Let’s start with the benefits of Compost:
Compost is a great way of getting essential nutrients and moisture into your soil.
It also attracts worms and other micro-organisms which make beautiful soil those in the know call “Black Gold”.
My favourite benefit is that it reduces waste. A lot of the rubbish I used to put in the bin can now go into the compost pile. Nearly one-third of all refuse is made up of compostable waste!
So you can’t afford a big fancy compost bin? Neither can I so here are some cheap alternatives:
Dig a pit in a shady spot in the yard and just throw in the scraps. Put some chicken wire around it to keep the pets and kids away. Bob’s your uncle.
I have seen some pretty fancy set ups involving using pallets to box the pile in. Essential the same as above, just a bit prettier. Here is a few ideas.
Just use an old plastic bin or large pot plant container. Put it upside down on the ground where you want it, cut a hole in the bottom (which is now the top) to put your scraps. Easy and cheap.
You will also need a bucket or caddy to keep in the kitchen to throw your food scraps into. If you have an old bucket with a lid you can store that under the sink. Otherwise I found the above handy-dandy counter top option with a handle for AUD$12.
What Now? How to start your compost pile:
Start with a layer of twigs or straw to help with aeration.
Add compost in layers – add your moist ingredients (food scraps, tea bags etc) then a layer of dry materials (straw, grass clippings etc)
Keep your compost moist, so cover it if you can, keep it in a shady area and water it occasionally if it’s looking a bit dry. It should be moist, not soaked.
Lastly, and most importantly, turn your compost pile every couple of weeks to keep it aerated.
Carbon & Nitrogen
Two of the most important elements of your compost. Compostable materials should be either one or the other. Carbon rich (which give it a light, fluffy body) matter should make up two-thirds of your compost and nitrogen (provides raw materials for making enzymes) one-third. If your compost is starting to smell it is because too much nitrogen matter is exposed; so throw on some carbon matter to neutralise the smell.
Carbon Rich Materials:
- Shrub prunings
- Pine Needles
- Shredded Paper
- Sawdust pellets
- Wood chips/pellets
Nitrogen Rich Materials:
- Food scraps
- Fruit & Vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Flowers and cuttings
- Seaweed and kelp
- Chicken manure
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves
Egg shells are a great addition to compost and are an exception to the carbon/nitrogen rule.. They are high in calcium which is another very beneficial addition
What NOT to put in your compost pile:
- Meats and other animal products (milk etc) – they do not breakdown quickly and attract pests
- Processed foods – you shouldn’t eat them let alone have them in your compost pile
- Plastics and synthetic substances – will not breakdown quickly
- Metal – will not breakdown
That is my guide to a budget compost pile! Composting will not only reduce waste but it will save you money. Instead of having to buy expensive fertilizer for your gardens, you will have some made for you (with the help of your new friends the worms) in a couple of weeks time. It’s a great thing to get the kids helping with too. It teaches them all about reducing waste and gets them out of the house and into the great outdoors.