By Bernadette Thomas
I love composting. Not just because it takes care of my food waste, or for the dedication of the worms who happily munch through the food, but for the sheer amazement of how the process works.
I put in my scraps and out comes a lovely, earthy, fertiliser-rich product I can then use on my vegie garden or indoor plants. And it all happens free of charge, right here in my own backyard.
I’ve been an avid composter for about 20 years. I was hooked right from the start. I know a lot of people don’t share my love for compost, but even if you don’t love it, it’s a good way to stop food waste from going to landfill. There are a lot of rules that go with composting – carbon/nitrogen ratio, avoiding meat and dairy products – but I’m not going to bamboozle you with those. I’ve been composting so long now I work instinctively. Here’s what works for me.
Unless you are really handy with tools, I suggest buying a compost bin. Check out Gumtree or eBay or your local nature strip for a second-hand bin. Most councils offer discounted compost bins to residents so it’s worth checking that out too. Once you’ve found a bin you like, put it somewhere close to the house; that way you are more likely to use it. If it’s too far away you’ll find excuses not to take the trek to the backyard and your food scraps will end up in the garbage. Place it on a soil/grass surface to allow the moisture to leak out and the worms to get in.
Equally as important is to keep a compost container in the kitchen; somewhere close to where the cooking happens, and with a secure lid. Make sure it’s something that fits in with the kitchen décor, and that can be easily cleaned or rinsed after each empty.
Apart from adding food scraps, food contaminated paper and cardboard (pizza boxes, serviettes), tea bags and coffee grounds, bread and leftovers, I also add liquids (leftover soft drink, milk and yoghurt diluted with water, unfinished beer, wine, and juice). This helps to keep the compost moist. Grass clippings (although not all at once), old indoor plants, and leaves are also OK.
In order to avoid any non-earthy smells coming from your compost, you need to turn it regularly so that the material stays aerated. Keep a pitch fork near the compost. Every time or every couple of times you deposit scraps, take the pitch fork and give the material (new scraps and existing compost) a good turnover, so that the new and old are mixed together. That will move the worms around the material, allow air in and ensure that the decomposition process continues.
After a couple of months (longer in winter) your bin will be ready to empty and you can start the process again. Use the compost in your vegie patch, on indoor plants or dig it into garden beds.
If you’re a first-time composter and you want some help setting up, or just want a few tips to keep you going, get in touch with me at email@example.com and I’ll be glad to give you a hand.
Bernadette Thomas is a western suburbs local who owns six compost bins and a worm farm.