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A Guide To Composting

Compost is the process of recycling decomposed plants and other materials into rich soil to use in your garden. It’s a great way to get rid of garden and kitchen waste, and it’s really easy to learn how to do it.

What materials make the best compost?
You can use a range of materials to make compost but the best ones to use are either green, nitrogen-rich materials or brown, carbon-rich materials. Green, nitrogen-rich materials include grass cuttings, soft prunings, weed remains, fruit and vegetable scraps and tea bags. Brown, carbon-rich materials are cardboard, newspaper and straw. There are some materials you shouldn’t use for composting, such as plants which are diseased, cooked food, meat and fish, dairy, coal ash, cat and dog litter and disposable nappies.

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What you will need?
For composting, you will need oxygen, moisture, warmth, nitrogen and lime. You can aerate your compost by turning it once or twice per month, improving the rate of composting. Maintain moisture by watering it and keeping it damp. Compost should not be dripping wet. Keep your compost warm by pitting it in partial sunlight or in a dark coloured bin or plastic bag. For nitrogen, you can use animal manure or an off the shelf organic fertilizer. If you want to compost saw dust you’ll need more nitrogen. Add lime to your compost if you are composting lots of fruit and vegetables, and to reduce odour.

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Five steps for composting
1. Shred and chop materials as finely as you can.
2. Mix dry brown material with wet green material to get the best mix of carbon and nitrogen.
3. Make a pile of 3 x 3 x 3 feet so the compost is easy to turn but also heats up quickly. The pile should be hot in the middle after a couple of days.
4. Add water to keep the compost damp but not too wet.
5. Move your compost using a pitchfork to add air.

When to compost?
You can compost all year around, but the best time is late summer to early winter.

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What are compost bins for?
You can use compost bins or bags for controlling the levels of oxygen, water and temperature of your compost heap.

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Solving composting problems
If your compost is slimy, you probably have too much of one material such as grass clippings, and not enough air. Remove the slimy layer and add materials such as straw, hedge clippings or paper. Turn your heap to get more air. If your compost heap is cold, your material will still decompose but it will take a little longer.