How to start your own compost heap
It’s one of life’s oddities that your garden has become just as much of a target for toxins as the inside of your house, what with weed killers and pesticides and inorganic fertilizer that promise to make an Alan Titchmarsh out of even the most hopeless of horticulturalists. But there is a way to combat this and make your garden as eco-friendly as possible: composting.
- How does composting work?
- What is the environmental impact of compost?
- How do I make my own compost heap?
Compost is simply organic waste that has been broken down by micro-organisms such as fungi, bacteria, and actinomycetes. Two types of material are needed for healthy compost: 1/4 green matter (such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds), which is rich in nitrogen, and 3/4 brown matter (such as leaves, shredded paper, and sawdust), which is rich in carbon. During the breakdown, micro-organisms eat the organic waste which separates it into its basic parts. In doing so they give off carbon dioxide and heat, which aids in the decomposition process. When decomposition is complete, the compost can then be used in the garden as you would fertilizer.
When you compost you remove the waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill, which in turn reduces the need for landfill space. Considering each British household throws away £325 worth of edible food every year, that’s a lot of landfill space taken up. While sitting in these landfills, our waste produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas, which, according to the United States Composting Council Factsheet, we can combat by composting. Composting one metric ton of food prevents up to 0.25 metric tons of greenhouse gas.
Creating your own compost heap is quite simple. First you need a compost bin or box, which you can purchase at places like B&Q or greenfingers.com, or you can make your own out of wood and chicken wire. Make sure your compost bin has a good lid, and is easily accessible for removal of your compost after it decomposes. Place your bin or box in a sunny or semi- shaded area, directly on soil and away from water courses. Then, it’s just a matter of filling your compost bin with organic waste (the measurements for healthy compost detailed above), which you can collect from around your yard and in small buckets or bins in your home. Turn your compost with a shovel occasionally (although the more you turn it, the faster it decomposes), and then in as soon as six to eight weeks your compost is ready to be used in the garden. Note: do not compost meat, cooked food or dairy, as these can attract animals.