reduce waste, love your soil, love yourself & compost the easy way

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Home | 28 Comments

Ever throw away fruit or veg that might be on the shady side? What do you do with your food scraps? In Australia, around 4 million tonnes of food ends up as landfill each year.[1] Aussies also throw out one out of every five shopping bags.[2] Even doing the smallest thing to reduce waste is important. I  try and think about reducing waste as much as improving the soil health of my garden. So recycle your food scraps and garden waste, make your soil happy and COMPOST. Fifty percent of waste from the home can be composted. If you are new to composting, you might be thinking, “All too hard or only hippies do it or it’s something to do with microorganisms” Don’t worry, I’ve been to many composting workshops over the years and some have nearly induced anxiety attacks. Rest assured, I compost the easiest way possible and so can you. Trust me, I’m a lazy gardener.

DSC_0405a

Every gardener on the planet will tell you that compost is the absolute key to a kickarse garden. Compost is basically decomposed organic matter that looks like a rich, dark brown substance. At the end of this natural process, you want a relatively fine, crumbly texture that smells lovely and earthy. Adding compost improves the overall quality, structure, aeration, and water-holding capacity of soil. It is full of rich nutrients so your plants will be healthy and nutritious. Remember if your soil doesn’t have the right nutrients, neither will the plants you eat. Not only are you feeding and fertilising the soil from your waste, but you are also feeding earthworms and other essential soil microbes. It ain’t called black gold for nuthin folks! Plus it is cheap, you won’t be able to buy better and you made it.

DSC_0393a

You don’t need to rush out and buy an expensive compost bin set up. If you’re beginning, just buy a plastic garbage bin. Compost bins are like potato chips, you can’t just have one. I have two, a ‘proper’ big one and a garbage bin. I’m only discussing cold composting here which is when you add materials slowly over time to get compost in around 3 – 6 months. It is a slower process but is more user friendly for most people than hot composting. All you need to start is some green stuff (nitrogen materials) and brown stuff (carbon materials). I find a good ration is 3 carbon: 1 nitrogen. To roughly keep to this ratio, just be mindful of it so if you throw in a heap of green stuff, cover it really well with brown stuff. Compost really needs two things, air and water. Microorganisms need air to break down organic materials and moisture is necessary for decomposition.

DSC_0381a

I N G R E D I E N T S

BROWN STUFF  (carbon materials – once living but has dried out)

mulch (I use sugarcane), dried grass, leaf litter, straw, hay, shredded newspaper, office paper, pizza boxes, cardboard egg cartons, dust and hair from your vacuum cleaner

GREEN STUFF  (nitrogen materials – usually fresh and green)

fruit and veg scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds, fresh grass clippings, pruning from shrubs, manures, seaweed

STUFF THAT IS NOT COOL TO PUT IN YOUR COMPOST

Meat, dairy, diseased plants, metals, plastic, glass, poo from your pets, magazines, weeds that have seeds, bread, cakes

M E T H O D

Cut the bottom out of a plastic garbage bin and drill a few holes in random places for air. Place it directly on the earth in a shaded location. Put a bit of mesh (to prevent pests) and some twigs at the base for aeration and drainage.

Start layering up your brown and green stuff. You can do a heap at once or just slow as you go over time. Just make sure you cut up stuff when you put it in so it decomposes more quickly.

Every two weeks I throw in a handful of chicken poo (high in nitrogen) or blood and bone which helps break down carbon. Often I throw in a few comfrey leaves from the garden as this can help activate decomposition.

I water my compost once a week. Keep it moist, don’t saturate it (try for the consistency of a wrung out sponge). Turn it well once a week with a compost aerator or anything else you want to use. I recommend getting an aerator, cost me $20 from a hardware store. Aerating it this way will make it decompose quicker.

You are looking at usable compost for your garden in about 3-6 months. Dig it through your garden regularly and always add to the soil when planting. Watch the results – I’m telling you this is brown stuff to get excited about!

INTERNATIONAL COMPOSTING AWARENESS WEEK

MONDAY 2 – SUNDAY 8 MAY 2016

DSC_0420a

Reference: [1] ABS Australian Social Trends (2007), Hyder Consulting (2009), Australian DEWHA National Waste Report (2010), Australian DSEWPaC National Food Waste Assessment (2011), NSW EPA Food waste avoidance benchmark study (2009), Encycle Consulting (2013), Baker D, Fear J, Denniss R. What a waste: an analysis of household expenditure on food, The Australia Institute 2009. [2] Global Food Losses and Food Waste – FAO, 2011.

28 Comments

  1. Tandy | Lavender and Lime
    April 28, 2016

    I don’t compost, but then again, I don’t waste. What does not get eaten by us is enjoyed by our dogs. They love carrot peels, and anything I top and tail 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 28, 2016

      Another form of recycling Tandy…no waste and happy dogs! Sounds good to me 🙂

      Reply
  2. Sherry m
    April 28, 2016

    Composting is a fab thing to do Jem I try not to waste too much. I throw out old fruit and stuff for the possums but we don’t have a garden so we don’t need compost. I guess we just all have to do the best we can do:)

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 28, 2016

      Exactly Sherry, just being mindful of not wanting to waste too much is such a good thing.

      Reply
  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    April 28, 2016

    This is a really simple and easy to follow guide. Thanks Jem! I’m going to forward this to my parents for their garden 😀

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 28, 2016

      Thanks Lorraine, the easier the better! I’m into as less work as possible 🙂

      Reply
  4. Sam Rutherford
    April 28, 2016

    Jem I need to do this, not that I have much waste. Sometimes you do feel bad when you throw things out. That is a huge amount to landfill.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 28, 2016

      It is for sure Sam. We’re not too good at thinking about outcomes on this planet, are we? Every little thing we do helps.

      Reply
  5. Function 9
    April 28, 2016

    Composting is easier than I thought. Thanks for explaining the ‘stuff’ that can go in it 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 28, 2016

      Thank you, it’s easier than what most people think that are new to it. The more variety in your compost, the better.

      Reply
  6. Gourmet Getaways
    April 29, 2016

    Great article Jem. I am guilty of refrigerator waste. Usually unloved fruit that worked its way to the bottom of the fridge 🙁

    I do have a garden that I love but I have always been scared of composting. I once made a pile of compost right down the back of the yard and it got nice and hot and the snakes layer their eggs in it!!!

    Anyway, I have moved since then and only have a small yard so your rubbish bin method sounds ideal.

    Just a few questions, do I put a lid on the bin? Why don’t you use pet poo? I only have a tiny chuhauhau?

    I’m really excited to start my compost!
    Thanks for Sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 30, 2016

      Sounds like you’ve had a go at hot composting Julie – which is awesome. It breaks down so much quicker as it generates more heat, shame the snakes took to it. Dear God! You don’t want that! Always put a lid on the compost or it will dry out – it needs a dark, moist environment to do its thing. Definitely don’t put your little doggy’s poo in it due to safety concerns. Our pets eat meat and there can also be nasty pathogens in their poo that can transmit diseases to humans as well as stuffing up the composting process. Leave that poo out girl!

      Reply
  7. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    April 30, 2016

    Big fan of the ol compst, we have an old drum that we roll every other day. Seems to take ages to break down, and we were caught with a stinky hot mess when we put on our gardens before it was ready. Should we avoid putting citrus in?

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 30, 2016

      Hey Anna, love how you’re rolling that compost! Sounds like it needed a bit more time to decompose and may have needed more carbon to even out the nitrogen (often that’s why it can be stinky!). There are so many mixed opinions about adding citrus to compost…I do it. I just make sure I chop them into small pieces otherwise it would be hard to break down 🙂

      Reply
  8. emma
    May 2, 2016

    I grew up on a property and my mum had a compost for every little bit of scraps etc. I live in a flat so find it hard to compost although I gave it a go for a year or so. I tend not to waste fruit and veg though, I use the older stuff for stock if I have any left over.

    Great post Jem 🙂 As soon as we buy our house I’ll be using your blog as a resource for gardening stuff for sure.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      May 2, 2016

      Thanks Emma, making stock is also a great idea to get as much out of our veg as possible. I always save my shady looking celery, carrots and onions for the task!

      Reply
  9. leaf (the indolent cook)
    May 3, 2016

    Your compost looks so nice and rich! I’m not sure if it counts as composting and it’s even lazier than your method but in our household, we just accumulate plant-based kitchen scraps in a small plastic tub for several days, and then bury it in the garden.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      May 3, 2016

      That is fantastic Leaf! It all goes back to the earth…love it 🙂 PS: the lazier the better for me lol.

      Reply
  10. lucie
    May 7, 2016

    We do such a lot of composting where I live, its so easy to do – thank you for sharing this post – more people need to start doing this!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      May 8, 2016

      Absolutely Lucie. It’s so easy once you get into a routine and can make such a difference 🙂

      Reply
  11. e / dig in hobart
    May 11, 2016

    I can’t believe I missed composting week! I’m hopeless at composting – I say it’s too cold here in Tassie, though of course other people can do it. I dig my kitchen scraps directly into my veg garden soil. I find that works well and is nice food for the worms.
    I also save/freeze stuff for my mum’s chickens, if they can eat it. very little gets wasted at our place!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      May 11, 2016

      I know that you would waste very little – you do awesome stuff! I really love the idea of putting scraps directly in the soil. It all decomposes at the end of the day 🙂

      Reply
  12. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    May 12, 2016

    Another inspiring post from you, Jem. More people will definitely involve themselves into composting 🙂

    Reply
  13. Gillie
    May 15, 2016

    We have a strict order of waste disposal. Dogs (who scavenge so fiercely for veg scraps I sometimes wonder if they are dogs at all), chickens and then the compost bin. Teenage daughters appear in the loop at all stages 😉

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      May 16, 2016

      LOL sounds like a very well organised chain of waste prevention Gillie! Chickens are a fantastic part of this process 🙂

      Reply
  14. Ngeun
    May 21, 2016

    Again, great lot of info Jem. Thank you! Can’t wait for the day when all plastic bags are biodegradable. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Comment