Compost is made from rotted organic material, which, when added to garden soil, provides plants with essential foods and helps to aerate. It also helps to break up heavy soils.
For hygiene in suburban areas it is always advisable to use a compost bin to process your compost. There are many compost bins available on the market which is designed to make compost quickly, easily and neatly. If you are using compost worms to help the processing of your compost it is important that the bin be open at the bottom and placed on earth, so that the worms can escape heat generation. The best site is a warm sheltered one.
In summer, as long as mostly soft, fleshy pieces of plant material are used to make compost it will probably only take about 6 to 8 weeks to be ready. In, winter, however, it may take up to 4 months.
Suitable materials for Compost
Grass clippings, leaves, wood shavings, straw, sawdust, shredded twigs, bark, ashes from a wood fire (not coal), coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, tea leaves, egg shells and manures. Avoid using material thicker than 0.5cms and chop up anything too large, to speed up decomposition.
Unsuitable materials for Compost
Bones or meat scrap as this encourages animals, and cockroaches, or any diseased plant material as the fungus spores can remain in the mix. It is also advisable not to put in weed seeds as some may be killed during composting but some may not. Fruit that has been infested with fruit fly must never be added to your compost bin.
Working with Compost
The compost is broken down by bacteria which feed on nitrogen. As the compost breaks down it becomes more acid and may reach a point where the bacteria cannot live and the breakdown process stops. By adding a little lime this stops it from becoming too acid. This should be done about every I0cms as well as adding a little soil and cow manure to ensure sufficient bacteria is present. Be extremely careful not to add too much lime – especially if you have compost worms in your bin – as the lime can kill the worms, and make the compost too alkaline.
Some sulphate of ammonia may also be added every 10cms to ensure there is enough nitrogen present. This is particularly important when wood shavings or sawdust is used to compost as they are low in nitrogen.
If the layers are very dry, dampen them as they are added. Remember to keep the compost moist but not soggy. It will give off heat as it breaks down. This is a sign that the bacteria are active.
Some home gardeners grow a clump of Comfrey near their compost bin and add a leaf or two of comfrey whenever they put material into the bin.