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Wanna Get Dirty??
Composting in general
Member Name: MollyWH
Composting in general
Advantages: Less household waste, encourages bugs and other wildlife into the garden
Disadvantages: Can get messy
I am all for re-cycling and I believe that every household should try and do their bit to save the environment. I also believe that local councils make it much easier for us to do this. I grew up in the countryside and moved into my own house around five years ago. I live in a town house, with a fairly small garden, half of which is paved and half of which is lawned.
I didn't really pay much attention to my garden for the first few years of living here as to be honest, I was more focused on decorating the inside of the house, and when I moved in, my garden was a total mess.
Two years ago, my garden was re-furbished to its current state and this is when I began to take more of an interest in it. Obviously with half of my garden being lawned, the grass needed mowing. I then had the problem of where to put the grass cuttings once this had been done. I decided, for the time being to place the grass cutting in an old Chappie dog food bag that I found it the shed and this is where composting really began for me.
A few months after this, my lawn needed moving again and I once again went to place to grass cuttings in the same bag. This is when I discovered a slimy mess in the bag. I Googled composting and soon discovered that I had put too many 'green items' in my compost. The website I visited advised me to mix 'brown items' into the compost to equal it out. I have a shredder in which I shred items that have my address so emptied this out for use. I then put on some gardening gloves and ripped apart the sludge that was already present in the bag, mixing it equally with the shredded paper. After reading a few more websites, I soon thought I had a pretty good idea of how to get going with my composting.
General Rules To Composting
There are no rules as such, every compost heap will differ depending on what the compost is stored it, where it is stored and other factors. The general rule however, if that you should have a good mix of green and brown items to keep the compost at a decent consistency.
Green items are quick to rot and high in nitrogen (this helps to activate the heating process) and they also provide moisture. I won't list every single green item available but just to give you a general idea, green items include tea bags, grass cuttings, young weeds (before they develop into seeds), fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds and filter paper and old bedding plants.
Brown items are slower to rot and provide carbon and fibre. They also allow air pockets to form within the compost. Brown items include cardboard, egg boxes, shredded paper, twigs and branches, fallen leaves and old straw and hay.
Never Compost Items
Obviously, as with anything, there are certain items that you must have compost. Obviously use your common sense but the following items shouldn't be added to your compost pile; meat, mean scraps, plastic or synthetic fibers, oil or fat and pet or human feces (except for manure of herbivorous creatures).
The main idea is to layer or mix the various materials in your compost heap so that they come into contact with each other, and also to separate the materials to avoid big clumps and to help the breaking down process. One thing I have learnt is to take special care to ensure large amounts of green items don't get mixed together as this creates what I was talking about earlier - the slimy smelly mess that my grass cutting turned into!
Other Factors To Consider When Composting
Air is something which is quite important for compost. I stir my compost probably far more regularly than I should do but it allows the contents to be mixed together, as well as trapping air into the mixture, which helps to break the compost down quicker.
Water is another important factor in composting. In general, your compost heap should be about as damp as a sponge that has been wrung out. Everybody stores their compost in something different, some with lids, and some without. My compost heap is still in the Chappie back and obviously this doesn't have a lid so I allow the rain to naturally moisten my compost heap, and when it gets too moist, I simply fold the top of the bag over and allow it to dry out a little. I sometimes give it a hand in drying out if it has got particularly wet by adding extra brown materials.
It is important to stir your compost, as I already mentioned, up until recently, I stirred my compost almost every day (which I am told by my Dad is too much but worryingly I actually enjoy doing it!!). I guess it is more a case of trial and error until you figure out what works for you and your heap.
What To Store Your Compost In
You can pretty much store you compost in anything, as I have proven with my polythene bag! Having said that, there are various purpose built containers on the market that you can buy to store you compost in. My Dad has woods behind his garden and his compost is stored directly on the wood floor and is supported either side by wooden pallets. In an ideal world, I would have a wooden compost bin but there are many available, the cheaper ones being plastic. If you contact your local council, they actually offer discounted compost bins to encourage people to start composting.
Where To Put Your Compost
Ideally, the best place for a compost heap is in a fairly sunny spot. It is also an advantage if you can store your heap on bare soil. Having said that, my compost heap is in a massive poletheyne bag, and I have simply puts lots of drainage holes in the bottom of the bags which allows excess moisture to seep out - but it also allows the all important worms to get in!! If, like me, you are unable to place you compost heap directly onto soil and have to place it on concrete, then place a thin layer of existing compost underneath it.
For those of you who are interested, my original compost heap (remember the slimy mush I was talking about) has now turned into beautiful compost at the bottom (and still composting at the top). I don't stir my compost as much now, purely because I have literally a million worms currently living in mine, I think they have decided it would be a nice breeding home for them - and of course, I have no complaints!
I really would encourage everyone to start their own compost heap. Ok, maybe you don't have to be as enthusiastic as me about it (every time I get a visitor, I bore them with how well my compost is doing!) but I believe that it dramatically reduces the amount of waste my household creates, it provides me with free compost come summer when I want to plant new flowers and it also provides all the bugs and grubs in my garden with somewhere to live and something to eat (I am hoping I can bribe the slugs and snails to 'make do' with my compost rather than eating my beautiful Lilies every summer!). All in all, in case you haven't guessed by now, I thoroughly enjoy composting!
Summary: Wanna Get Dirty??