If you’re looking for an easy and effective way to recycle your organic waste while also enriching your soil, composting is the way to go. Not only is composting an eco-friendly way to manage your household waste, but it’s also a great way to give your garden a nutrient boost.
If you’re new to composting, it can be hard to know where to start. From understanding the different composting methods to identifying acceptable materials, we’ll cover everything you need to start composting at home.
Getting started with composting in Australia
Why composting is important for the environment and your garden
Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic matter such as food scraps, garden waste, and even pet waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. By composting, you’re helping to reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Composting also helps to enrich your soil with nutrients, which can lead to healthier plants and better yields.
What materials you need to start composting at home
Starting a compost pile at home is easier than you might think. To begin, you’ll need a few basic materials, including:
1. A compost bin or tumbler
You can choose to make your compost pile directly on the ground or in a bin. There are many different types of compost bins and tumblers available which you can find at your local hardware store (Bunnings, Mitre 10 or Home & Hardware), ranging from simple DIY designs to larger, commercial models.
A compost tumbler is a more advanced method of composting. It involves placing organic waste in a rotating drum, which accelerates the composting process by providing oxygen and mixing the materials. Tumblers are ideal for those who want to produce compost quickly and have a larger amount of organic waste to compost.
2. Organic waste (green waste)
This includes food scraps, garden waste, and other organic matter. You will need a mix of organic materials, including “green” waste, such as fruit and vegetable scraps.
3. Carbon-rich materials (brown waste)
Also known as “brown” waste, this includes things like dried leaves, wood chips, newspaper, and cardboard.
4. A shovel or pitchfork
Any shovel or pitchfork can be used to turn the compost and aerate it. Air is a crucial part of the composting process and a stagnant compost bin can result in the organic waste breaking down poorly and unevenly.
Compost needs to be moist to help naturally break down the organic waste and materials properly. Adding water to your compost bin or tumbler is required to speed up the composting process.
Choosing the best composting method for beginners
When choosing a composting method, it’s important to consider factors such as the size of your household, the amount of organic waste you produce, and how much time and effort you’re willing to put in. Some methods, such as worm farming, may not be suitable for larger households or those with limited outdoor space. A compost bin or tumbler may be a better option for beginners.
Bin composting involves creating a contained compost pile using a commercial or DIY compost bin. This method is ideal for households with limited space or for those who want to keep their compost pile contained and tidy. Bin composting can be done with or without worms, depending on the type of bin you use.
Tumbler composting involves using a commercial or DIY compost tumbler to create a contained compost pile that can be rotated easily. This method is ideal for households with limited space or for those who want a quick and easy composting process.
Worm farming involves using a worm bin to create a compost pile that is rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. This method is ideal for households with limited space or for those who want to produce high-quality compost quickly.
Composting best practices
1. Adding in organic matter that is compostable
When it comes to composting, the general rule is that you can compost anything that was once alive. This includes but is not limited to:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Grass clippings
- Leaves and twigs
- Shredded paper and cardboard
- Pet hair and fur
- Sawdust and wood chips
- Pet waste (excluding dog or cat waste)
2. Keeping it balanced between green and brown waste
The success of your compost pile depends on achieving and maintaining a proper balance between “green” waste, which is nitrogen-rich, and “brown” waste, which is carbon-rich. Achieving this balance will help to promote healthy decomposition and keep your compost pile from becoming too wet or too dry.
When composting, it’s important to maintain an optimal balance between “green” waste (nitrogen-rich) and “brown” waste (carbon-rich). The ideal ratio is roughly 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. A good rule of thumb (and what this means in reality) is 2 to 4 parts brown materials for every 1 part green materials. of green to brown materials.
Green waste includes fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds, while brown waste includes dried leaves, wood chips, and shredded paper.
Carbon-rich materials include things like shredded paper, cardboard, and dried leaves, while nitrogen-rich materials include things like food scraps, grass clippings, and manure.
3. Regularly maintaining your compost bin
Regular maintenance is key to ensuring that your compost pile stays healthy and productive. Turning the pile regularly helps to mix the materials and aerate the pile, which promotes faster decomposition. Monitoring the temperature of the pile is also important, as composting generates heat as it breaks down.
Common mistakes people make when composting
1. Adding in things that should not be composted
One of the biggest mistakes is adding meat scraps, dairy products, or other materials that can attract pests and rodents.
2. There are some things that should not be composted
- Meat, fish, and bones – these can attract pests and rodents and also produce unpleasant odours.
- Dairy products – these can also attract pests and rodents and can cause the pile to spoil.
- Diseased plants – these can spread diseases to healthy plants.
- Weeds with seeds – these can sprout in your compost pile and create new weeds in your garden.
- Any items that should not go into a compost pile due to health risks or contamination
3. Unbalanced mix of green and brown or too wet
If you notice foul odours coming from your compost pile, it may be a sign that the pile is too wet or has too much nitrogen-rich waste. To fix this, try adding more brown waste or turning the pile more often. If you notice that your compost pile is not breaking down, it may be a sign that it needs more nitrogen-rich waste.
4. Not regularly aerating your compost frequently enough
Another common mistake is not turning the pile often enough, which can lead to a lack of oxygen and slow down the composting process.
How to compost at home
As this guide to composting is for your beginner, we’ll focus on the use of a compost bin or tumbler.
Step 1. Setting up your compost
If you’ve purchased a commercial compost tumbler, simply follow the manufacturer’s guide on how to set it up.
If you’re looking to build a DIY compost bin, here is a guide on how to make a basic compost bin using any container.
Step 2. Add some compost, green and brown waste
Add some compost, and then the green and brown waste into the compost bin or tumbler. To maintain a balanced compost pile, it’s important to layer the green and brown waste.
Start with a layer of brown waste, followed by a layer of green waste, and then repeat. You should also regularly turn the compost pile to ensure that the materials are mixed and aerated. Add 2 to 4 parts brown materials for every 1 part green materials. of green to brown materials.
Step 3. Maintaining your compost
Keeping the compost moist
Check on your compost bin every now and then and ensure that it has the moisture consistent of a damp sponge. Don’t over water as this could kill the microorganisms and cause rot. The key is to keep it moist and not wet.
Aerating the compost
Help the composting process along by turning the contents of your compost bin once a week so that it is evenly distributed and thoroughly aerated.
Maintaining its temperature
The ideal temperature for decomposition is between 40-60°C, anything too cold or hot will cause issues with the composting process.
If you stick your hand into the compost bin and it feels too hot, simply move it to somewhere where it may run cooler. If it feels too cold, then move it somewhere with more sun.
Step 4. Feed your garden
Your garden compost bin can take anywhere from six weeks to one year to decompose. Once the compost is ready, use some for your garden.
Step 5. Feed your garden
Continue with steps 2 and 4 and you will have a free and near unlimited supply of compost!
The benefits of composting for your garden and the environment
Composting creates a natural fertiliser that is rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for healthy plant growth and can help to improve soil structure, drainage, and moisture retention.
Using compost in your garden or landscaping can help to improve soil health and promote plant growth. Compost provides a slow-release source of nutrients that plants can absorb over time. Compost also helps to improve soil structure, which can improve drainage and reduce erosion.
- Improve soil health in your garden or landscaping
- Boost plant growth by adding nutrients to the soil
- Add organic matter to soil that is low in organic content
- Suppress plant diseases and pests
By composting organic waste, you’re helping to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Composting also helps to create a natural fertiliser that is rich in nutrients, which can be used to improve soil health and promote plant growth.
Composting also has several environmental benefits. By reducing the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills, composting helps to reduce methane emissions, which are a potent greenhouse gas. Composting also helps to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills, which in turn reduces the amount of space needed for landfill sites.
Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste, enrich your soil, and promote a healthier planet. By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can start composting at home and enjoy the many benefits that it offers. We hope that this beginner’s guide has provided you with the information you need to get started on your composting journey. Happy composting!