Making your own compost is easy and there are a variety of benefits. What could be more satisfying than giving your scraps a second life? This blog article will guide you through the do's and don'ts of composting.
How does compost work?
Once you create your compost heap, oxygen-breathing bacteria works to break down the material and excrete nutrients. As the individual pieces of material rot, the compost heap heats up and excelerates the rotting. Meanwhile, cooler living fungi and bacteria create a healthy cobweb-like growth whilst worms burrow away, helping convert the rubbish into soil.
The compost is ready for use when it looks black and feels just moist and crumbly.
What should I put into my compost heap?
There are a variety of items that you can use to help build your compost heap and we have listed some of the most common items found around the home.
Grass clippings: Our tip, grass clippings can be added but only when they are mixed with other, courser items otherwise the heap will become too hot and the grass clippings will just turn into a messy, green slime.
Pruning offcuts: Throw in your pruning offcuts but be sure to cut these up quite small.
Fallen leaves: These are great to include in your compost and they help clean up the garden! Keep in mind that leaves will rot slowly unless they are mixed with other compost material.
Weeds: Yes, you can include weeds in your compost but, be careful not to include any oxalis, onion weed or nutgrass bulbs.
Kitchen scraps: Food scraps are great to include in your compost pile, but we have a few tips on what to include. Be careful not to include lots of citrus peel or capsicum as these can upset the worms; potato peelings can also be a problem if the eyes sprout into a potato vine - best to leave these out of the mix; egg shells are great but ensure they are crused properly; and meat scraps can attract flies and rats, so best to avoid those too.
Straw: The smaller the pieces of straw, the better.
Manure: Manure is a great addition to your compost pile as it adds nitrogen and helps vegetable matter to rot. It is best if the manure is at least a few weeks old before it goes in.
Sawdust: This is the perfect addition to throw in with your manure so it acts like an activator.
Carpet fluff and hair: Did you know you can empty out the vacuum cleaner into your compost pile – genius! Just ensure your carpet is 100% natural fibre as synthetic fibres will not rot.
Ash: Ash from burnt wood (not coal) is useful.
Fertiliser: Throwing in any left-over organic fertiliser will always help the heap.
What shouldn't I put in my compost heap?
Now that we know exactly what to put into our compost heap, here are a few things that you should try to avoid.
Plastic, glass and metal: Ensure you pay close attention to this as these have a way of sneaking into the heap if you're not careful i.e. some packaging can be lined with aluminium foil.
Rubber: Avoid placing any type of rubber into the compost heap – it takes years to rot down.
Oils: Oil acts like a lacquer and will stop any fried food or dressed salad with oil from rotting.
Dairy foods: Not only can these foods smell and attract pests, but they can take a long time to decompose.
Cat litter: Cat poo actually has many nasty pathogens that may transfer to the compost. Best to leave the cat litter out of the mix.
Paper: Newspaper shredded small is okay if you throw in with some manure, but you should avoid glossy magazine paper as this rots too slowly.