After all your winter pruning is done and all those deciduous trees have finished shedding you may be at your wits end as to what you can do with it all. Landfill sites are filling up way too fast and refuse bags for disposal of garden waste can be very expensive if you have a lot of garden refuse to dispose of. The answer is to start a compost heap. By doing this you will be recycling all your garden and kitchen waste and be able to watch natures most basic process unfold before your eyes.
Making a Compost Corner.
Once you have thought of a good place to set up your compost corner, close enough for it to be convenient but not too plainly in view, you can begin building. Wire mesh from your nearest Jacks Paint and Hardware store is probably the easiest and cheapest material to use for the sides of your heap. Use a couple of metal or wooden posts as supports. Look around and see what you can recycle. Unused wooden pallets or wood left over from previous projects will all work. Leave one side open so you can get into your compost heap in order to add more material and turn it over with ease. Do not make the sides too high as this will make turning the pile difficult. Ensure that all stakes are securely driven into the ground so they can support the load of the matter to be added. Attach the wire mesh to the posts with wire or cable ties, making sure you don’t have any dangerous sharp edges that can cause injury.
Having two compost areas adjacent to each other makes turning and adding extra garden matter much easier. One area can be used for collection while the other can be used for actually composting. Try and achieve a balance of one part green debris (grass cuttings, old annuals) to two parts brown debris (dry leaves, soil).For faster results chop up all material as small as possible before adding to the pile.
Begin at the Beginning.
Begin with a 10 cm thick layer of leaves in the bottom of your heap. Then add a couple of centimeters of good quality garden soil. Now add 5 cm of grass clippings or old plants. Continue alternating the layers of brown and green debris interspersed with garden soil. Turn the heap regularly after this initial construction. You may want to start adding coffee grounds, eggshells, and green kitchen waste into the heap. Before the next season has started you will begin to have compost. You can begin using the compost from the bottom of the heap once you can turn it over and can no longer recognise the individual components.
Turning and Water.
The only work that needs to be done regularly once the pile has started is regular turning (about once a month) so that all material spends some time in the middle of the pile where the heat is. During dry periods remember to water the pile as you turn – but only enough to moisten it – don’t saturate the heap. A successful compost pile should not stink but have a satisfying earthy scent– turn it more often and add more dry soil and dry leaves if yours begins to smell bad.
What Not to Compost.
As much as 70% of household waste is compostable but there are some definite things that must NOT be put into your growing pile of compost. Wood that has been chemically treated must be avoided as these chemicals can leach into the soil. Do not include sick or diseased plant cuttings as you stand the risk of re-infecting your garden with the same disease. Weeds of any kind must be avoided, if you never wanted them in the garden the first time around you don’t want them popping up all over the garden next year! Likewise both human and animal faeces can contain diseases that can infect humans. It is best NEVER to use them in compost piles. Meat and bones will attract vermin and your dogs may “help” you turn over the compost heap when they try and get to them.
Once you have beautiful, nutrient rich compost you can add it to your entire garden with that smug sense of self satisfaction that comes from a job well done!
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