Simple Guide to Composting

Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and promote healthy soil. By turning kitchen scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost, you can significantly enrich your soil, improve the health and vitality of your plants and support a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Understanding what materials can and cannot be composted is crucial for creating effective compost. Here’s a quick guide:

Compostable Materials
(Greens and Browns)

Greens (Nitrogen-rich materials):

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fruit peels
  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Eggshells (crushed)

Browns (Carbon-rich materials):

  • Fallen leaves
  • Straw and hay
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Egg boxes
  • Sawdust (from untreated wood)
  • Twigs and small branches

Non-Compostable Materials

  • Meat and dairy products (can attract pests and produce odours)
  • Oils and fats
  • Diseased plants
  • Pet waste
  • Weeds that have gone to seed
  • Non-biodegradable materials (plastic, glass, metal)
  • Treated wood

Tools for Composting

Proper tools make it easier to manage your compost pile, ensuring it stays healthy and productive.

Essential Composting Tools

  1. Secateurs and Pruners: Perfect for trimming small branches and stems, making it easy to add garden waste to your compost bin.
  2. Loppers: Ideal for cutting thicker branches, helping you manage larger garden waste.
  3. Hedge Shears: Great for shaping hedges and shrubs, and the clippings can go straight into the compost.
  4. Shovels and Pitchforks: Essential for turning and aerating your compost pile, which is crucial for speeding up the decomposition process and preventing odours.
  5. Compost Thermometer: Helps monitor the temperature of your compost pile to ensure it’s decomposing properly.

Organise Your Compost Materials

Collecting Greens: Store your fruit and vegetable scraps in a closed container. You can keep this container on your kitchen counter, under the sink, or in the fridge or freezer.
Storing Browns: Designate a space outside to stockpile your carbon-rich materials like leaves, twigs, and other brown materials. This will ensure you have a steady supply to mix with your food scraps for optimal composting.

Composting Methods

Piling – involves heaping compostable materials into a simple pile and turning them periodically to ensure proper aeration. You can place your pile in the sun or shade, although sunshine will speed up the composting process.
Composting Bins – come in two main types: open and enclosed. These bins can be DIY projects or purchased from a store.
– Open Bins: These partial structures allow for ventilation and aeration. They typically have one side that is easily accessible, making it simple to add materials and turn the pile.
– Enclosed Bins: These bins have a lid to completely enclose the compost materials, reducing both sight and smell.

Follow These Steps to Start Composting:

  1. Choose Your Spot: Select a spot in your garden that is easily accessible but not too close to your home. The location should have good drainage and partial shade to help regulate the temperature and moisture levels in the compost bin. Avoid placing it right up against a fence and ensure there is a water source nearby.
  2. Build a Base: Clear a patch of bare soil and lay down a few inches of straw or twigs to ensure good drainage.
  3. Layer Your Materials: Add compostable materials in layers, alternating between brown (carbon-rich) and green (nitrogen-rich) materials. Try to chop and break them up into smaller pieces, as doing so will help the materials in the pile break down faster. When adding your browns and greens to the compost pile, aim for two to three times more browns (like dry leaves) than greens (like food scraps). Make sure to cover your food scraps with a good 10cm to 20cm of dry leaves or other brown materials.
  4. Moisten the Pile: Keep your compost pile as moist as a damp sponge. It should be wet enough to feel damp, but not so wet that water can be squeezed out from it.
  5. Turn the Pile: Every couple of weeks, turn your compost pile with a pitchfork. This aerates the pile, providing oxygen to the microbes that break down the materials and helps the center of the pile heat up. Turning your compost pile helps speed up decomposition and improves aeration. Use a garden fork to move the outer layers of the pile to the center.

If you maintain your compost pile properly, it will be ready to use in about three to five months. However, if left unattended, it may take up to a year to fully decompose. Finished compost will be dark, loose, and crumbly, with a pleasant earthy smell. Most of the original materials should be fully decomposed. To ensure your compost is ready for use, screen or sift it to remove any remaining materials that didn’t break down, such as twigs, fruit pips, eggshells, etc.

By incorporating composting into your gardening routine, you’ll be contributing to a healthier environment while reaping the benefits of nutrient-rich soil for your plants. Happy composting!



DISCLAIMER:  The information presented on this website is intended solely as a general guide. We neither endorse specific plant varieties over others nor claim expertise in stock performance. All information is believed to be accurate, based on private inquiries and experiences, and is provided in good faith. Blackwood’s, including its employees, disclaims any responsibility for harm, loss, cost, or damage arising from the use or reliance upon any information on this website, especially if any part of the information proves to be inaccurate or incomplete. Please note that the displayed photos are not representative of current stock but are used for illustrative purposes only.