Keep Calm and Compost Naturally at Home - Why It’s Worth It & How to Get Started.
If you love gardening or the environment, it must hurt to throw away all that vegetal matter when it could be recycled easily into your backyard.
Read on to find out why it makes perfect sense to compost and how you can take the first simple steps to make it work in your own backyard…
What is Compost & Composting?
Compost is any mixture of organic material that has been decomposed enough to form a nutrient rich, dirt-like material. It will help your plants take root and grow.
Composting is a natural way to recycle organic material. You can help nature to decompose organic material into compost by setting up ideal conditions and materials to speed up the process.
Why Composting Makes Sense
Composting makes sense as long as you have the space and the means.
Cut down on waste disposal costs
Did you know that leftover food scraps and garden cuttings together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away?
Reduce harmful impacts on the environment
- You get to reduce the amount of landfill by recycling your plant based organic material. Organic waste material in landfills releases methane which can increase greenhouse emissions and lead to more global warming. You’ll be helping in the fight against climate change!
- Did you know that compost helps to reduce soil erosion? It can bind soil together, increasing infiltration of water and air, and also slows the surface flow of water by absorption. This also means it mitigates against stormwater flow.
Save yourself a fortune
Over time you can reduce your need to buy compost for your garden.
Plants love it!
It is a natural fertilizer so it’s great for growing and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers as well.
The fact that compost improves soil structure and absorbs water makes it good at keeping your plants hydrated and helps with drought resistance.
By making the soil healthier. You’ll find that plants can be more disease and pest-resistant.
Get Started with Compost Basics
It is essential to ensure the right organic composting ingredients are being used. Do note that when adding the ‘Brown’ or ‘Green’ matter - ensure that you have chopped up the ingredients into small pieces to speed up the decomposition process.
Brown Organic Matter
The main organic material includes brown matter that will help provide carbon for your compost. It includes any of the following.
- Dead leaves & dried flowers
- Small branches, and twigs
- Wood chips, sawdust & mulch
- Shredded newspaper, cardboard & paper
- Fireplace ashes but not charcoal or coal ash
- Hair and fur
- Dried pine needles
- Compostable plastic and paper packaging e.g., egg cartons
Make sure your yard trimmings are note already treated with chemical pesticides as this will infect your plant health if transferred from the compost
Green Organic Matter
You will need nitrogen-rich materials such as the leftover food and green cuttings such as vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. The green matter plays a role in providing nitrogen in the decomposition process
- Grass clippings and house plant trimmings
- Fruit & vegetable scraps and wastes
- Coffee grounds & filters & tea bags
- Egg & nut shells
- Bread & wheats
Use Water in Composting
Water is an essential ingredient providing moisture. You will need access to water to moisten dry materials before adding them in. Your pile should therefore feel damp but not so saturated that it will be dripping if squeezed. This will help break down the organic matter.
What NOT TO INCLUDE in Composting
Suffice it to say, as you are in the business of creating healthy soil the last thing you want to do is to add anything that will damage your garden e.g. diseased or infected plants. The wrong plant matter may release toxins that are harmful to plants.
You must also stay clear of meat, fat based or dairy products as these items may attract pests such as rodents and flies and will make the place smell bad.
Meat or fecal matter may also contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses that are also harmful to humans and not just plants.
And of course, no non-organic matter.
Here is a good indicator of what you mustn’t include in your compost pile
- Plants infected with disease or insects
- Ivy & pernicious weeds
- Poisonous plants such as black walnut tree leaves or twigs
- Feces (from any animal)
- Non-compostable plastics
- Hazardous chemicals & cleaning supplies
- Plastics & glass
- Dairy products, Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Meat or fish bones and scraps*
NB: Most biodegradable bags aren't compostable or can only be composted at industrial composting facilities.
How to Make a Compost Pile in Your Backyard
Where to Locate your Compost Pile
When setting up your compost pile or bin, pick a shady spot with access to a water source.
How to Build Your Compost Pile
- Start by adding the ‘brown and ‘green’ organic materials ideally in equal amounts and alternate layers into the compost pile
- Also make sure you add different sized organic ingredients in alternate layers
- Once you have a substantial pile , use your pitchfork to mix in grass clippings and other ‘green’ matter
- Be sure to embed the more soggy fruit and vegetable waste under at least 30 cm of compost material
- You may want to cover the top of the compost pile with a drop cloth or tarp to prevent moisture from evaporating
Maintaining Your Compost Pile
It’s a bit like tending a fire.
- Add Oxygen: Composting and decomposition is an aerobic process, this means you will need to aerate your compost pile in order to introduce oxygen to the organic material. You’ll need a pitchfork to regularly turn over the pile in order to create airflow. This is applicable to smaller piles in backyards
- Keep it Warm: turning your pile will also help keep the temperature higher by generating heat
- In our temperate climate you will likely be cultivating a cold pile - it can take 6 months to 3 years to finish composting and should not include weeds, meat or dairy
Harvesting Compost from Your Pile
- When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years
- Here’s a tip: If it smells bad like landfill, it probably means it's not decomposing and can be too soggy. You want to reach a nice woody earthy almost sour smell. The end result should be fluffy in texture and soil-like
For more information on Composting or using a composting bin you can also checkout info from the Composting Association of Ireland
Check out our Gardening Catalogue
- Water hose with spray head attachment
- If you decide to compost within a compost bin instead of a pile , consider a 220L Composter