Before I took the plunge and started my first compost heap I did a bit of research, and there were loads of different opinions and ideas, it was all a bit overwhelming. You had to have three designated piles on a rotation roster, chicken wire and wood frames, the perfect orientation in terms of maximum daylight, various ratios of green organic matter to brown organic matter, exact measurements for the varying layers that would make up the base of your heap.
My head hurt.
So I did what I do best, and I just winged it.
Here are the bare basic principles that I think are important, the rest is entirely up to you how technical you want to make it:
- Pick a spot in the garden that gets full sun majority of the day. You need heat to activate all the creepy crawlies that get to work breaking down everything, so direct sunlight is important.
- choose a spot that’s a bit hidden away if you’re quite garden-proud. Amazingly your heap doesn’t smell at all, but it can look a sight with all your food waste strewn about a bit like dirty laundry for the world to see.
- Enjoy the freebie feral veggies that pop up out of nowhere from seeds of previously composted veggies
- Making compost is thirsty work so in dry weather spells keep a bucket of water in your shower and toss that otherwise-discarded water over your heap to keep it hydrated.
- Start your pile to one side of your designated area to give you plenty of room to flip it every so often.
- How often should you turn it over? Oh gosh, I don’t know, whenever I need compost, then I give it a flip to see what black gold I can mine from underneath. You’ll start getting compost anywhere from 2-6 months of starting, depending on how much you’re adding of course.Which brings me to the most commonly asked question.
- What can you add to your compost? Pretty much anything that’s organic matter:
– fruit & veggie scraps
– stale bread
– egg shells
– coffee grounds
– tea bags
– grass cuttings – great for bulking out a home compost heap
– fallen leaves – I use most of mine for mulching on top of garden beds, but the surplus gets tossed onto the heap
– herbivore manure – horse poo, cow poo, chicken poo is all great food for compost heaps. Don’t have a cow? Take a road trip out to the country and sweet talk a farmer, I’m sure they will gladly let you help yourself. Just make sure it’s been on your heap for a while and is well rotted down before adding to your garden, especially veggies and herbs. You want all the pooey pathogens to have been broken down.
– What can’t you add to your compost heap? This really depends on you. They say don’t compost dog poo because of the risk of parasites that need a controlled heat environment to die off, and there’s no way of knowing if your heap gets hot enough, so I personally don’t add my dog’s poo. Another thing to avoid are meats and oils as this can entice vermin to your property looking for food. Also avoid diseased plants or plants treated with weed killers and any weeds that have gone to seed, otherwise they’ll replant themselves next season.
- Now sit back and relax and look forward to harvesting your mega veggies that look like they’ve been on steroids all thanks to your luscious homemade compost.