Compost is by far the best way to improve the soil in your garden. It adds vegetable matter and is a rich fertiliser, helps hold water and nutrients and brings worms into your patch.
It is surprising how much food waste comes out of our kitchens. On average, a domestic kitchen can fill a 3 litre container with food scraps every day. This, mixed with grass clippings, leaf debris, animal manure, vacuum bag dust, garden cuttings, makes the best compost and has the added benefit of reducing landfill. If most households saved their kitchen scraps for compost we could reduce landfill considerably.
Composting does need a recipe and the right technique for it to decompose quickly and evenly. So here is a great recipe for rich compost so get ready, get set and go!
The best spot for a compost bin is directly on soil, next to a path, out of the way and out of the direct sunlight. The bin does need to get some warmth, but not all day in blistering sun. If the soil at the base is heavy clay then you will need to dig down into the soil, remove about a spade depth of the clay and dig in sand, or gravel to improve the drainage, because you will need to add water into your bin.
This depends on what resources you have available. You can use old materials lying around to build a bin: wooden pallets, corrugated iron, planks, wire, old fencing etc. Or you can use a specially made bin. Having one bin for active use and a second bin or spot next to it for garden clippings, straw, leaf litter and old vegetation ready to be put in is very helpful.
The mix usually consists of 75% or more of vegetable matter, plus an activator and a neutralizer. They need to be mixed thoroughly and water added if too dry. Regular mixing is the secret, get a compost hook and mix it thoroughly once a fortnight.
1/4 Fresh chicken manure (or fresh horse/cow manure)
1/2 Vegetable matter
1/4 Kitchen Scraps
A handful of lime per wheelbarrow load to neutralise it as the mix can be acidic.
Also pour in half a bucket of water once a week to keep the mix moist (if you have a closed compost bin this will not be required).
Another very efficient way to break down the compost is to add composting worms. Providing your bins openly contact the ground, the worms will move freely between the bin which has finished composting to the new compost bin.
Vegetable scraps (NO onion skins or citrus skins)
Dinner scraps (AVOID meat and bones)
Feather and feather waste
Dust and waste from vacuum bags
Finely shredded paper (soaked in water and mixed thoroughly)
AVOID Ivy and noxious weeds.
How do I know when my Compost is ready?
Smell is the simple answer. When the bin still has fresh kitchen scraps it will smell sour and be clumpy in texture and have variations of colour. Compost when ready is dark brown, finely textured and actually smells sweet when you open the bin.
Uses: Dig the compost into the vegetable patch prior to planting if you have plenty to spare. If not, then when planting dig a pot full of well aged compost into the hole, mix it with the soil and then plant normally.