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. The compost produced can be mixed with your soil to add nutrients and improve the structure of the soil.
Instead of filling your dustbin with rotting food and garden waste, which can produce unpleasant odours, the waste can be put to good use. Composting doesn't just improve your garden, but benefits the wider environment too.
An effective compost bin 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 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.
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.
The key to an effective compost bin is getting the balance between 'greens' and 'browns' right.
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. Compost bins with 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.
The following should never be put in a compost bin as it may lead to unpleasant odours or encourage pests.
If you have too much garden waste to home compost, you can make use of one of the county's Recycling and Household Waste Sites, which will compost the waste for you. Alternatively, you can participate in your district collection scheme. For more information on the services available to you, please use our interactive map available on our home page.
No- meat may attract animals and pests, as may dairy products. Animal faeces and nappies should also be kept out of the bin.
The best site for your bin is in a partially sunny area of the garden, preferably on well-drained land. This allows creatures like worms to enter the bin easily, whilst allowing excess water to drain away.
Sometimes vermin are attracted to a bin, looking for food or a place to shelter. The best deterrent is to place the bin on a base of chicken wire. A more common occurrence are fruit flies- small flies which lay their eggs on the surface of fruit. They are completely harmless, but if they are bothering you they can be deterred by adding a thin layer of soil.
Composting should produce only a rich earthy smell. If a sharp ammonia smell is produced it is usually due to too much grass and not enough paper. Add some shredded paper and mix in to get it smelling sweet again.
The small flies often found in compost bins are fruit flies and are completely harmless. To discourage them, add a layer of soil to cover the bin contents. When the material is covered they will disappear in a day or so. There is no need to add soil every time you add material, just do it when the fruit flies appear.
An alternative to a compost bin is a Green Cone, which is similar in appearance to a compost bin, but doesn't produce compost. They can accept all food waste, even meat and bones! You can find more information about Green Cones on the following site. www.greatgreensystems.com