cub writer, music lover, business guy in hibernation.
Published April 3rd 2013
Have you ever had trouble composting? Here's what works for me in Melbourne's west.
Step 1: I'm a regular kitchen scraps kind of composter. First, I put all my vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags (usually nothing cooked unless it's a vegetable, no meat or dairy) into a miniature rubbish bin (with lid) which I keep under the kitchen bench – not because it smells particularly, but it's not a display item. Get one of these at the $2 shop.
Empty the little rubbish bin into a recycled plastic compost bin with sliding 'doors' at the base (these come in handy later on to get the finished compost out without disturbing what's happening on top). A four hundred litre compost bin like this is about $60 from a big hardware store. Locate the compost bin in a shady spot. Keep an eye out for little burrows around your bin which means you've got visitors (usually mice). You can easily block these with bricks etc., ensuring it's just bugs and worms feasting in your bin.
Step 3: Making compost is a bit like cooking - keep your eye on things and taste as you go, or at least look as you go. Layers of vegetable scraps, dust from your vacuum cleaner, some lawn clippings and leaves will soon result in healthy, happy moist compost. Don't put in twigs or small branches and expect them to disappear – they won't. Although, if you have a shredder of some description, you could add all sorts of plant matter, as long as you can get it fine enough to decompose readily.
To get started, I suggest some layers of moist soil, newspaper, leaves, maybe some pea straw and then get going with your vegetable scraps. You will probably never have too many vegetable scraps but be careful not to introduce too many leaves or lawn clippings – the compost will become too dry and can overheat. I have stone fruit trees and so I'll load up on autumn leaves and even some fruit in summer, if it has spoiled. I put citrus fruit in sparingly. I have a dog, too, but his business does not go in the compost bin – never.
We all know why we should compost – it's great garden food, less rubbish leaving your house, you feel good etc. You may not know that when you spread your compost around the garden you can get some lovely surprises like self-seeding tomato plants or pumpkins. If you put weeds in your bin expect to get some self-seeding weeds too.
My top tip? Turn over your compost – regularly. I use a gardener's shovel. You could use a garden fork. Regular turning can cure most composting problems. That - and a bit of water. Depending on the state of my compost, I sometimes leave the lid off for a bit when it's raining.