Composting is not only good for your garden, it’s also great for the environment.
By keeping food and green waste out of the landfill – something SunSkips is passionate about – you’ll be protecting the atmosphere from harmful gases and it’s far better for the environment than chemical fertilizers.
The nutrient-rich compost can condition the soil in your garden (in gardening circles, compost is known as “black gold”).
Despite this, many households in the UK have never composted – but it’s not as challenging as it might seem. Composting costs nothing to make and it’s pretty easy once you know what you’re doing.
Here’s everything you need to know to get started with composting, from what can be composted to how to make it break down quicker.
There are essentially two types of waste that go on the compost heap: carbon and nitrogen.
The ratio of carbon and nitrogen is one of the keys to successful composting. If this is your first compost heap, you’ll want equal parts carbon to nitrogen. Experienced composters might suggest different ratios, like one-third nitrogen to two-thirds carbon, but 50:50 will get you there.
For the carbon part of your compost, add:
Nitrogen-rich waste for your compost includes:
An easy rule of thumb is to make sure you have an even mix of greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon).
As you get more proficient at making compost, you can play around with the ratios to see what gets the best results for you.
You may also find you need to top up an overly nitrous compost that’s starting to smell with additional carbon.
Now you’ve got your ingredients, it’s time to mix them all together!
First, you’ll need to decide where your compost heap is going. Ideally, you want to allocate a section of the garden that you don’t spend a lot of time in, as compost heaps have a tendency to smell.
Your pile will need to sit on bare earth to allow worms and microorganisms to work their magic on your waste. To keep things tidy, you might want to use a compost bin, which you can pick up from a hardware store (you can also just build one yourself out of wooden pallets if you’re going 100% eco-friendly).
Once you have your bin in place and it’s filled with compostable materials, you’ll want to set a reminder to give it a turn every couple of weeks with a pitchfork (or more frequently if you’ve got the time). A tumbler composter is a good idea if you want to make the process a little easier (more on different composters below).
Spray your compost to keep it moist (not wet) and keep the lid closed to create heat (you can buy a composting thermometer to check if it’s heating up).
You can just leave your compost to break down on its own without aerating or heating the mix, it’ll just take longer to decompose.
As you get more accustomed to composting, you’ll discover which waste types that your household produces reap the best results when used to fertilise your garden.
Here are a few tips to boost your composting game:
You can get good results with your composting with a simple DIY compost bin (or even just by piling it up in a heap), but you’ll get things going a bit quicker if you buy yourself a proper composter.
A plastic compost bin will help keep your compost warm and moist, and they usually come with a hatch so you can remove the composted material from the bottom and add fresh waste at the top.
Upgrade to a hot compost bin, and the additional insulation will churn out finer compost in 1-3 months, compared to the full year it’s likely to take if you leave your pile to do its own thing.
You might also want to look into a compost tumbler, which is a large bin with a crank on the side to make it easier to turn and speed up the process.
You can spend anywhere from £50 to £180 for a composter with a few useful features that’ll make life easier. And because composting is so good for the environment, many local authorities offer subsidies on compost bins. Suffolk residents, for example, can take advantage of a scheme that offers decent composting bins for less than £10.
If you don’t have a garden (or one big enough to justify a large compost heap) you can compost on a smaller scale in your kitchen.
This is handy in that the kitchen is where you’ll be producing most of your food waste. With a good enough bin and an even mix of waste, you won’t have to worry about the smell.
As you’ll only be able to have a smaller compost bin in the kitchen, you might want to consider making it a wormery. Worms will break down your compost in the same way that microorganisms from the soil would in an outdoor compost bin.
The result will be useful for any potted plants you might have on the balcony or window sills.
Composting is hugely beneficial to the environment. You’d be forgiven for thinking that food waste that goes in the bin will be broken down eventually, no matter where it ends up, but that’s simply not the case.
Food waste that isn’t properly managed releases methane gas which is 25 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.
According to WRAP, around 150kg of household waste can be diverted from landfill every year by composting.
Even if you can’t use the compost yourself, making compost is one of the best ways an individual can do their bit for the environment – and friends and family members that could use it on their own gardens will absolutely love you for it.
Not all food and garden waste can go on the compost heap. If you’ve got more to get rid of and want to be sure it’s managed with the utmost consideration for the environment (we can convert some of it into alternative fuels, for example), call SunSkips to find out what size skip you’ll need, or book online using our handy skip guide.