03 August 2010

Handy guide to organic waste composting in your garden

Organic waste composting in your garden

With many councils across the UK collecting recycling as part of the weekly rubbish pick up, we can now conveniently recycle the vast majority of our household waste. It is more unusual; however, for a council to collect food waste, resulting in many of us having to fill our bins with leftover food which we guiltily know will just go to landfill. This article is all about how you can turn your own food and other organic waste into compost for your garden, which will not only add nutrients to your soil, but will also cut down on your household waste which goes to landfill.

What you can and can’t compost

In order to create high quality compost there are some foods which you must avoid adding to the mix. Grease and oils must not be added, nor should butter, cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. If you add these items of food waste to your compost, not only will the composting mix start to really smell, but it will attract foxes and rats, and the waste will be broken down more slowly.

The good news is there are far more food items that you can compost than those which you can’t. Egg shells and the egg boxes they are contained in can be composted, as can tea bags and ground coffee. Rice, wheat and other cereals are fine to add to compost, so is bread, noodles, pasta and any other flour based product. Some of the more unusual items which are fine to add to compost include spices and paper coffee filters, whilst few of us need telling that it is fine to add old fruit and vegetables to compost.

Compost containers

If you are low on space, such as you only have a small garden, then an old bucket is perfect for composting as it doesn’t need a lot of space. In order to keep out flies and rodents it is important this bucket has a lid. There is no science between what food waste should go in first, so as long as it is suitable for composting, just chuck it in the bucket. If you find that the bucket is beginning to smell, put a layer of newspaper on top of the compost each time you add to it. This will stop odours escaping and the newspaper will eventually be broken down and become part of the compost.

For a larger garden, you may want to consider buying a cone bin. The cone shape means that the narrow part at the top recycles moisture, shrinking the food waste which then spreads out into the larger part at the bottom of the container. There is a door at the bottom of the container, giving you easy access to your compost.

Compost facts
  • It will take between 6 and 18 months for your food waste to break down into compost so be patient.
  • It is good to have a mix of different food types in order to create a nutrient rich compost.
  • Keep your compost bin as full as possible to ensure maximum heat and therefore quicker composting.

Grant Moyse works for Artscape Design, performing garden design in surrey, and loves using green tips in his gardening work.

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Photo Credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/watt_dabney