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Composting your food scraps and garden waste will reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill and the associated release of methane, a particularly strong greenhouse gas. You can use the compost on your garden to improve your soils and fertilise your plants.
If you don't have space to compost at home, see if there are people in your community who compost or keep chickens—you might be able to give your food scraps and garden waste to them.
- Create a free source of garden fertiliser
- Re-use waste instead of putting it in the bin
- Reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by landfill
At a glance
- Savings 1
- Ease 2
- Impact 3
You can make your own compost bin from timber planks, bricks, roofing or even a simple wire enclosure.
- When choosing a position, think about how much waste you have and how much compost you will make.
- Look for a sunny position on open ground. The heap needs to be hot to eliminate pests and weeds. Earthworms need to be able to get in and out to aerate the soil and escape the heat.
- Make sure your heap is in a spot where it's easy to get your wheelbarrow in and out.
- It's better to build an open compost heap all at once to make sure that all the organic matter 'ripens' together. To assist the composting process cover with hay, straw, cardboard, hessian or old carpet.
You can buy a ready-made compost bin. They come in various styles to suit different circumstances.
- Enclosed bins are good for limited space, are low maintenance but this means slower composting.
- Rolling bins can be rolled to and from your yard waste, aerating the compost as you go. They can be difficult to roll when full.
- Composting tumblers are good for homes with limited space and compost quickly. Once the bin is full and the process begins you have to wait before adding new materials.
- Worm bins (farms) are great for small spaces indoors or outdoors.
Compost bins work best with a lid or cover to keep pets, rats and mice out of the compost, while keeping the moisture in.
Healthy compost needs a mixture of different materials.
- Collect about three-quarters carbon-rich organic materials such as dry leaves, broken up twigs, dried grass clippings, shredded paper and straw.
- Collect about one-quarter nitrogen-rich organic material such as fruit and vegetable peelings, leftover food (not meat or dairy), fresh lawn clippings, fresh leaves, weeds and fresh manure.
- When you have collected these ingredients you are ready to make them into compost.
Create your compost in layers.
- Firstly put down a thick layer (15 centimetres) of twigs or coarse mulch at the base for drainage and to help let air into the base.
- Add a layer of dried carbon-rich material (see compost ingredients above).
- Add a layer of moist nitrogen-rich material (see compost ingredients above).
- Add enough water to wet the materials without soaking them.
- Repeat the layers until your compost bin is full or your materials used up.
- Cover the compost with a lid, straw, hay, hessian, cardboard or old carpet.
- Leave the compost for a few weeks (longer in cold weather). It should initially heat up (which starts to break down the materials) then cool down.
- Every week or so turn the compost to add air and check it is moist.
- If your compost smells, it's probably not getting enough air. Add more carbon materials (see compost ingredients above) and turn it over with a garden fork to add air.
Compost is ready to use when all ingredients have broken down and it looks like deep brown, rich and sweet smelling soil.
Use your compost to feed your plants, top dress your lawn, improve your soil and as a base for starting another compost heap.
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Minimise food waste as it costs you money and impacts on the environment.
A worm farm turns organic waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser for your plants and soils.
Chickens eat scraps, provide eggs and help reduce kitchen and food waste.