Ever wanted to save some money on gardening?
Creating your own compost heap doesn’t only help you create a lovely garden, but it also helps to reduce the massive amount of waste that ends up in the UK landfills. By making your own compost, you can lower your gardening budget and reduce waste at the same time!
With the use of your kitchen scraps and other rubbish, you can come up with your own organic fertiliser for your garden. Composting is a great way to put waste to good use, especially for families that often have excess food that eventually goes to trash bins.
It’s also a great way to conserve the environment as organic wastes contain some of the most powerful nutrients that you can provide your garden with. You can even use this compost within a greenhouse, in order to further help your plants, vegetables, fruits and herbs grow to their full potential!
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a successful compost pile for your garden.
Creating a Compost
How Long Will It Take?
Compost can be made all year round and takes about 6 months to be produced from when you start.
What Do I Need?
- A compost bin with a lid
- Old plant waste
- Kitchen waste (raw, and no meat)
- Old pet bedding (if available!)
How Do I Do It?
- Help your children set up the compost bin, ensuring that it is placed on the ground and not on concrete, and is nice and steady.
- Have fun filling the bin up with dead leaves and mulch, green waste from the garden, old plants, fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, the contents from rodent/bird cages when they are cleaned out.
- Now sprinkle some soil on the top.
- Put the lid on the bin, and cover the top with an old square of carpet (a doormat works well) to keep the heat in. Leave it alone until you are ready to add to it with more waste.
- After 3 or 4 months remove the carpet and lid to investigate, help your kids to dig the compost over. They should be able to feel how warm it is at the bottom as you turn the compost! Then replace the lid and leave it to mulch down further.
- When the compost at the bottom of your bin is brown and crumbly, it is ready to dig into your garden – your plants will love you for it!
- This will definitely need some adult strength to lift the compost bin, decide on a good place to put it in your garden and dig it over every few months. Make it the children’s job to remember to save the fruit and vegetable waste and fill the bin up at the end of every week.
- Encourage children to take charge of this task and learn which kitchen leftovers can be added.
- Don’t add cooked food to the bin – it can attract rodents!
- Allow your children to take the temperature of the compost at the bottom of the bin – they will be amazed at the heat it produces!
Ten Steps to Create Your Own Compost Heap
When starting to build a compost heap, there are only three main ingredients to keep in mind – water, browns and greens. The ‘browns’ refer to tree matters such as dead leaves and twigs, while the greens can consist of grass clippings, food waste and coffee grounds. However, food waste shouldn’t include any meat, dairy, or bread as they’ll rot and invite pests.
It’s pretty easy to build your own compost heap throughout the year, but late summer to early winter is the best time to do it. You can also compost both indoors and outdoors, although outdoor composting can be quite complicated and will require extra maintenance.
Remember that a compost heap shouldn’t be an alternative to the soil, it’s just an additive that makes the soil richer and healthier.
1. Use a Pile Instead of a Container
Compost bins are readily available on the market, but you can opt not to use one, to begin with!
Forget about plastic compost bins and start using an open pile or container to promote sustainable gardening. To keep out the pests and preserve the heat, use enclosed storages instead.
Take note: don’t cover your container at the bottom – the compost should be directly touching the ground. Additionally, make sure to look for one with the right size. It should fit everything you’ll need to dispose of, but it doesn’t need to be too big either.
What’s the best place to place your container? Put in a grassy and relatively shady part of your garden.
2. Branches and Twigs for Your Base
For the base, you can pile tree branches and twigs at the bottom of the container. This technique will allow air to enter from below. Aside from aerating your pile, using branches and twigs will also help drain your compost well.
3. Balance out the Nitrogen, Carbon, Water and Air
After stacking up the course materials, apply one of the major keys to successful composting — balancing out the nitrogen, carbon, water and air. This is the key to successful composting.
Nitrogen can be found in green organic materials while carbons in brown substances.
4. Chop Any Big Chunks Into Fine Articles
Before putting everything in the container, make sure to chop or break up any big chunks into fine particles. Then, simply alternate a layer of greens and browns on top of your base to create a successful compost heap.
If you want your compost heap to be successful, make sure to include grass clippings, leafy plants as well as hedge trimmings and twigs.
5. Include Only the Best Ingredients
Not all food waste can be added into the mixture. For an efficient compost heap, make sure you only combine the best ingredients.
Best Compost Ingredients
- dried leaves
- tea leaves
- grass clippings
- old wine
- coffee grounds
- used pet bedding (from omnivores only – like rabbits and hamsters etc.)
- dust from sweeping and vacuuming
- dry cat or dog food
- old herbs and spices
- shredded newspaper
- hair (human and animals)
- wine corks
Did you know that fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal, coffee ground and peelings can all be broken down on the compost heap? This also helps lessen the amount of your waste your household produces.
Glossy magazines don’t make for good compost. However, the thin printed paper is good for the pile. Shredding it first is the best option to break them down faster.
You can put used paper towels in the compost, but only if they’ve been used to mop up food spillages. To avoid any possible contamination, it is best to put them straight in the bin, especially if they’ve been used with any type of chemical.
A pet’s hair and nail clippings can also be used in composting. In fact, a human’s hair can too! Be mindful that as long as the nails are free from nail polish, they’re good to go.
6. Avoid Adding Rotting and Processed Food
It’s also worth noting the materials you should avoid adding into the pile. Meat, dairy products, and bread should not be included in your compost heap as these foods rot and attract pests to the pile.
High-processed foods are also not an ideal addition to it because they take longer to break down – which goes the same way when they’re inside your body.
7. Bury New Scraps Under the Old Pile
Once you’re done, you can regularly add new scraps to your compost heap. But instead of just tossing them on top, it’s recommended to bury them under the old pile.
This way, the decomposing old pile can help the new scraps to start decomposing faster.
8. Aerate the Pile
Maintaining your compost heap is an easy task but does require a little maintenance. Simply use a spade or shovel to mix all the materials around and aerate the pile slightly.
Do it around once a week to keep all the nutrients balanced around the compost.
9. Pour Some Water
Once you notice the pile is getting a little dry, pour some water to moisten it a bit. During really hot days, you should consider covering your pile so that it can still retain the moisture.
10. Ready to Use
After a few months, your compost should be ready to use. To make sure it’s completely broken down, it should have turned into a dark brown colour.
Take note that the bottom should also have an almost soil-like texture, and it should have an earthy smell and is warm to the touch. Then, continue composting on a regular basis and make it one of your dirt cheap gardening techniques!
Dos and Don’ts to Making the Perfect Organic Pile
- Use as many fruits and veggies as possible
- Remember to use non-food items
- Moisturise the pile
- Turn it often
- Leave it uncovered
- Compact the pile
- Use meat, fish or dairy products
- Use pet faeces