Monday, 11 January 2010

Composting part 2 - the really good bits!

This is where I get to advise anyone who isn't sure, of what they can and can't put in their compost bin! Before I start, I must mention something else that came to light when I sent out the questionnaires - it may seem quite obvious but not everyone has a garden! My solution to this is to either work an arrangement with a neighbour who has got a garden / composting facilities etc, or take your kitchen and green waste to your nearest Household Waste and Recycling Centre, where you can also get rid of white goods such as fridges and washing machines, and electrical items like computer monitors (do not take the computer itself to be recycled if any personal data is still on it). 

Back to composting - I will lay down the basic advice as it is provided by Recycle Now. First of all, you should put your bin on a level, well-drained spot, which will help excess water and liquid to drain away, and makes it easier for creatures like worms to get in and start breaking down the contents. If you put the bin in a sunny spot this will also help. 

Next, you can start filling it up! But there is more to composting than just chucking anything in; it has to be the right mix of ingredients, a mixture of 'greens' and 'browns'.
Greens are quick to rot and provide important nitrogen and moisture. They include:
  • Fruit and vegetable waste
  • Teabags
  • Plant prunings, flower heads, spent plants etc.
  • Grass cuttings
  • Eggshells
Browns are slower to rot but they provide fibre and carbon, and also allow important air pockets to form in the mixture. They include:
  • Cardboard egg boxes
  • Scrunched up paper and newspaper
  • Fallen leaves
There are some things that you should never place in a normal compost bin:
  •  Cooked vegetables
  • Meat and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Diseased plants
  • Animal faeces and litter
  • Baby's nappies
  • Perennial weeds or weeds with seed heads
  • Plastics, glass and metals (these should all be recycled separately) 
Just one additional tip here: if you have a Green Cone you can actually compost many of the normal 'forbidden' items such as meat and fish. I think I will be putting this brilliant invention on my birthday gift list.

So what next? Well you've started filling up the bin with all the right kind of waste, now you have to keep it balanced. If your compost is too wet, add some brown waste (I usually chuck in old newspapers at this point), and if it's too dry, add some green waste, usually whatever I have in the compost caddy. These little things are brilliant, I would always recommend having a little plastic caddy in your kitchen to use like a little second bin when you're cooking. My tip, which I am passing on from a clever fellow reader of Gardener's World magazine, is never line the caddy with compostible liners - you will just have to keep buying them, and they don't actually compost down that well. Just use old newspaper, which composts very well. 

Don't forget to mix your compost every so often. Personally I just shove the garden hoe in there and beat it all down, tun it over a bit. I'm not sure it's a good way to treat the hoe but the compost gets aerated! After approximately 6-9 months the finished compost will be ready for spreading on your garden. I have used mine for digging in around my climbing rose, and also my rhubarb. I can feel a gardening post coming soon!

You can buy this compost bin from

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