Why make your own compost?

Gardens and kitchens generate lots of waste which can form as much as 20% of the material sent to landfill sites.

By composting green waste, you can reduce landfill and produce compost which will improve your garden’s productivity.

If you dig compost into your garden, it will improve soil fertility, making your plants grow healthier and stronger. Compost will provide better moisture retention in light soils and improve drainage in heavy soils.

Or you can use compost as a mulch on top of the soil which helps to keep weeds from germinating, reduces water loss and helps to improve the soil structure as it is slowly worked into the soil by worms.

Compost Creatures

A compost heap is a complex food web containing billions of creatures which work together to transform organic waste into a material which can be reabsorbed by plants.

Worms are the ultimate composting machines; they digest soft organic matter and deposit their rich waste product in the heap. Compost worms cease activity below 5’C and the need a mildly alkaline environment. Woodlice will grind up dryer material. Millipedes, slugs and snails feed on moist decaying matter.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms and are the most numerous and efficient chemical decomposers. 1 teaspoon of compost will contain at least 100, 000 bacteria. Bacteria have been recycling material for 3 billion years, they are the cornerstone of the heap. They require high nitrogen levels to function; this is found primarily in green plant material. As they work on the material, they release heat. At Patrick’s Patch the compost heap has reached 60’C

Fungi break down the tougher ‘woodier’ organic material with higher carbon levels. They require less nitrogen than bacteria.

How to make compost

The most efficient composting creatures require a well aerated heap which is well drained but moist. It is important that liquids can drain out of the heap.

The richest compost is made by maintaining a 10:1 Carbon; Nitrogen ratio, this proportion mean less nitrogen is lost as ammonia.

In reality, this ratio looks like 2 PARTS GREEN MATERIAL TO 1 PART BROWN MATERIAL

Green material – fresh garden material

Brown material – straw, wood, cardboard

Things to avoid – perennial weeds, coloured inks, coal ash, food which will attract vermin, slug pellets or any pesticide, excessive citrus, animal faeces.

A heap can be quickly ‘activated’ by the addition of high nitrogen materials; poultry manure, FBB, urine, grass clippings, nettles/comfrey, coffee grounds. Add some ‘brown material at the same time to maintain the balance.

Adding bulkier materials such as eggboxes can create beneficial air pockets in the heap.

Turning a heap is not essential but it will speed up the process by adding air.

Compost is generally ready after 6 months. It should be dark brown, crumbly and smell good. There will be no worms present in completed compost.

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