How to Start Composting at Home
Composting is one of the most popular ways to reduce waste and give your garden some rich soil that is packed with much-needed nutrients. Creating a DIY compost bin is simple, cost-effective and doesn’t take up much space.
Before you get started with your own compost bin, it is important to understand the basics of composting, including the different types of compost bins and what you should or shouldn’t be putting in your compost.
The Basics of Composting
Garden compost is made up of decomposed organic waste, particularly fruit and vegetable scraps left over from the kitchen. Depending on the type of compost bin you create, you will have a steady supply of nutrient-packed fertiliser to help your plants thrive within a few months to just under a year.
When making a compost bin, people generally use materials such as wood or recycled polypropylene, depending on the specific type of bin. You can also buy a purpose-made bin from your local hardware store, particularly in the case of a tumbler bin.
In most cases, it is recommended to have your container placed directly on the ground, in contact with natural soil. Microorganisms and larger organisms such as millipedes and earthworms dwell in the soil below your compost, speeding up the process of breaking down your composting materials.
Once you have your compost container set up, it is time to start adding materials. Good compost involves alternating layers between “brown” materials that are high in carbon, such as dried leaves and twigs, and nitrogen-rich “green” materials, including grass clippings, fruit scraps and plant trimmings. You can also add some enhancements to each layer, such as garden lime or a compost maker, which will speed up the composting process and deter flies.
Alternate between your “brown” and “green” layers, keeping the ratio even. Once you have enough layers, add water and cover your compost. For the best results, turn your compost over with a pitchfork every week.
Types of Compost Bins
There are four main options for gardeners looking to get started with DIY compost; which is best for you will depend on how much waste you intend to compost and the available space.
Square or Round Bin
A basic square or round compost bin can be made at home using recycled polypropylene, a strong and durable plastic. You can also purchase these compost bins in a range of sizes at hardware stores. These bins are resistant to general wear and weathering, while also being lightweight and compact.
Wooden compost bins often look more like crates than traditional bins. These bins are easy to put together and allow you to more directly combine your compost with the soil beneath it, given they have no base. This combines the benefits of having a compost bin with a more natural solution, allowing nutrients, air and moisture to assist with your composting needs.
A DIY compost tumbler bin is ideal for small gardens and can even be placed on concrete. One of the easiest and quickest ways to get your compost started, a tumbler bin involves loading the raised bin with your material and turning it with the crank every few days. Due to the materials being regularly mixed, decomposition happens sooner, giving you rich compost in six to twelve weeks.
Other benefits of the tumbler bin include not having to layer the materials and not needing to rely on earthworms and microorganisms to help speed up the decomposition process.
Building your own compost structure, or deciding not to have one altogether and simply making a heap on the ground, is also an option. However, it is important to remember that a dedicated compost bin will help prevent animals from getting into your compost, as well as reduce odours. A simple compost heap will also take longer to decompose.
What Can I Put in My Compost Bin?
It is important to be aware of what you can and can’t put in your compost bin if you want the materials to properly decompose. Generally, cutting up waste into smaller pieces will help it decompose faster.
What You Can Compost
- Vegetable and fruit waste
- Tea leaves
- Coffee granules
- Grass cuttings and plant offcuts
- Crushed eggshells
You can also add fallen leaves, cardboard such as egg boxes (without any labels) and paper that has been scrunched up. These will provide your compost with the necessary fibre and carbon to thrive.
What You Can’t Compost
- Dairy products
- Dog or cat waste
- Diseased plants
- Onions (unless using a tumbler bin)
- Man-made objects such as plastic, glass or metal
Compost Experts at Park Road Timber and Hardware
Starting your own compost bin is one of the easiest ways to enhance your garden, thanks to the rich fertiliser composting can produce. If you need any assistance getting your compost started, the team at Park Road Timber and Hardware is here to help.