Composting garden and kitchen waste at home is a great way of helping the environment with the added benefit of producing a free soil conditioner for your garden. Instead of filling your dustbin with rotting food and garden waste, which can produce unpleasant odours, the waste can be put to good use.
The compost produced can be mixed with your soil to add nutrients and improve the structure of the soil.
How does it work?
Effective composting provides an excellent environment for a variety of life. Bacteria, fungi and microscopic organisms share the bin with larger creepy-crawlies, such as beetles, ants and millipedes. They all play their part in transforming the waste matter into a rich soil enhancer.
Many people use a specially designed compost bin, whilst other prefer to use a compost heap.
Compost bins come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but are usually small and conical. Residents in Leicestershire can purchase a bin at a discounted rate – for more information, please click here. Compost bins are small and therefore suitable only for cool composting. This means that pernicious weeds, seeds and diseases won’t be killed off. For most people this is not a problem and a compost bin represents the most convenient and easy way to deal with most garden waste and certain food scraps.
Compost heaps can be as large or small as you like. Larger compost heaps or those that are well insulated allow hot composting, which means that weeds and seeds are ‘cooked’ to stop them from spreading. It can also kill plant diseases and pathogens. Large compost heaps need lots of material to work properly, so aren’t suitable for everyone.
What can I put in my compost bin?
The key to effective composting is getting the balance between ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ right. Here are a few examples:
- Greens – Grass cuttings, tea bags, fruit scraps and vegetable peelings
- Browns – Dry leaves, scrunched-up newspaper, garden prunings and eggboxes
The green items contain bacteria and nitrogen to help kick-start the composting process. Too many greens in the compost bin will make the waste too moist and stop air from circulating amongst the compost. Not only will this slow the composting process down, but it could lead to unpleasant odours. If your bin is sludgy or contains lots of damp clumps, you need to add more browns and ensure the compost is well ventilated.
Browns tend to be drier and contain plenty of carbon, vital for balancing the composting process. Too many browns provide a great home for ants and woodlice, but tend to compost very slowly. Add a few extra greens to the mix to speed up the composting process.
The ideal compost bin will contain a balance of greens and brown, and will be home to a mix of creepy-crawlies. The mixture will be slightly moist and contain air pockets.
What can’t go in a compost bin?
The following should never be put in a compost bin as it may lead to unpleasant odours or encourage pests.
- Cooked food
- Dairy products
- Diseased plants
- Pet faeces
- Anything which doesn’t biodegrade (e.g. plastic, glass, metals)
Need more information?
Leicester & Leicestershire residents can join to get regular e-newsletters; past editions of which are available below. New members also receive a welcome pack to help get the most from their compost bins featuring a kitchen caddy with biodegradable liners and a comprehensive guide to composting.
To join, please e-mail your details to email@example.com including the following:
- First name
- Full address
- E-mail address
Master Composters are volunteers based throughout the county ready and willing to help you and your community, school or workplace find out more about how to reduce waste through composting.
They are experts in all things compost and can help you:
- Choose the right bin for your garden and lifestyle
- Get started composting
- Overcome any problems you have, and help you get back on track with your existing compost bin or heap
You can often find a Master Composter at one of the events we attend or if you would like a one to attend an event in your area, or give a talk to your community group or school please call 0116 305 6376 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see a wide range of composting methods, including wormeries and food waste digesters at the Compost Demonstration Site at The University of Leicester Botanic Gardens in Oadby.
Composting experts are regularly on hand to guide you around, answer any questions you may have and help advise you how to get started composting at home.
To find out more about the site, or when a composting expert will next be on site to give personalised advice, call 0116 305 7005. A site guide is also available at Carryoncomposting.com