4 steps to top compost

The best way to dispose of your organic waste is to compost it. Companies have been busy developing composting systems to suit even the tiniest space, so there is no excuse to continue throwing food and other organics into the garbage bin. Here’s how to create your own compost heap.

1. Get your blend right Compost piles need a balance of high nitrogen (greens) and high carbon (brown) materials to break down efficiently. Greens include kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, weeds, garden trimmings, coffee grounds, tea leaves and cow, sheep, horse, goat or poultry manure (never add dog or cat droppings). Brown materials include straw, dry leaves, dry lawn clippings, wood chips, wood shavings and shredded cardboard or paper. Generally, a brown to green ratio of 4:1 (by volume) is recommended. To maintain a good balance, add some browns every time you add your greens.

2. Chop up materials Chopping or chipping materials into small pieces increases their surface area, so it’s easier for microbes to break them down.

3. Aerate your pile The microbes that break down organic matter need air. When your heap starts to slump, turn over the pile with a garden fork to aerate it. You can also insert a long piece of PVC pipe with holes drilled in the side to help draw air deep into the pile.

4. Manage moisture Microbes need moisture, too, but not too much. To test whether your compost needs extra water, squeeze a handful. It should feel just moist not dripping wet. Covering the pile with cardboard or a hessian sack will help hold moisture in, too. If you have days of heavy rain, it’s worth covering with a tarp to stop it getting too wet. A compost pile with a lot of green material may also be too wet. If that’s the case, mix through some additional brown materials to regain balance.

To learn more about different methods of composting, check out the January issue, out now.