What is compost?
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 per cent of what we throw away* and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Starting a home compost bin is an easy way to help reduce our own food and garden waste. It might just save you money too if you normally pay for rubbish collection.
The key to starting a home compost bin is to make it easy and safe.
You can buy pre-made compost bins from any major hardware store, or build you own using cinder blocks or wood. It helps to have a cover over the bin if you get a lot of rain in your area so if you are going down the DIY route, one option is to use a piece of plywood or a hessian sack.
When you first set up your compost bin, pick a corner of your section where it is out of the way, but ideally not miles away from your kitchen. Next, layer the bottom of your bin with twigs or hay. The idea here is to allow air pockets below the compost pile. When it comes to compost, ventilation is key.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
Tip 1: Use a smaller inside bin and have an extra small one for kids.
The trouble with your typical large outdoor compost bin is this: You make the most compostable mess at dinner time and when you’re just about to sit down to eat, no one wants to traipse outside in the dark to drop carrot ends in the compost. Especially if it’s at the far end of your lawn. The way around this is to keep a small bucket with a lid somewhere in your kitchen (or nearby) that you only need to empty once every few days.
If you have little ones in the house, one way to make composting more fun is to give the kids their own compost bin. Make this a small one that you keep somewhere they can reach so they can put their own apple cores or banana skins into it and learn how it works. Once they are big enough, they can even empty the indoor bins without your help!
Tip 2: Avoid putting meat, excessive bread and dairy products into your compost.
These food groups are more likely to attract unwanted visitors like rats and mice.
Tip 3: Turn it over every few weeks.
You can do this with a spade or a specialty compost turner (which looks like a big cork-screw). Basically the goal here is just to move the compost around so that it decomposes evenly and to let more air in. If you have a big compost bin this can take a bit of energy. It’s a great way to get some exercise in!
Tip 4: Start a planter-box
Once you’ve generated some compost, which can take 12-16 weeks or longer. Then you can just leave it in your compost bin, or you can put it to good use in a veggie garden or planter-box. If you don’t have space to build an outdoor veggie patch, it’s easy to set up large plastic tubs as planter-boxes on a deck or balcony. You don’t need a lot of space to grow beautiful salad greens or herbs.
Did you know – you can also compost pet hair (and human hair), ash from your fireplace, cardboard, fabric, and some teabags?
One of the cool parts of starting a compost bin is that your indoor (and outdoor) rubbish bin will no longer smell as bad. You’ll reduce the amount of rubbish you produce, and you’ll be improving the quality of the soil on your land. Making it easier to grow anything and everything.
Most importantly, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint and helping to make the world a better place.