of the information in this section was kindly provided by David
Riggle of Stirling Council
Composting at home is easy. Here
is the recipe:
- a generous amount of organic
waste from your kitchen and/or garden
- a handful of earthworms (not
essential but may be useful)
- a generous amount of air and
- a smidgeon of goodwill
- season with insects, bacteria
- There are various methods that
you can use for composting. Choose the most suitable one for your
garden. Here are some of the options:
- Heap or pile: this is exactly
what it sounds like - a heap of organic waste in the garden.
A heap is most suitable for larger gardens. The size can be
made to suit the individual, how large or small they want
to make it. Large piles are the fastest form of composting,
if regularly turned. Large piles,(1 cubic metre), can generate
enough heat to kill off some weed seeds and some plant diseases.
The pile can be covered with an old carpet to keep the rain
out and the heat in.
- Bin or tumbler: plastic
compost bins are available from most garden centres and several
Councils provide them at a discount price. A tumbler is a
similar bin, but is set on a metal frame so that you can rotate
the bin to aerate the compost. Both help keep the garden tidy
and clean. Plastic composters are best suited outdoor. The
tumbler is great if you are worried about vermin, pets or
kids getting into the compost.
- New Zealand Box: this type
of composter is, again, available from most garden centres
and some councils provide them at a discount price.
- There are various kinds
of composters that you can make at home. There are plenty
of good sites that tell you how to make and use your own composter.
Have a look www.dmoz.org/Home/Gardens/Soil_and_Additives/Compost/
for more information on how to build and use your own composter.
- For those who dare, www.nwnet.co.uk/earthwise/6ownbld.htm
is a site that tells you how to build your own composting
Alternative methods of composting
could involve the use of:
- food digesters: these reduce
the quantity of food waste, but do not produce good soil conditioner,
so they have to be periodically emptied into the dustbin or
taken to the local civic amenity site.
- wormeries: these can look
like other composting bins, but they use worms to break down
the waste, and produce high-quality fertiliser very quickly,
depending on the amount of worms and the size of the composter.
These need more maintenance than the other methods, so they
are more suitable if you have time to spare. For more information
on composting with worms, check out Vermicomposting.
Find a place to keep your composter.
Collect all your suitable kitchen
and garden waste - peelings, egg-shells, teabags and leftovers
from the kitchen and cuttings and leaves from the garden are the
best (see the table below for items suitable for composting).
FROM THE KITCHEN
FROM THE KITCHEN
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Tea bags, coffee
- Egg shells
- Banana skins, orange
- Paper towels/tissues
- Cotton Wool
- Fish and Chip Papers
- Fats, grease, oils
- Dairy products
- Cooked fats
|FROM THE GARDEN /
||FROM THE GARDEN/ HOUSEHOLD
- Lawn cuttings, grass, leaves
- Houseplants & flowers
- Newspaper (shredded or torn and balled)
- Cardboard boxes,
packaging (torn and balled)
- Feathers, hair
- Small animal droppings/litter
- Ashes, coal or wood (in small amounts)
- Diseased plants
- Weeds gone to seed
- Dog/cat droppings
- Brush or large prunings
(unless shredded or chipped)
- Recyclable newspaper or card
- You will know when
the compost is ready when it becomes dark and crumbly. Depending
on the type of composting, 'hot composting' or 'cold' and 'high
fibre composting', it can take anywhere up to a year. You can
then use it in your garden or add it to planters and pots for
shiny happy plants!!!
For more information on composting
in Scotland, visit the Scottish branch of the composting
For everybody who is interested in composting the Composting Awareness
Week will be on for the first week in May 2002.
- Quick to decompose
- High temperatures kill
off weeds and plant pathogens.
- More difficult to maintain
- Needs a lot of space to
- 3 months
- Easier to maintain
- Not all materials are
required at the start
- Takes longer to compost
- Weed seed and plant pathogens
least 9 months to a year
- This is the easiest to
- Composts nonrecyclable
paper and cardboard
- Takes longer than hot
- Weed seed and plant pathogens
least a year possibly even more
- Gather "green" (e.g.
leaves, straw, small twigs etc) and "brown" (grass clippings
and vegetable trimmings) material to make a pile at least 1 metre
high and 3 feet in each direction. Alternatively, completely fill
a large composter.
- Ensure the majority of material
has been chopped or shredded.
- Build up the heap or fill the
box with 15cm (6 inches) of well watered "browns" and
15cm of "greens" and mix the first two layers together.
Make sure material is moist but not sodden.
- Continue adding alternate levels
until desired height is achieved or composter is filled.
- Protect from heavy rain and
the compost should begin to heat up within hours. With regular
turning, you should have the finished product in 4 - 8 weeks.
- Make a 6 - 12 inch base of "browns"
then add plenty layers of "greens".
- Add materials as they arise
then mix with a fork or stir with a broom handle to increase air
- Always make sure equal quantities
of "browns" and "greens" are added. This prevents
slimy of odorous compost.
- Keep covered in heavy rain.
If it gets too wet, add dry "browns" and leave uncovered
to encourage drying. Similarly if it is too dry, add water.
- Heat may be produced if grass
trimmings are added, but it won't stay for long. Be prepared for
worms and other decomposing insects to be present in the compost.
The finished product will be at the bottom in around 9 - 12 months.
'High Fibre' Composting
- Follow same instruction as for
'cold' composting, although materials such as balled or scrunched
cardboard can be added..
- The pile must be kept moist
but not soaking.
- Compost will start forming at
the bottom of the composter after 12 months. Use as required or
keep adding materials to continue composting.
The Best Conditions for Composting:
The best conditions for composting are:
- 40% - 60% moisture
- plenty of oxygen
- a temperature of 30 - 60 degrees Centigrade or
90 - 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1 by weight.
In other words, there are three
basic elements that are required to be successful at composting:
- Materials: to achieve optimum results add
a mixture of tough materials (hedge trimmings, straw) with softer
materials (grass clipping, fruit and vegetable peelings).
- Moisture: It is vital that the moisture
content is correct as if it is too wet is becomes slimy and if
it is too dry it will stop altogether.
- Air: Air is required by all the tiny organisms
that make the compost, so please stir the compost allowing air
to circulate to keep the organisms alive.
The two most common problems that occur when people
try to compost are that the process is too slow/doesn't work at
all and that it's smelly or slimy. Either of these will be due to
one or more of the above conditions not being right.
Not enough moisture means that
the microbes can't break down the waste, so the composting will
be slow, or may stop altogether. Too much moisture also slows down
the process and makes the compost smelly.
Not enough air means that the aerobic
composting organisms get suffocated and die while other organisms
that thrive in the absence of oxygen, anaerobic
bacteria, taken over. This produces ammonia, which is very smelly
indeed (like concentrated cow poo).
Too low a temperature slows down
the composting process, which is why it is always slower in the
winter. Eventually, the microorganisms will make heat as a natural
by-product of the process, but insulated bins are available.
Not enough nitrogen in the compost
heap will slow down the composting. If there is too much, there
will be smelly ammonia produced.
How do I turn my compost?
This is another common question that people ask. For
hot composting, it is absolutely vital that you turn the compost
to let in more air for the microbes to use to break down the waste.
If you do not, then the mixture will get cold, and the process will
be slower or become anaerobic. For cold composting, it is not neccessary
to turn the compost as often, but it's still a good idea to do it
once in a while, especially during the spring and summer.
If you have a heap, it's simple - just get in there
with a pitchfork.
If you are using a bottomless bin or box, then you've
got to lift the container so that all the material falls out of
the bottom, and then give a good mixing with the pitchfork and put
it all back. An easier method is to poke holes in it, the compost
with a bit of plastic tubing or something.
Otherwise you can buy a turning tool from garden
centre. Original Organic and Blackwalls make them. Some people swear
by them, and they have the added bonus of being temperature-sensitive
so they will tell you if your compost is at the right temperature.