Learn about composting organic waste

At Life & Earth and Life Landscapes we agree with Eliot Coleman – "information is like compost, it does no good unless you spread it around." And today, the 29th of May, is Learn about Compost Day so we are going to be sharing some composting facts. With years of experience getting our hands dirty we decided to explore the things you can compost.

Environmentally-friendly habits start in the garden, whether in business or the home, composting is one of the best things you can do for gardens, carbon footprint, climate change and it also means zero food waste to landfill.

learn about composting day 29 May Life and Earth

Turning food waste into compost

Food waste makes of potent compost. Just like food provides essential nutrients for humans when we absorb it, the soil can also use those nutrients from leftovers. You have to put in back in what you harvest. Fruit and vegetables take nutrients from the soil so it is only fair, that as humans we put nutrients back into the soil.

Food waste is very high in nitrogen and it needs to be added to the compost before it starts to rot.

food waste bokashi composting life and earth

Bokashi these foods before you compost

Meat (including the bones), dairy, sea food and all cooked foods need to go through a food waste recycling process before you add them to a compost heap. These food products, if directly added to the compost heap, will rot and attract unwanted guests like flies, rats and maggots whilst causing a stench.

So it is best to put them through a 14 day Bokashi system that basically pickles the food, giving it a vinegar smell and making it unattractive to pests. This also speeds up the composting process.

learn about composting day

Other kitchen waste you can compost

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Chicken skewers
  • Eco-friendly take-away coffee cups
  • Paper serviettes
  • Paper towel and it’s roll
  • Tea bags
  • The morning newspaper
  • Wooden chopsticks and cutlery
  • Wooden toothpicks

newspapers add carbon to the compost heap

Composting green waste

Green waste is also known as garden waste and is also high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is an element required to create a successful compost heap.

It is important to add all organic waste while it is still fresh, not rotting. So this would include:

  • Mowed grass (let this dry out first)
  • Fallen leaves
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Seasonal colour

Adding brown waste to the compost heap

A good compost heap has a 60% carbon and a 40% nitrogen ratio. Brown waste, in a nutshell, is anything brown that once was green, and this is known to be carbon rich. This is important for controlling odours.

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Dead-headed roses
  • Fallen dried leaves
  • Newspapers
  • Old flowers arrangements
  • Old potting soil
  • Sawdust
  • Straw and hay

compost with dry leaves

Hazardous composting material

There are products that you need to think twice about before add them to the compost heap.

We all know you shouldn’t spread compost over weeds but you also shouldn’t spread weeds by putting their seeds into the compost heap. You can add weed seeds  into the composts if the compost heap is, hot enough for long enough, to kill these unwanted pests.

Diseased plants and snotty tissues should also only be added to the compost, if and only if, the compost heap reaches 60 degrees Celsius plus, for more than three consecutive days. If your compost heap is not working as well as it should then avoid, weed seeds, diseased plant matter and infectious tissues.


Animal waste in the compost heap, is it okay?

Chicken poop and horse manure is fantastic for the compost heap.

Dog and cat excrement contain worms that can affect humans so if the compost is going to be used on a herb or vegetable garden avoid it. For ornamental garden domestic dog and cat manure is fine.

Male human urine, that contains urea, which is an excellent source of nitrogen and lowers the pH so sprinkle it on heap often. Urine is sterile, the same cannot be said for human feces or female urea as it contains hormones. 


A recipe for a successful compost heap

  • Turn it often to add oxygen. This also encourages bugs in the compost
  • Keep is moist
  • Place it in dappled shade – gets heat but not lose moisture
  • Suppliment your compost heap with bokashi or worm farms.