Composting at home. A simple guide.
Australians are becoming more environmentally conscious, and want to look at new ways to reduce waste and one way to make a start is through composting. Compost is simply decayed organic matter — and "organic matter" is a pretty wide-ranging label. A twig can be organic matter, but so can a banana peel. When you mix a bunch of these items together in a compost pile, they break down naturally into a nutrient-rich fertiliser or soil compound that helps gardens grow.
Composting provides a solution for your home food waste that doesn't involve landfills or the rubbish bin. Keeping food out of landfills can help combat climate change and other issues.
It doesn't matter if you're in a suburban home or in a tiny apartment. You can turn your food waste into beautiful earthy compost with these simple steps.
Step 1 – Getting started
Before you start your composting journey, you will need to first decide on the location of your compost bin. You want your compost to be in a convenient location, that is protected from the wind, close to a water hose, and has a good drainage system so that the bottom of the pile does not turn soggy.
It’s a good idea to have both an indoor composting bin, and an outdoor bin. Your indoor bin must be leak proof and have a lid to avoid odours. This can sit on under your kitchen bench and collect all the food scraps from your kitchen, before being emptied in to your outdoor compost bin.
Outdoor compost bins are simple and easy. They help keep the scraps in a clean space without any mess or fuss. When choosing your outdoor bin, consider how much waste you think you will produce so that you have an idea of how large you want your bin to be.
Step 2 – What to put in your bin
Ingredients for composting can be classified into two different categories – brown and green materials. Green materials include any grass clippings, fruit & vegetable scraps or peelings, coffee grounds etc. and brown material includes dried leaves, newspaper, wood chips, sawdust etc. The brown material acts as your dry material and is rich in carbon, while your green material is usually of a high moisture content and is rich in nitrogen.
An adequate supply of both brown and green material is needed by the microbes responsible for decomposition in your composting bin. As a rule, you should mix one-part green materials to two parts brown materials.
Green: Vegetable and fruit scraps (fresh, cooked, or canned), coffee grounds/filters, tea leaves/bags, garden waste, fresh weeds without seeds, fresh grass clippings.
Brown: Dry leaves, straw, dry hay, sawdust, woodchips, dried grass clippings, dried weeds without seeds, shredded paper napkins, tissue paper
Do Not Compost: Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oily foods, bones, plants infected with disease, plastic/petroleum products, metals, synthetic materials.
Step 3 – The Process
The microbes begin feeding on the materials you’ve provided, and your bin or pile will actually start to rise in temperature.
To start building up your pile ready for the composting process there are a few things to note:
Start your composting with a large layer of brown material as the base
Then begin to alternate your layers between green and brown
The smaller the waste is, the easier and faster it will break down.
Always cover your green layer with a brown layer immediately, as it avoids any odours.
To speed up the breaking-down action, you will need to turn the pile and mix the content with a pitchfork, or something around the home. Alternatively compost tumblers are a quick and convenient way to aerate your compost with a simple spin action.
Step 4 – Reap the Benefits
The benefits of composting are endless, and not only does it help your household and garden, but it has a big impact on the planet as well. Here are just a few benefits of composting, if you weren’t already sold on the idea.
It improves soil structure in all soils, which then improves water retention and is great for your garden
It nourishes the microbes that protect against some plant diseases
It saves you money, that you no longer have to spend on purchasing compost from the store
It reduces the amount of food waste that goes to landfill, which in turn reduces the amount of methane produced, a unique and damaging by-product of food break down in landfills which is avoided in dedicated compost scenarios
It reduces the need for damaging pesticides and fertilisers
It's good for the environment!
See our top picks for composting units to suit any budget: