Information On Composting

Composting is not a mysterious process and it is easy for anyone to try. You can recycle much of your waste and the result will be bigger, better and more crops and wonderful tasting vegetables.

Compost is one of the grower's most valuable commodities and the availability of a ready and generous supply will mean bigger and better vegetables and prolific growth of everything you plant.

For some reason, many gardeners feel that compost making is some mysterious process which only the initiated can undertake. In fact, it is relatively simple and enables you to recycle and use a lot of kitchen and garden waste that would, otherwise, find its way into landfills or rubbish dumps.

It is assumed that, like so many individuals, you have quite large amounts of waste each day and this article is aimed at you. If the amounts are very small then it is probably easier to make your compost in other ways and one of the most interesting is that using worms. Worms, specifically for this purpose, can be purchased from a number of places and, with a small indoor container, you can produce enough compost for your potting needs.

Where you have larger amounts of waste it is better to create some kind of contained composting centre and the different alternatives for these will be reviewed later in this article. First, though, we need to look at the composting process, as an understanding of how it works will make it a great deal easier to be successful in your composting endeavours.

It is first important to understand that composting takes place as a result of the feeding activity of certain living organisms. As they feed they also multiply and the process is, consequently, speeded up. There is, through the process of work, the generation of heat and this heat speeds up the process and can get high enough to actually kill diseases and weed seeds. There is then a second stage as those living organisms, that do not thrive well in the heat, take over as the pile cools. This group works on the tougher material that is in the heap.

Because there is the presence of these living organisms the compost heap needs to have a good supply of air, a degree of moisture and, of course, a constant supply of new ¡§food¡¨ material for the inhabitants of the pile. This is the very first principle to follow when creating and using a compost heap.


There are, on the market, a number of containers specifically produced for people who want to start and maintain a compost heap. These, however, are relatively expensive and, for those for whom cost is a key factor, it is quite easy to make one of your own.

There are some key requirements for a container as follows:

-It needs to be able to keep out the rain (a waterlogged pile has too little air for the organisms and cools below the level needed)

-It must also protect the pile from the drying effect of rain and sun

-It must help the pile to retain the generated heat

The contained compost heap also looks tidier and does not spread out all over the place.

The compost heap should be sited somewhere that is warm and sunny and sheltered from prevailing winds. It needs to offer you easy access and have room around it for a wheelbarrow etc.

A wooden box can be constructed by deciding on the dimensions you want (about 4"x4" is probably a good size) and driving four 4" x 4" posts into the ground at the required distances. On three sides you can have planking or a solid sheet but the front should be made up of individual planks that fit into a track attached to two of the corner posts. This will allow you easy access to the pile when it is ready to use. Finally, you need a lid to keep out the rain. This is better hinged with a hasp on the front so that it does not blow off in a high wind.

A cheaper method still is to put in the corner posts, use a wire mesh for the retaining "walls" and then line the inside with old carpet or cardboard.

The smart gardener will find many workable alternatives! One tip is to think in terms of making two smaller containers side by side so that, eventually, you will always have one that is ready and the other that is being built.

Almost anything can be put into your compost heap so long as you remember the first principle of air, moisture and a regular supply of food for the organisms that will be helping you.

Try to start the heap with some kind of material that has lots of stem like prunings or cabbage, Brussels sprouts stems. These maintain a good air supply and circulation at the base of the heap.

As you build up the pile you should be sure to make a good mix of both tough materials and those that are tender and juicy or sappy. Too much tough material will mean a very slow break down process and too much of the sappy will result in a slimy, wet heap. Avoid putting too much dense material on at one time. Grass cuttings, especially, can clog together and limit the air supply within the pile. Conversely, too much air helps to dry out the pile and this is not good either. You should, therefore, gently push down the material as you add it but avoid compressing it too much.

I have found that a square of old carpet, cut to the size of the box and placed on top of the pile, can help to retain the moisture and speed up the decomposition process.

The time from scraps and waste to the wonderful pest free, disease free, friable brown compost will differ according to a number of conditions. It will be much slower in winter (even though you will still feel a lot of heat in the climates with mild winters) or in a cool summer; it will be slower if your compost management is bad and you put in the wrong materials and so on. However, in a good summer and assuming that you follow the rules, you could have compost in a couple of months. The longer you leave it, the better and finer it will become.

There is a great sense of satisfaction whenever you use sweet smelling compost that you have made yourself. It will save you money, give you better crops and keep a lot of waste out of landfills and rubbish dumps.

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