Composting Masterclass

composting masterclass
Be Nature Kind - Compost!

Create Miracles in Your Soil – Become a Master of Composting with Our Step-by-Step Guide

It’s a crime against good gardening and the environment to burn leaves and grass (unless they are diseased or polluted) because every scrap of organic vegetable matter should be converted to compost — and compost can be the most valuable property in your garden.

If we could secure unlimited quantities of animal manure, our need for compost would not be so acute; but in the absence of manure, compost is the one thing which can restore humus to your soil, and give you success in your gardening.
In some respects, compost, properly made, is even superior to stable manure. It contains almost every element which growing things need; and it restores to the soil much of the material extracted by the roots of preceding crops.

The essence of it is to store waste vegetable matter in such conditions that it will rot down quickly – and “vegetable matter” includes leaves, weeds, lawn. cuttings, kitchen vegetable tops and scraps – skins and leaves, spent flowers, pulled-up plants, tea leaves, and every other scrap of soft stuff from your garden – don’t include hard-wooded pruning cuttings, and such-like; they take far too long to rot, and they’ll only become a nuisance.

For traditional composting in larger gardens, use either a pit or a heap — the heap entails less work. Make the first layer about 40 cm deep (it will rot more quickly if you chop it up with a spade), and sprinkle it with a handful of lime and a dusting of complete fertiliser.

Cover & Water Compost

Give your compost pile a thin coating of earth; and then add a second layer in the same way. Each successive layer is sprinkled with lime and fertiliser, and then filmed with earth. Dampen (don’t soak) it, and keep it moist; add any fresh animal or poultry manure which you have, and turn it over each month. In three months (a little longer in winter) you’ll have a soft, friable, chocolate mass, with some of the plant fiber still showing through it – and that’s compost. It will work miracles in any soil.

Two points are important: keep it covered with earth, at the sides as well as the top; and protect it from rain. Don’t let it ever become saturated with water – it needs to be only moist.

As your heap gains size and bulk, it will generate, within itself, terrific heat; and if the heat disappears before decomposition is almost complete, it probably will mean too much – or too little water. If that happens, turn it all over, dust it again with lime and fertiliser; and fork it all through again. If dryness is the trouble, moisten it and keep it moist.
If the heap is “working” well, it will look after any casual grass seed which finds it way into it; but draw the line at onion grass and oxalis — the garbage bin or the incinerator are the only safe places for that rubbish. You can purchase special compost thermometers if you’re serious about your heap or are adding in weed seeds.

Composting ‘Greens’ and ‘Browns’ at Home

Have a good mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ making up your compost pile and try layering like lasagna. A layer of brown material like leaves or shredded paper and a layer of green material like kitchen scraps or grass clippings. Specific items as to what is considered browns and what’s considered greens. Leaves can go both ways. If they are green/more alive then they can go to greens. If they are dry and brown and crumbly they go as browns. You just keep layering one then the other. Fresh cut grass would be greens. Wood chips are browns. Straw is considered browns, twigs are considered browns (but take longer to break down) food even tea grounds and coffee grounds are considered green.

A Composting Warning

Never: throw into the compost any invasive weeds, or diseased plants suffering from rust, wilt, or leaf spot. All forms of root rot (and that includes nematodes) also should be burned. If you put stuff like that into your compost, you’re only storing trouble for next season.

Camphor Laurel Leaves

These leaves are harmful to the soil if they are dug in green and fresh; there is sumcient
camphor in them to affect root growth nearby. But used, or put into the compost heap, they are harmless— although not much good. They are the one leaf Which perhaps better burned or used as mulch.

Avoid adding pine needles as they take a very long time to break down and can make your soil more acid than ideal.

Composting in a Small Garden

The Compost ‘Trench’ or ‘Hole’ Method

If you can’t keep a compost pile because your garden is small or because animals that may get into it try burying the scraps which will solve the problem. Dig a deep hole (a trench is better) in the garden, dump in your collection of kitchen scraps every few days, then cover with dirt. It”s amazing how quickly it will break down, attract worms, and change the soil composition for the better.

Compost Bins and Tumblers

It does take a bit of time to get a new compost pile started – mine took about 3 months to really start breaking down.
For my first garden I had two large black plastic bins on rotation. The second house, a rental, I have a two-bin tumbler. I added “compost starter”, which is a compound of the natural microbes that exist in good healthy compost. That simply helped kickstart everything and it began breaking down well in about a month.

What to Compost

Food scraps make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away compost them instead.

What you should compost

Hair and fur
Manure from herbivores
Shredded paper (plain)
Fruits and vegetables
Eggshells
Coffee grounds and filters
Tea bags
Nut shells
Shredded newspaper
Grass clippings
Hay and straw
Leaves
Sawdust
Wood chips

Compost with caution

Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese
Weeds and seed
Dryer Lint
Pet waste from carnivorous animals
Meat and bone scraps
Houseplants
Pine needles

Never compost

Coloured or glossy paper
Mayonnaise, salad dressing
Fats, oils, grease
Diseased plants
Bird droppings
Garden trimmings with pesticides or herbacides
Ashes (coal or charcoal)
Plastic or metal

Composting Tips

  • Coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels is a super potent nitrogen compost mix
  • No meat, poultry, or fish or greasy items in compost. Mainly food that can be grown from the ground
  • Be sure there aren’t any chemicals used on the lawn before you add to compost, they have a long life and will end up in your food!
  • If you have back problems buy a rotating compost bin so you don’t have to fork turn your pile
  • Garden lime can help mask the smell of things rotting and breaks down organic matter faster
  • Keep a compost caddy in your kitchen to take out to your pile – you’ll be surprised how much good stuff you were throwing away
  • Home composting doesn’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds, so avoid adding them to your heap

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