We try to live a relatively green life, we recycle as much as we can, try to buy minimal packaged food, we buy second hand furniture for our home, purchase vintage and recycled clothes, and use grey water on our garden beds. Home composting should come naturally to us, should, but did not!
Months after our first chuck-of-scraps in the compost, food has not broken down, I'm finding egg shells, and walnuts, and tea bags still intact, the compost is way too dry, and our worms died (more on the worms later).
Composting household food waste is something I've always wanted to do, it makes no sense to throw away food scraps when we can let it all decompose in a contained space, providing nutrient rich feed to our garden beds. So why did it all go wrong?
As the months passed, we came to realise that home composting is not always as simple as chucking cores, peelings, and leftovers into a heap and letting it all happen, there are a few small measures we've learned to do along the way, which help quicken the breakdown process.
Here are 5 home composting tips we've taken on board along the way, which have helped our composting journey:
Do not introduce worms to your outdoor compost, they may die (this may only apply to an Australian summer climate)
1000 worms cost $50 from Bunnings - when did worms become so expensive?! We should've researched a little more first, because worms from Chooktopia are cheaper, plus, they deliver to our area for free.
Anyway, it was I, that decided to introduce worms to the compost heap, I thought they'd love the food scraps, eat them all, and discard that deliciously fine nutrient organic material to sprinkle on our garden beds. Not so, they died after a week. Why? Because of our ridiculously hot summer? (not that I'm complaining), well, that, and apparently that worms prefer 18-24 degrees, not 60 degrees that is the temperature at the core of a compost heap (which I found out from Ella at Chooktopia)
(We've not broken the bad news to our 4yr old yet, we still get him to throw in our food scraps 'to the worms'.)
Add a little water to your compost
Who knew? We didn't. Our compost heap became as dry as dust, and an almost solid lump, and was not doing much at all. Guess what? dry compost, does not decay.
"A lot of water should be added after every 4 – 6" of materials are added to the pile. Less water can be added if you are using fresh manure, water-logged coffee grounds or other moisture-rich material. But for yard waste, you definitely have to add water."
Whoops, with barely any rain for weeks, we really should've added water to the pile.
Poo? Yes, poo, but be wary of which poo to add. Herbivore poo is best for the compost, which acts as a compost 'activator', and gets the breakdown process working quickly. The best manure to add, would be rabbit, sheep or chicken poo, all of which are rich in nitrogen.
Do not add meat scraps
Meat and fish scraps attract rats and possums, which are not a good thing. Whilst we have not seen such pests in our yard, we'd rather not encourage their attendance, and have ceased adding meat to the heap.
Chop scraps into small pieces
We've been throwing in out of date zucchinis and tea bags whole, we had no idea we'd have to chop them up first. It makes sense now; the smaller the matter, the faster it will break down.
Apparently the best way to do this, would be to chop up your scraps in a food processor. If you do not have such a machine, then use a knife (and put a peg on your nose ha-ha) to chop up your scraps into small pieces, before adding to your pile.
So there you have it, if you are new to home composting, as we were, then I hope these tips will prevent you from making the same mistakes that we did.
Home composting really isn't too difficult, it just takes a little bit of effort on your part, to get you started on the right path.