Composting is totally win-win. You divert waste from already-heaving, methane producing landfills, plus you create fertiliser which enriches your soil.
When you’re ready to start, first thing is to decide where you’ll put your waste. Once you’ve got that sussed, the rest is easy – it’s as simple as chucking your kitchen waste onto your heap, applying a few basic principles, and waiting for it to decompose into beautiful rich soil.
Whichever container you choose needs to have a lid. For urbanites in compact spaces, the best options are a compost bin or a bokashi system. If you’re feeling adventurous, or don’t mind a bit of muck, you could try worms. Here’s the lowdown on each:
Bokashi (meaning ‘fermented organic matter’) uses enzymes to ferment (‘pickle’) your waste. All food waste, including cooked meat and dairy, is thrown into a plastic bin and covered with a layer of bokashi (a powder that looks a lot like bran). When the bin is full, you close it and let it stand for about 2 weeks. It’ll then be ready to add to your compost heap.
– can be kept inside
– can add cooked meat, dairy and bones
– speeds up the decomposition process
– does not fully decompose waste – it still needs to be transferred to your compost bin or dug into your garden so it breaks down completely.
Worms are a great way to return nutrients to the soil. Worm casings (essentially their poo) create nutrient-rich vermicompost which improves soil fertility.
A wormery consists of a series of stacked buckets – we use three. The top two buckets are where the worms live and eat their way through our waste. When the middle bucket is full of compost, we start filling the top one with waste. Eventually all the worms will move into the top one (through a few holes in the lid), allowing us to harvest the compost in the middle bucket.
The bucket on the very bottom collects the liquid run-off, also know as ‘worm tea’, which is a great tonic for your soil if your compost is healthy. Worm tea can be diluted and used as a fertiliser.
A layer of egg cartons or newspaper on top of the food waste is handy for keeping fruit flies and other miggies out.
– good for compact spaces
– produces nutrient dense compost + worm tea
– can be a bit mucky to deal with
– can’t add meat or dairy.
A large container – an old tyre, a plastic bucket or a wooden container – where you throw your organic food waste. This includes fruit and veggie peels and scraps, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grinds.
For convenience, keep a little container on your kitchen counter and transfer the waste to your large bin every day or when it’s full.
To keep the acid / alkali balance of your compost bin in check, layer it with organic garden waste (grass clippings, leaves, plants, ash from your fire or paper products).
– good option if you have a garden or outdoor area
– can only take organic waste (meat, dairy and oils will make your pile stink and also attract rodents and other pests).
Top Composting Tips
- To keep your compost balanced, aim for a good mixture of nitrogen-rich green waste (grass clippings, plants, organic food) and carbon-rich brown waste (branches, sawdust, paper products such as cardboard and egg cartons, straw). This helps keep the acid / alkali balance in check.
- If you want your compost to be more acidic, add lots of citrus (orange peels) and coffee grinds. By contrast wood ash and egg shells are great neutralisers (wood ash has the added bonus of repelling slugs and snails).
- Turn your compost regularly (every 6 weeks or so) and keep it moist (but not wet). Keep an eye on the temperature too – waste needs heat as well as moisture to decompose.
- Keep it covered, in a dry, shaded area.
If you find yourself running out of space, have two or more containers on the go. That way you can use a second or third container when the first is full and doing. Here are some possible combinations:
- Two bokashis in your kitchen
- A bokashi in your kitchen and a bin outside
- A worm bin and a bokashi.
We’ve got a large compost bin in the garden and when that’s full we top up our worms and use the bokashi for a few weeks, giving the bin time to break down and do its thing.