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. Aussies also throw out one out of every five shopping bags. 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.
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.
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.
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!
MONDAY 2 – SUNDAY 8 MAY 2016
Reference:  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.  Global Food Losses and Food Waste – FAO, 2011.