9 Best Tips for Easy Compost
Updated: Mar 4
Compost is the main-stay of the no-dig garden. I could have headlined this post "All the dirt on the dirt!"
Without a good layer of compost, your no-dig garden is going to struggle to thrive.
The very best thing we did when we first began our no-dig garden journey was put in a two bay compost bin. Looking back now, I wondered at the time whether this was a great idea, but it's proved to be a wonderful addition to the garden.
Unfortunately, I've found that not everything can immediately be laid on the garden to rot in place. Some stubborn and invasive weeds need a space to dry out before they are turned into compost and as it turns out, the compost pile is a great place to age the chicken's manure before it heads out into the vegetable beds.
People think composting is difficult...it's not!
Confused by 'greens' and 'browns' and when 'greens' become 'browns'. Don't be. Composting is really simple.
Go back to nature and take a look in one of her forest floors. Dig down a few centimetres and you'll find beautiful compost.
Basically all you need to do is lay material that will break down on the ground and leave nature (and the worms) to it. In it's simplest form, that's pretty much what composting is.
Why do we overcomplicate it?
Who knows? Maybe because we want to speed up the process, or we don't actually believe that composting can be as simple as finding a corner in the garden, heaping garden pruning, newspaper and cardboard, coffee grounds, grass clippings, leaves, egg shells and vegetable peelings in a corner will make amazing compost.
The first 'big build' in our garden. I wasn't sure that we'd ever fill these bins...but we do!
Tip 1: find a corner in the garden where you can site your heap
Got a spot behind the shed?
Great--now let's decide how we're going to compost.
Easy or difficult--home made or shop bought?
Tip 2: Home made or shop bought?
There are plenty of composting tubs available on the market. My advice, if you're not sure that you're going to carry on with this composting caper, bang in four stakes and tack some wire to those stakes, creating wire on three sides of a square and leaving the front open for you to add and remove your compost.
If you end up hating the process, you can tear it out, roll up your wire and turn the spot back into lawn.
Tip 3: Drop some old twigs and branches on the ground
This creates a little bit of air. Air prevents your pile getting stale and smelling awful. That's why you don't have to cut everything up that goes into your pile, but smaller things will compost faster.
Tip 4: Throw some grass clippings on top of your sticks
If you can layer greens and browns (just think grass clippings vs cardboard and you can't go much wrong) then all well and good. If you can't just keep throwing your grass clippings, vegetable peelings, junk mail, garden prunings and anything else that rots when it gets wet onto your pile.
Tip 5: Avoid: dairy, meat, invasive weeds and seed heads
You're creating what we call a 'cold compost' it's pretty hard to get a home compost pile to generate enough heat to kill invasive weeds and seeds. I leave invasive weeds out in the sun to dry and then use them like straw in my garden. Seed heads, I put in a small barrel of water and make a liquid compost.
I've also seen recommendations to avoid composting diseased plant matter. I throw everything in my compost.
But do avoid meat and dairy--you don't want to encourage rodents. Once they find a food source, you'll find it difficult to get rid of them.
Tip 6: Keep your compost moist
If you start your compost pile in summer, make sure that you water it thoroughly. You can cover your compost to keep the heat (and moisture) in, but I just leave mine to the elements. If you do cover your pile, check occasionally to make sure that it's still damp. If it's slimy and smelly, then you need to add more 'browns' such as paper, dried leaves or twigs or pieces of cardboard.
Tip 7: If you're keen on composting food scraps but don't like the idea of putting them in a heap in the garden
Then you need to look at a worm farm. I love my worms! I invested in a worm farm when I was first experimenting with composting and I had a cylindrical, black compost bin. I would take my scraps out religiously. The day I was met by a rat when I took off the lid to throw in my kitchen scraps was the day I invested in a worm bin.
Vermiculture is wonderful and I love the whole enclosed (rat proof!) system.
Tip 8: Make a second heap when you fill the first
You can put another wire square next to the first. The advantage of having two compost bays is that once you've filled one, then while you're filling the second, the first is busy turning itself into wonderful compost that you can spread around the garden. This takes a little while, but believe me, it's worth the wait for the 'black gold' that you dig out from your heap.
Tip 9: Train your family
There is nothing I find more disturbing than going to someone's home and having to throw my food scraps into a bin with the 'rest of the rubbish'.
If you can't have a separate under bench bin for your food scraps, then get a small plastic bin (with a lid) that you can sit on the bench top and train your family to put their food scraps in that. It doesn't take long and your garden will love you for it.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about compost
Remember, composting does not have to be difficult.
Composting is not technical, go back to nature and look at what she does. She's a great teacher.
Make your garden and home a closed loop.
I try never to let any green 'waste' leave the section. I've got to the point now where the garden is (almost) generating enough 'waste' to keep feeding itself.
When my dear hubby wanted to put in those two bays for composting I thought that we'd never fill them. I'm admitting in print...you were right, dear!
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