Everything that is living will die and be cycled back through the system. The medium that this happens through is the microbes, bacteria and other living creatures that feed off the dead material. This creates a nutrient-dense, biologically active fertiliser that can help bring life and nutrition to our gardens.
With up to 60% of what goes into our bins organic waste, this is something that we can take and not only reduce our rubbish, but through home composting we can turn them into fertile soil to boost the productivity of gardens and landscapes.
What is Compost?
Compost is broken down organic material that is produced when bacteria in the soil break down our biodegradable material, resulting in a product rich in nutrient that is an ideal garden amendment.
For one, it's free. You get to use your kitchen waste, grass clippings, leaves etc that would otherwise get thrown away. Soils that are rich in compost produce healthy plants regardless of whether you're growing vegetables, growing herbs or fruit trees.
Compost improves garden soil structure, texture and aeration.
Adding compost improves soil fertility and stimulates root growth in plants. The soil organic matter (SOM) provided in compost provides food for microorganisms, which keeps the soil in a healthy and in a stable condition.
Compost helps break up clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water
No need to add fertiliser — just spread the compost into the ground. This fertiliser contains nutrients that plants need for optimum growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is an especially good supplier of micronutrients that are required, in small quantities, such as boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, molybdenum, manganese, and zinc.
How to get started?
Everyone has a different level of responsibility when it comes to composting. For some people, a rotting pile in the backyard is good enough. Others want to apply the rigours of science and constant vigilance to ensure the best (and quickest) compost around. Most of us are somewhere in between. Below are some methods we use that you can be used to help create our own compost.
Hole composting is the act of burying your food waste directly into your garden. The advantage of this method over other composting methods is that it enables you to compost meat, grains, dairy and cooked foods in addition to other kitchen scraps. Because these items potentially attract rats, mice and flies, we suggest that you don't put them into hot or cold compost. By burying them in a Hole, you can avoid these problems, since rats and mice should not be able to access the material if it is covered by at least 20 cm of soil. All you need is a shovel!
Cold composting requires less effort. You mostly let a pile build and decompose, using the same type of ingredients as hot composting.
It requires less effort from you, yet the decomposition takes a lot longer—a year plus.
To cold compost, pile the materials (leaves, grass clippings, soil, manures—but avoid dog, cat, and human waste) as you find or accumulate them. Bury kitchen scraps in the centre of the heap to deter insects and animals. Avoid adding any meat, dairy or fat. Also, avoid weeds with seeds; cold compost piles do not reach high temperatures and do not kill weed seeds. (In fact, plants may germinate in a cold collection.)
The quickest way to produce fertile compost is to create a hot compost pile. It is called "hot" as it can reach an internal temperature of 70 degrees plus and it is active because it destroys, primarily by 'cooking' the weed seeds. The size of the pile, the ingredients, and their layering are critical to reaching that desired outcome.
A hot compost pile should be a 1 cubic metre. The collection will shrink as the material decompose to about a 3rd of the size.
One part of Brown (high-carbon materials - shredded, dry plant matter such as leaves, shredded paper, cardboard, straw, sugar cane)
One part of high-nitrogen Green (green plant and vegetable refuse, grass clippings, weeds, trimmings, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, manures – Horse, Cow, Sheep etc., not dog or cat)
Some soil from your garden
Pile the ingredients like lasagna, with brown materials on the bottom. Next, add a small amount of your garden soil to introduce local microbes. Add Green nitrogen-based materials, followed by soil etc. Repeat until the pile reaches 1 metre high.
Soak the pile at its start and water periodically; its consistency should be that of a damp (not wet) sponge.
We have tried a couple of different methods for hot compost and found pros and cons of both
Fixed compost bays are a great way to start. They can be placed in one location on your property making it easy to design around. What we have found is that it also requires us to move the compost around the property using a wheel barrow or buckets which creates an extra layer to our workload
The other option we have found to have great benefit and a huge time saver for us is composting in Situ. To do this, we have a few IBC cages that we have cut in half and move around to where it is needed, build the compost inside of it and then just remove the light cage once down rather than shipping the compost across the site.
Below we have attached something that will hopefully help you with your composting at home - Composting, Easy methods for every gardener.