Any well prepared, nutrient-rich compost is excellent to use in the garden. Compost:
- recycles house and garden wastes
- improves soil texture by adding organic matter
- helps prevent soil erosion
- retains moisture in summer
- encourages soil microbial activity
- recycles nutrients
- Well-made compost will not burn plants when it comes into contact with stems or leaves.
Composting is a time-tested method of speeding up the natural decomposition by soil-borne organisms of organic matter. Compost bins or heaps which quickly generate high internal temperatures will convert waste materials quickly to good quality compost and won’t create unpleasant odours during the process. Weed seeds and harmful disease organisms will be destroyed as long as sufficient heat is generated. Good compost will get almost too hot to touch rising to at least 60°C.
Use a bin to keep the heap tidy and to prevent it from becoming too wet in rainy periods.
Place your bin directly on the soil so that soil borne organisms (eg earthworms) can make their way up into your bin to breakdown the waste, and so that excess moisture can drain away. (Bins placed in a non-porous surface will become too wet; the contents will rot and become slimy and smelly.)
Homemade bins using chicken wire, timber, cement sheeting and roofing iron are quite satisfactory. However, you may prefer to use plastic, purpose-made bins because they are clean, light, convenient and inexpensive. Talk to your local Home store.
While one bin is probably sufficient for the average family, two or three bns are even better. One should be used for fresh material, one should be used for maturing, while the third can be used to store the finished product until you are ready to use it.
Ingredients can include kitchen waste (meat bones and egg shells can be included as long as the heap or bin is rodent-proof) and garden wastes such as non-invasive weeds, lawn clippings and shredded prunings. Do not use badly diseased plant material.
It is important to start with a good volume of mixed materials so the internal temperature will sufficiently rise to promote breakdown. Air is important in the process so mix fine materials like lawn clippings with coarser material. Do not pack or compress the material in the bin as this will exclude air and for best results the wastes should be moist, not wet.
If possible, materials should be added in layers between 10 and 15cm thick – a layer of coarse material on the bottom, followed by a thin layer of fine material, topped with coarser material, and so on. Use as wide a variety of organic wastes as you can.
For the best quality compost, it is advisable to turn the heap or re-mix the bin regularly.