Making compost is a great gardening activity; not only will it produce some really useful material for your garden, but it also provides a great way to teach your kids about recycling and the importance of proper nutrients for plant growth.
No kids’ garden should be without its own compost heap!
What is Compost?
Compost is a dark brown material, rich in organic matter, made when biodegradable material such as kitchen peelings and garden clippings are allowed to decompose naturally.
When added to the soil, it adds vital nutrients and helps to improve soil structure, water retention and drainage. Alternatively, compost can be used as a growing medium in its own right.
Why Make Compost?
There are two main reasons for making compost – economic and environmental. The first of these is purely practical – as any gardener will testify, there’s nothing like compost either to use as a growing medium within pots for growing seeds or new cuttings, or to add to the garden as a soil improver. Making your own makes economic sense, since it stops you having to buy it from the garden centre.
Just as importantly – and possibly more so, from your kids’ point of view in these “green” conscious days – it allows material which would otherwise be destined for landfill to be turned into something useful – reducing your waste and your carbon footprint in one fell-swoop!
What’s Sort Of Material is Suitable?
A wide range of materials can be used to make compost. When it comes to kitchen waste, raw vegetable peelings, cores and uneaten bits of fruit and vegetables are ideal, while old tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells can also be added to help the process. Avoid meat, fish, bones and dairy products though, since these do not break down in quite the same way – and they may attract vermin.
Most garden clippings can also be added, along with some cardboard, sawdust or woody prunings to help improve the air-flow inside the composting material.
What’s The Best Time Of Year to Start?
The whole composting process works faster in warmer weather, so many gardeners tend to start their compost bins off in the spring, although others prefer to begin in autumn, largely because there is usually a good supply of fallen leaves and plant clippings at this time of year. It really doesn’t matter when you start composting – it will take its own time!
Won’t it Attract Rats and Other Pests?
No it shouldn’t, so long as you don’t try to compost meat, fish, bread or dairy products. Using the bin regularly will also help – rats don’t like places where they’re likely to be disturbed.
Can I Add All My Garden Waste to The Compost Heap?
You can add most kinds of cuttings and clippings, but don’t try to compost any weeds that have ripe seed heads. Although the plant itself may break down, there’s a strong possibility that the seeds will remain viable and the compost you make will sprout an unwelcome crop of new weeds next year when you use it in the garden. Compost the weeds you pull up, by all means, but remember to remove any seed heads first and burn them.
How Big a Compost Bin Do I Need?
There are so many types and sizes of compost bin on sale today that it can often be hard to know what to buy. Deciding how big a bin you need largely comes down to your own circumstances and the size of your household and garden. For the average family, living in the average home and eating fruit and vegetables on a fairly regular basis, a compost bin of 330 litre capacity would be typical. Larger or smaller households – or gardens – would obviously need to adjust their compost bins accordingly.
Making compost with your kids is a really good activity to get involved with, since not only does it provide a useful material for the garden, but it also taps into current concerns over the wider issues of the environment and our use of resources. Given the eco-awareness of today’s typical youngsters, composting is about as near a sure-fire winner as you’re ever going to get!