Any seasoned gardener will tell you that healthy soil is the foundation of a productive garden. When soil is improved with compost it becomes alive with beneficial worms and microorganisms.
Compost is an essential ingredient for creating rich, friable soil while also increasing its ability to retain water. Composting is a simple way to turn organic waste into rich fertiliser for your garden. The two most common methods used by home gardeners are worm farms and compost bins.
Worm farms are very compact and do not require a lot of space, making them ideal for those who live in an apartment or smaller space. They can be placed on a balcony, in a courtyard or even inside. With proper care and attention, worm farms will not omit any odours. Worms will eat most fruit and vegetable scraps however citrus and onions should be avoided at all costs.
Worms eat the organic waste and turn it into liquid and worm castings (the organic material that has been digested by the worms). Both of these products can be used in your garden. The liquid should be diluted with water until it is the colour of weak tea so that it doesn’t burn your plants. This liquid is common referred to as ‘worm tea’; it is a highly effective organic liquid fertilizer.
Worm farms, however, are only able to take a limited amount of vegetable scraps which may not be enough for large families. In addition, they are also not suitable for composting large amounts of garden waste. Those living in larger houses with larger gardens could find a compost bin being the better option. For those who are brave with enough waste and space, both a worm farm and a compost heap could be used.
To begin composting you will need to either purchase a compost bin or build your own.
Compost bins should ideally be placed on bare earth in a position that receives full sun. Start the composting process by layering the base of the bin with about 20-30 cm of carbon material topped with a few shovels of rich soil or existing compost. Following this, the composting layers may be added alternating carbon and nitrogen materials.
Carbon materials include dry leaves, sticks, twigs and newspaper. Nitrogen materials include fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves and lawn clippings. It is not advisable to add any diseased plant material, meat, dairy products or bread as this will negatively affect the compost and render it unsuitable for use.
Placing a lid on the compost will speed up the decomposition process and mixing it regularly will help aerate the mixture assisting the aerobic (using oxygen) breakdown. Compost is ready when it is a dark brown colour and smells earthy, which usually takes around 6-8 weeks to fully mature.
Composting is not only beneficial for soil - it’s also green recycling at its finest:
REDUCING - The amount of waste going into landfill and thus lowering greenhouse gas levels
REUSING – Turning organic material into a rich fertilizer
RECYCLING – Incorporating compost into your gardens beds
Whichever method you chose you’ll be helping to create not only a greener garden and but a cleaner planet too.