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So put simply compost is just decomposed organic materials, but that doesn’t sound very appealing so think of it more like recycling, composting is recycling materials that would usually be considered waste. Compost is also a great way to add nutrients and improve the quality of soil, it can also help improve the structure of the soil and help with water retention. Plus it is also cheap and will save you money.

In short compost is great for your garden, but it can be a bit daunting to get started making your own. A lot of the time when you mention compost people screw up their noses because it’s a common misconception that composting is smelly, messy and difficult, which can be true if it’s done wrong. But done right its simple and will greatly improve your garden as well as help reduce waste, all good things right?

Hot vs Cold

So before you jump into making your own, let’s quickly look at the 2 different types of compost so you can decide what method is right for you.

First up is cold composting, probably the easiest of the lot. Cold composting is as simple as collecting garden waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and eggshells) and then placing them in a pile or bin. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose.

Next is hot composting. Similar to cold composting but requires you to be a bit more involved but the payoff is you get a useable compost faster. Four ingredients are required for fast-cooking hot compost: Nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items feed microorganisms, which speed up the composting process.

Nitrogen (Green) items include kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, animal manures (not from dogs or cats), and fresh plant and grass trimmings.

Carbons (Brown) items include dried plant materials; fallen leaves; shredded tree branches, cardboard, or newspaper; hay or straw; and wood shaving.

So What Can You Compost?

Well since it is really just recycling organic material, there is a lot you can compost. But broadly speaking the list below is a good guide of what to add.

  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells (though they can take a while to break down)
  • Grass and plant clippings
  • Dry leaves
  • Finely chopped wood and bark chips
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Straw
  • Sawdust from untreated wood

Tip: Think twice before adding citrus peels, onions, and garlic to your homemade compost pile. It is believed that these materials repel earthworms, which are a vital part of your garden.

While most things can be composted, not all can. So don’t add the following to your compost, or you might just ruin all your work.

  • Anything containing meat, oil, fat, or grease
  • Diseased plant materials
  • Sawdust or chips from pressure-treated wood
  • Dog or cat faeces
  • Weeds that go to seed
  • Dairy products

How To Make Your Compost

So since cold compost is so straight forward, this guide will go over making hot compost. It really is quite simple and in only a few steps and little time and effort you will have beautiful compost to revitalise your garden.

Step 1 Making the pile

So to start off you want to have enough materials for a decent size pile, around 3 feet deep is a good start. You need to combine your wet, green items with your dry, brown items. For best results, start building your compost pile by mixing three parts brown with one part green materials. Using a bin or something with sides makes it easier to keep the compost contained and neat. Also black bins will help keep the compost warm.

Tip: If your compost pile looks too wet and smells, add more brown items or aerate more often. If you see it looks extremely brown and dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.

Step 2 Give it a drink

Compost needs moisture! Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge. But don’t over water it, you don’t want to drown the microorganisms in there. If this happens then instead of composting it will just rot.

Step 3 Keep it snug

It needs to be warm, keep an eye on the temperature of your compost by ether using a thermometer or sticking your hand into the middle of the pile, some piles can get quite hot, especially in the warmer months. But if it’s doing its thing right the compost should feel warm when you put your hand into the compost. Without warmth it won’t decompose properly.

Step 4 Stir it up

During the growing season turn the pile over once a week to give it oxygen. It is best to turn it when the center of the pile is warm, stirring the pile will help it ‘cook’ faster. It will also stop it from compacting too much and developing an unsavoury odour.

Tip: Chop or shred any further raw ingredients into smaller sizes as you add them to the pile, so they decompose faster

Step 5 You are good to go

Once all that good stuff as composted down and it becomes dry, crumbly and stops giving off heat, it’s ready to be used. Now you can take some of the good stuff and add it to your garden beds, pots, planters or wherever you need it.

Tip: To make liquid fertilizer “steep” some finished compost in water for several days, then strain it.

So there you have it, compost made easy. It’s now up to you to decide which compost method will work best for you. Every garden and every gardener is different so experiment and find out what works for you. But at least now you have a starting point, so go and create beautiful compost to take your garden to the next level.

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