Unsure where to start on your composting journey or are you looking at how you can improve what you are already doing? The good news is, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ve put together some of our favourite pieces of composting advice to help make you a compost champion.
For compost newcomers
Choose a composting system (or systems!) that works for you. You’ll want to think about things like how much organic matter your household produces, where you’ll put it and motivation levels before you commit – but remember, once you get started it’s actually pretty easy to maintain.
Learn about the composting process – understanding how you need to balance your compost to get the best results is important.
Keep a container for food scraps in sight, until you get out of the habit of throwing them into the bin.
These things can be included in most compost heaps or worm farms:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps (it can help to make sure they are smallish in size, the bigger they are the longer they’ll take to break down).
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Grass cuttings and green leaves
- Dry leaves
- Shredded paper
- Tissues and paper towels
- Natural fabrics – such as cotton, bamboo and hemp (small amounts only)
We also recommend keeping meat, fish and dairy items away from traditional composting methods and worm farms (although you can place them in bokashi bins) because it can cause some unwanted odours and pests. You should also avoid feeding worms items like garlic and chilli in order to keep them healthy (and hungry for your scraps!).
Be patient – even some of the quickest methods take time to see results.
For the confused composter
Remind yourself – you are committed to doing a great thing, even if it’s not quite going as well as you’d hoped.
Check that you aren’t overloading your compost bin, barrel or heap with particular items. It’s ok to compost most things that once lived, but too much of a good thing – especially onions and citrus peel - can cause problems.
Maintaining a 2:1 ratio is important – you should be putting twice as many dry or brown items (which release carbon) to moist or green items (which release nitrogen).
Consider whether it might be time to start a second compost type – a bokashi bin may help to prevent even more of your food waste going to landfill, or a new worm farm might be a good way to get rid of dog poo if you have a pet (but just remember, you’ll need to set up a separate farm for this – the worms won’t choose to eat the poo if you’re also feeding them kitchen scraps!)
Common composting problems
My compost is too wet
How to tell: If water runs out of the compost like a wet towel when you squeeze the soil it’s too wet.
What to do: aerate the pile more frequently, add fewer moist materials and more dry ones.
My compost is too dry
How to tell: If the compost falls out of your hand like sand when you pick it up, it’s too dry.
What to do: add about a watering can’s worth of water to your compost pile regularly.
My compost smells bad
How to tell: It’s pretty noticeable on the nose when you come into close proximity to where you keep your compost. If it doesn’t smell sweet, it smells bad.
What to do: let it breathe more – mix regularly, add more coarse material and think about adding a compost conditioner.
My compost doesn’t seem to be breaking down
How to tell: If the materials at the bottom or even the middle of your compost still looks like the top of the compost.
What to do: add nitrogen-rich materials like urea, blood meal, grass clippings and alfalfa meal. Mix the pile more regularly and consider a compost conditioner.
I’ve put something in that I probably shouldn’t have
How to tell: It hasn’t broken down but everything around it has.
What to do: remove it from your compost, put it in your general bin and try to find a way to recycle or dispose of it differently in the future.
My earth worms are dying
How to tell: Either your worms won’t be moving anymore (i.e. you’ll see dead worms throughout your compost) or you won’t be able to find any.
What to do: You’ll need to get some more worms, and possibly restart your compost. You may also need to think about these tips – reduce the moisture, consider moving your compost to a shady spot if it’s in direct sunlight, make sure the worms have air circulation and make sure they have enough (but not too much) food.