Your compost needs a home
Once you've decided how to contain your organic gardening compost, where do you put it?
If you put in it the SUN, this will help it break down quicker but it will also dry it out so you will need to ensure it is kept moist.
If you put your compost in the SHADE it may take longer to break down but will not dry out as quickly.
So if you have a suitable Semi-Shaded position – this would be a good option.
You need various ingredients to make the perfect Organic Gardening Compost. All of your raw kitchen scraps except meat and dairy can go into your compost heap. Add your egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds too. This isn’t enough to make great compost though.
You will need to add other ingredients to ensure it gets all of its nutrients (carbon and nitrogen) that is required to do it’s job.
You'll need some "brown" Carbon ingredients;
- shredded newspaper.
If possible put leaves and twigs through a mulcher or mow over with a lawn mower. The smaller the particles, the quicker they will break down.
Your "green" Nitrogen items are;
- kitchen scraps
- grass clippings
- horse, cow, sheep, chicken manures (not cat, dog or pig manure)
- weeds (be careful here, no noxious weeds, weeds with seeds or diseased plants)
There are many variations on the ratios of Brown to Green. I've read 30:1, 3:1, 2:1, equal quantities and my favourite – just throw it all in! Too much brown will cause the material to break down too slowly, while too much green will cause the compost to smell.
A reminder of what not to add:
- you can add a little wood ash but not too much
- cooked food
- dirty nappies or tissues
- coloured or treated paper (no magazines)
- meat and dairy
Layer upon layer of compost!
Layering method: Start with a layer of leaves, then add some "green ingredients" (grass clippings and kitchen waste) until you have about six-inches, cover with three to six inches of soil, manure, or compost. Alternate these layers until the pile is about three feet tall.
Don't panic, it doesn’t have to get technical you can just keep adding stuff to your pile, you'll still get great compost.
Are you going to add Manure to your Compost?
Never use fresh manure directly on or in your veggie patch.
If you add manure to your compost, it will have to heat correctly to ensure it is safe when you get to eat your veggies. If you are concerned about this, you can do some extra research.
How do you "look after" your compost?
Your organic gardening Compost heap is alive – full of of fungi, bacteria and microorganisms - these work to break down the compost.
- moisture (keep it moist, not wet),
- oxygen (turn it every other week or if using a compost bin – put your garden fork in to aerate it), and
- heat to keep your compost healthy (destroy pathogens and nasties).
So how long will it take before you can use your compost?
That depends on what you have in the compost, the heat it is getting, the time of year (things slow down in winter). It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months or longer.
Putting in items that take a long time to break down, like branches, sawdust or shavings, and autumn leaves will slow down the process.
To speed up the process you can add an activator: comfrey leaves, young weeds (no seeds) grass cuttings, manure. Don't add too much or you compost will get smelly.
My compost is ready – what now?
It’s best to dig your compost into your organic vegetable garden 2 to 4 weeks prior to planting your veggies. You can add it any time of year.
Don’t forget your other plants. Think of your compost as a soil conditioner! Compost makes a great mulch to put around your plants in the garden.
* Your compost heap should not smell; if it does you need to turn it more, make sure it is not too wet, and add some extra “brown” carbon ingredients.