How To Make Your Own Compost And Garden Mulch
Glenda Smith, a home gardener, shares her knowledge of composting with us.
Glenda Smith - Guest Blog
16 October 2015
Everyone should compost their green waste. It makes economic and environmental sense.
There is a method to suit every household, whether you live in a house, townhouse or apartment.
- Lidded Bin System
- Worm Farm
- Hot Composting
- Fermentation Bucket or Bokashi Bucket
To save time, keep a sturdy, lidded container beside your sink, under it or near your kitchen tidy-bin, to visibly remind your household to compost waste. Empty regularly into your chosen composting method.
Lidded Bin System:
Purchase a compost bin from a hardware garden centre or repurpose something UV-stable that you already own, e.g. a disused wheelie-bin, garbage can or plant pot with the base cut out. Cover with a lid to shelter worms, keep your system moist and inhibit vermin.
If you have a large household, and you fill the compost bin quickly, use 2-3 bins in rotation.
If you want fast breakdown for your leaves and grass clippings to kill the grass seed, this is your best method. It’s also perfectly sized for small gardens and courtyards. You aerate the compost each time you turn it, which hastens decompositon.
Worms convert your kitchen scraps and garden waste into compost. You can purchase readymade farms or make your own by repurposing a bath. The worm castings (aka ‘worm poo’) make excellent fertiliser.
‘Worm wee’ can be drained and bottled, weekly, to mix with water for use as liquid fertiliser. Gardeners will pay up to $2.50 a Litre, if you want to make money from your waste.
Cover your worm farm with a natural, breathable fabric to keep your worms dark, active, cool and moist.
This is best suited to larger backyards in evergreen-dominant areas. Create a 3-bay structure from a commercial pack or create your own by repurposing old pallets.
Fill one bay per season using a mix of green and brown waste. Green waste is things that breakdown quickly, like your kitchen scraps, garden waste and fresh grass clippings. Brown waste is materials like dried out leaves, larger tree prunings, straw, cardboard & paper, which are slower to breakdown. The ratio should be around one part brown to four parts green.
As you add to each bay, each bay-layer will be at different stages of decomposition, so each week you need to blend and aerate these mixtures with a garden fork or aerating stick.
Depending on the season, It takes 8 weeks or so before each bay’s mixture decomposes enough to use as garden mulch.
If your mixture starts looking dry, hose it until it is moist, to keep the fermentation process going.
Don’t plant new seedlings into fresh compost that is still hot. This burns delicate roots.
Fermentation or Bokashi Bucket:
This is the ultimate method for small yards, townhouses and apartments, as the bucket permanently sits on your kitchen bench.
You can add ‘anything that has lived’ (even most of the No-Nos below) into your bucket, including protein and oil. Sprinkle with fermentation granules daily. Fermentation takes about 2-3 weeks, yielding a liquid which you can dilute with water to fertilise your plants. The residue is full of nutrients, microbes and enzymes that can added to pot plants.
What can you compost?
Anything that has grown, like:
- Fruit, vegetables and their peelings and the water you used when washing them
- Nuts and their shells
- Tree and lawn trimmings; even sawdust
- Eggs and eggshells (smash for quicker composting results)
- Coffee grounds and tealeaves. Teabags take a long time to break down so only add to your compost bin if you take a long time to fill your bin.
- Shredded Newspapers, non-shiny paper and cardboard
- Weeds that don’t contain a bulb
- Hair, nail-clippings and pet fur
- Waste water from cooked vegetables and pasta
- Empty your kitchen sink strainer into your bin
- Crumbs leftover in packets
- Anything proteinaceous like meat and dairy (fish is okay)
- Large meat bones. Small ones are okay as they contain calcium but take a long time to breakdown. Consider burying them
- Citrus fruit and peel
- Sick and Pest infested plants, fruit and vegetables
- Pet excrement (not even in the Bokashi!)
If it is too cold, wet or you are just too time-poor to go outside each day to empty your kitchen compost bin, keep a lidded container in the freezer into which you can add, and empty when full.
If your compost mixture stinks, it has become too acidic. Add a handful of agricultural lime, dolomite, or even barbecue wood-ash.
I hope these composting tips give you the confidence to compost your household’s waste.
If you would like to read more from Glenda you can visit her blog: Growing Snowballs
If you would like to write a guest blog, further information can be found here: Earn Yourself a $50 HOSELINK Voucher
N.B. This article has been written for Australian gardens. If you're reading this from around the world, we do hope you've found it a useful stepping stone for your own further research.
CompostingThanks for nice article.You gave great ideas to make our own compost from waste material.Great post.Direct Compost, 15 March 2016
CompostingNice way of composting.Thanks for sharing.Direct Compost, 12 February 2016
Compost fast and easy with no waste going to landfTake an old round container, about 20 litres with a circumference of about 35cm. Cut out the bottom then drill lots of holes into the sides 15cms or so from the top. Dig a hole which is easy to access somewhere in your garden and place the bucket in so that the holes are below ground level. The holes hopefully allow worms to come and go. We have two of these and covered one with a handy piece of thick glass (which was doing nothing else useful in the shed) and the other with a left over floor tile. Now just tip in all your plant scraps and see how fast it all just breaks down and disappears into the ground. We do not add meat or dairy (except egg shells - no need to crush) but do throw in dog poo. Vermin can't get in, not even cockroaches. We tried a worm farm once but it bred cockroaches in their hundreds. These rarely fill up but if they do simply dig out the contents and bury this lovely stuff in your garden. Even the smallest garden would have space for one of these.Joan, 28 January 2016
CompostVery helpful and informative, thank you Hoselink.Trevor Stuckey, 27 October 2015
Compost and MulchThanks Glenda for the great tips on making a compost heap/bin. very useful information on what to use and what not to use. I have two heaps out the back where I use my lawn clippings garden clippings shredded newspapers etc. I just recently purchased some seedlings and re potted using old compost and boy! have they shot ahead. No need to buy potting mix. Denis.Denis McIntyre, 23 October 2015