DON’T WASTE IT COMPOST IT! CLING BEGI S AT HOME N RECY Published by Northamptonshire County Council December 2002 Why Compost at Home? Home-made compost improves the quality of your garden soil, helping it to retain moisture and support healthy plant growth. Composting your garden waste at home saves you the time and trouble of bagging and transporting it to your Local Recycling Centre. Composting at home is an ideal way to recycle your garden and kitchen waste, reducing the amount to be collected by the dustmen. Up to a third of the contents of a typical dustbin is compostable. Home-made compost can be used instead of shop bought peat based compost, helping to preserve valuable peatland habitat. COMPOSTING AT HOME HELPS YOU AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT! This leaflet can be made available in other languages and formats upon request (large print, Braille, audio cassette and floppy disk). What Can I Compost? Do Compost Uncooked kitchen waste eg. Fruit and vegetable peelings, tea bags, eggshells. Garden waste eg grass clippings, prunings, hedge clippings, weeds, dead plants. Vegetarian animal bedding eg Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamsters. Shredded newspaper, cardboard, egg boxes, kitchen paper. Don’t Compost Metals, plastic, glass. Diseased plants. Nappies. Cat or dog faeces, cat litter. Barbecue or coal ash. Cooked food, plate scrapings, meat, fish, dairy products. Easy Steps to Successful Composting Composting is the natural process by which dead organic material is returned to the soil. By composting at home you are able to produce a wonderful soil improver from the kitchen and garden waste you would normally throw away. 1 Choosing a bin Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from a range of materials. Plastic bins are ready-made and tend to look tidier. Wood and wire mesh bins can be built yourself and can be made to your own requirements in terms of shape and size. TIP If you are building your own bin, a lid or a cover is important to prevent the heap drying out during warm weather or being soaked during rainstorms. 2 Siting your bin Your compost bin should ideally be placed onto soil.This provides access for the composting creatures that drive the composting process, in addition to allowing excess moisture to drain away. There is little difference between sunny and shady spots, the important thing is that it is accessible and not too obtrusive. 3 Materials, moisture and air Add your kitchen and garden waste as and when it arises, being careful to avoid those materials in the 'Don’t Compost' section on Page 3. There is no special preparation required... just throw it in and start composting! TIP Air is essential to the composting process, particularly during summer when composting activity is at its peak.There is no need to turn your compost bin contents. Just use a garden fork to poke holes into the material, as deep as you can, every couple of weeks to provide air channels.This not necessary during the winter months when composting activity is low. Do not be afraid to add tough, twiggy material in addition to softer items such as grass and vegetable peelings.Whilst these materials can take time to decompose, they are essential to the composting mix. Large, undecomposed items can be sifted out from the finished compost and put back into the bin to continue composting. TIP The compost bin contents should always be moist. If it looks a little dry on the surface, just add water. Frequently Asked Questions How long does it take? Anything from six weeks to a year depending on the time of year and the types of material added. Softer items such as grass decompose faster than woody material but both types should be added to ensure a good mix. The composting creatures are more active in spring & summer and quickly decompose the material you add. During autumn & winter, the process works more slowly but you should still continue to add material. Do I need to add any chemicals? No, accelerators or enhancers are not necessary as the required enzymes and bacteria are naturally occurring and plentiful within your compost bin. HELP! I have ants/slugs/woodlice/flies etc in my bin! Nature uses a range of creatures to decompose your kitchen and garden waste. Many may appear to be a pest in other parts of the garden but in the compost bin, they are just doing the job they were designed for. Ants create air channels, slugs decompose soft materials and woodlice work on the tougher items. The little flies are harmless fruit flies feeding on the decomposing fruit & vegetable waste. If they become a problem, just cover the contents with a thin layer of soil or a sheet of newspaper each time they appear in great numbers, and they will disappear. Where can I use my compost? Home-produced compost can be dug into the soil as a conditioner, sieved and used as a lawn top dressing, or used in pots and hanging baskets. In fact, any place where you would normally use shop-bought compost. Does it smell? It should not smell, however if the bin is stuffed with grass clippings it may do.To prevent this add a layer of torn newspaper, card, straw or hedge clippings to every bin liner of grass added and the problem should not occur. Leafmould Can I compost my Autumn leaves? Leaves can take over a year to decompose. If you gather more than a sack full of leaves each year, it would be better to turn them into leafmould. The easiest way to do this is to place them wet, into a black bin sack, tie the top and poke lots of air holes into it. Leave the sack in a corner of the garden and, by the following Autumn, you will find that they have turned into a crumbly soil-like material called Leafmould. All You Want To Know About Wormeries! A wormery (“home for worms”) is best if you only compost kitchen food waste - peelings, teabags, apple cores etc., to produce compost which can be used in flower beds and window boxes.The liquid ‘worm wee’ which is pro- duced from the wormery can be used when diluted to feed house plants. Remember... Keep the wormery rainproof and in a sheltered warm spot out of direct sunlight and wind. Keep your wormery as dark as possible. Keep your wormery slightly moist, but drain off excess liquid to avoid drowning the worms. TIP... Small amounts of shredded newspaper will soak up excess water. In winter the wormery should be placed indoors (a shed or garage) to keep the worms warm. Alternatively insulate the wormery by using bubblewrap or carpet. Because worms feed much slower during the winter, producing less compost, it is better to reduce the amount of food waste given to them until spring. DO NOT... z Overfeed your worms. Food should only be a maximum of 2 inches deep until it is eaten. z Use fly spray on your wormery. z Let your worms get cold.