What is composting?
Composting is nature’s own recycling system. It breaks organic matter down into its original nutrient form and then returns that valuable nourishment to the soil. By composting we give back some of the nutrients we have taken from our soil. Putting home-grown compost onto gardens also greatly reduces our dependence on chemicals, such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
The best way to reduce food and garden waste is to compost it. On average, about half of our household rubbish is food scraps, garden waste and other organic matter that can be composted, very easily. Compost returns nutrients to the soil and improves plant growth by:
- Bringing life back to the soil.
- Helping to break up heavy clay soils.
- Improving the soil’s capacity to hold water.
- Adding essential minerals to the soil.
Tips for better composting
Don’t throw away your kitchen scraps — add them to the compost pile. Kitchen scraps are typically high in nitrogen, which helps heat up the compost pile and speed up the composting process. Egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps are all outstanding materials to add.
If you’re composting with a compost pile, bigger is often better. Heat builds up with a big pile. You don’t want to get much bigger than about 1m x 1m x 1m.
Keep your compost aerated! If you are composting with a tumbling composter, make sure you turn it whenever you add new materials. If you are composting with a pile, or in a static (non-tumbling) compost bin, be sure to mix up the contents so that the pile gets oxygen and can break down effectively. You can do these every four to six weeks throughout the year.
Don’t let the compost completely dry out. A compost pile needs moisture to keep the composting process active. Don’t keep your compost too wet so that it gets soggy and starts to stink. Just as too dry is bad, too wet is also something that you should avoid.
Too much of any one material will slow down the composting process. If you have all leaves, all grass clippings or an overload of any other single type of material, it can throw off the balance of the pile. In general, it’s good to mix it with dry leaves, sticks and twigs, wood chips, sawdust, dried or dead plants, shredded newspaper and paper.