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Is it time to start composting?

Did you know that approximately half of what Auckland households send to landfill is compostable material? 10% is from the garden and whopping 40% is from the kitchen. This food waste alone weighs in at about 90,000 tonnes each year!

There is something easy you can do to help fix this problem. Instead of sending your kitchen and garden waste of to the landfill, simply compost it yourself! You can easily turn all your household kitchen and garden waste into a valuable resource, that can feed your garden or even your indoor and outdoor pot plants.

Composting is a lot easier than you may think! And there are many different types of composting that will suit most households. Choosing the right system that suits you and learning how to use it properly is the trick though.

  • If you are just starting to compost, a compost bin is a good choice. Your food waste, garden waste and scrap paper can become incredible compost. Read below to see how to set up a compost bin
  • Bokashi was developed in Japan. It is a fermentation process that helps break down food waste much quicker than usual.
  • Worm farming uses tiger worms or red worms to produce fantastic worm castings (composted material) and liquid fertilizer.
  • You can DIY one and make your own composting system like hot compost pile, compost bin and even build your own worm farm.

How to set up your own compost bin

To get started you will need a good structure or container to hold your compost. Compost bins are available from your local DIY store and garden centre, or you could build your own, for example out of plastic bins or pallets, or create a compost heap. Look online for more ideas. 

Choose a sunny position for your compost system and ensure it is easily accessible for adding ingredients and regular mixing.

Prepare your compost in layers that are a blend of carbon and nitrogen. This means adding a mix of organic garden and kitchen waste materials.

  • Carbon: Leaves, sticks, twigs and newspaper.
  • Nitrogen: Fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves and sheep pellets.
  • Avoid adding: meat, dairy products or bread as these can attract unwanted pests. Don’t add any diseased plant material, to avoid spreading the disease.

A good rule of thumb is to add nothing larger than your little finger. Break up larger items like sticks, twigs and cardboard before adding them, to help them break down more quickly. Layer materials evenly, making sure each layer is no thicker than 10cm. For every layer of backyard and garden waste, add a layer of kitchen waste material. To help get the composting process underway you can add some existing compost to each layer. Add a little water with each layer and mix the material every few additions. Put a lid on your compost bin to enable it to decompose quickly. Mix your compost regularly. It is compost when it is dark brown and smells earthy – it takes six to eight weeks to fully mature.

Even if you do not have the space for a large garden, or simply have a patio or paved area many of us still have plants in pots both indoors and outdoors so a little bit of compost would be useful – or feel free to share with neighbours, friends or family.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.