A beginners guide to composting with no fancy equipment

A beginners guide to composting with no fancy equipment

Want to help stop global warming, turn last night’s scraps into a gorgeous garden and give your pot plants a little love? It’s time to start composting. 

 

Over the course of this year, you’ll produce about 180 kg of fruit and veggie scraps and garden waste. What are you going to do with it all? 


If you throw it in the bin and send it to landfill, all that waste will rot. This produces methane, a toxic greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a big contributor to global warming. In fact, it’s estimated that 3 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions are caused by organic matter rotting away in landfill. Yikes. 


Composting drastically reduces the amounts of methane produced during decomposition, so you can do your bit to halt global warming. Plus, you’ll end up with loads of ‘black gold’ - nutrient-rich soil that you can use to fertilise your garden. All you need is some veggie scraps and the willingness to get your hands a little dirty. 


Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a house with a huge garden, we’re going to show you three super simple ways to compost at home that don’t involve any worms or expensive equipment! 


FIND A COMMUNITY COMPOSTING PROGRAM

If you look around, you’ll find a slew of places to recycle your food scraps and you won’t have to do anything more than drop them off.


If you live in an apartment with no garden, many towns have community gardens with composting bins you can access. You can even start your own mini veggie patch to put your compost to good use. Or perhaps one of your neighbours has a backyard compost heap. Ask around, or visit websites like sharewaste.com to see who is composting near you. 


Almost anything that was once living can be composted but there are a few exceptions. To get you started, here is a list of things that can and cannot be composted:

Just store everything in a container with a lid until you’re ready to go. 

YES

NO 

Vegetable scraps and peels 

Meat and fish scraps

Coffee grounds

Bones

Tea leaves 

Weeds

Grass cuttings

Diseased plants

Fallen leaves 

Dairy 

Wood shavings and sawdust 

Oil 

Crushed eggshells 

Glossy magazines 

Newspaper

Carnivore animal manure

Printer paper 

Cardboard

Herbivore animal manure 

 

 

DIG A HOLE

‘Bury and forget’ is the simplest way for beginners to tackle composting themselves. It’s as easy as it sounds - just dig a hole, place your scraps in the bottom, replace the soil and let nature do its thing. Next year, your soil will be jam-packed with the good stuff and ready to grow your garden. This method is great if you have a small backyard and not a lot of food waste. 


You’ll need to dig your hole to a depth of around 30cm so animals can’t sniff it out. Pat your waste down but don’t compact it - it still needs room to breathe. Bonus points if you dig near other plants so they can reap the benefits, just be mindful not to disturb their roots. If you want to level up and you have the space, make trenches instead of holes. That way when the soil is ready, you can plant a long garden bed and have a thriving veggie garden. 


You should always stick to a good balance of green to brown waste. Greens (that’s your veggie scraps, grass clippings and coffee grounds) are rich in protein and nitrogen, while browns (the dry ingredients you add such as twigs, paper and sawdust) are full of carbon and carbohydrates. You need the right balance of both nitrogen and carbon to heat up your pile and break down your scraps. 


BUILD A COMPOST HEAP 

If you’re feeling more ambitious, this is a great way to compost large amounts of waste. Building a compost heap and regularly adding water and oxygen gives Mother Nature a little helping hand in the decomposition of your waste. It will also provide the most nutrient-dense soil out of all these methods, in the shortest time. 


Creating your compost heap is as simple as finding an out-of-the-way spot in your garden with enough space and tipping out all your scraps into a 1m x 1m pile on the dirt.


Give the pile an occasional hose down as needed. You’ll want to keep it moist but not sopping wet and if you reach into the middle of the pile it should be hot to touch. To aerate it, give the pile a turn over once a week with a rake. Bring the inside of the pile to the outside so the heat distributes evenly. This combination of moisture, oxygen, heat and bacteria will start breaking down your waste. 


In three months to a year, your compost pile will become a powerful garden fertiliser. You’ll know your compost is ready to use when it is no longer hot and it looks and smells like dark, rich soil rather than old vegetable scraps. 


Now it's time to put that black gold to good use. Spread it over your garden beds as a mulch, stir it into water to make a liquid fertiliser or combine it with some moss and sand to create your own potting mix. You can also use it to give your pot plants a little boost. You’ll have an indoor forest before you know it! 




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