Did you know that over half of the domestic waste placed in your garbage bin is compostable? Backyard composting of certain food scraps and yard trimmings can significantly reduce the amount of waste in your bin.
Finished compost can improve soil texture, increase the ability of soil to absorb air and water, suppress weed growth and reduce the need to apply commercial soil additives.
Want a FREE compost bin and a FREE kitchen tidy bin? (For residents of Blacktown City Council only, one per household)
To help you get started composting at home, Council is giving away a free compost bin and kitchen tidy bin. To be eligible, you need to attend one of Council's composting and worm farming workshops. To find out when the next workshop is on and to book, call Council on 9839 6000.
PLUS buy a worm farm, compost or Bokashi bin and you can receive a rebate from Council to the value of $25.00 Simply complete the rebate form below, attach a copy of your receipt that clearly features 'worm farm', 'compost bin' or Bokashi bin' and sent it to Council. It will take 2-3 weeks to receive your rebate cheque in the mail. There are a maximum of two rebates of $25 available per household. If you attend a workshop and get a free compost bin, that is counted as one rebate for your household.
What is composting?
Making your own garden compost is a lot easier than most people realise. With a simple heap you can recycle most of your organic household and garden waste and enrich your garden’s soil at the same time. It’s also an extremely satisfying way to help the environment.
By turning food scraps and organic garden waste into compost you can:
- Improve soil quality and garden vitality by releasing the rich nutrients in the compost into the soil of your garden
- Prevent greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the aerobic breakdown of organic material and reduces the amount of garden and kitchen waste going to Landfill
- Recycle valuable nutrients and reduce the use of artificial fertilisers
- Saves you money
A composting system confines the organic material and often controls the conditions in the material so that the breakdown is accelerated. A composting system can be started in old garbage bins, wooden boxes, or in a simple heap.
Composting organisms require four equally important components to work effectively:
Nitrogen (Green ingredients): supply your pile with nitrogen which grow and reproduce organisms to oxidise the carbon. These additions are often green and wet: kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, weeds pulled from your garden. Every pile needs the green ingredients, but if all you have is green stuff, your pile can turn stinky and mucky. Too much green stuff can lead to a rotting pile instead of a composting pile.
Carbon: (Brown ingredients): supply your pile with carbon for energy (heat). These items are often brown and drier--fall leaves, branches, hedge clippings, straw, etc. The carbon is very necessary but again, too much has its consequences. If you have a pile with mostly prunings from your hedge and other woody stuff, the pile can take years to break down. It can sit there and linger in your back yard and you may begin to make plans to will your compost to your grandchildren.
Oxygen, for oxidizing the carbon, facilitating the decomposition process. Done by regularly turning the mixture.
Hint: If your compost becomes starved of oxygen, then it starts to produce greenhouse gases - so it's important to get air into your compost heap, for example by turning it regularly.
Water: mixture should be moist, but not soaking wet to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions
Hint: Make sure your material is cut into a small particle size as smaller particles break down more rapidly
Your Four Step Guide to Creating Great Compost
1. Choose a Site: Place your compost heap or bin in a well-drained area that has some shade. Too much sun will dry out your compost.
2. What to Compost:
- Green Ingredients: Compost needs a mixture of nitrogen rich organic materials such as fruit and vegetable peelings, and green garden vegetation such as fresh grass clippings and green leaves
- Brown Ingredients: Nitrogen-poor, carbon rich materials such as dry leaves, woody twigs, paper and straw
- Some soil or completed compost to introduce composting micro-organisms
3. Layering: Start with a thick layer of coarse material (~15cm), such as twigs or mulch, this is used for drainage. Then follow with a layered A,B,C system using the materials above A. Garden clippings and kitchen scraps, B. Dry leaves and paper (wet). C. Add water after each layer to keep the heap moist but not wet. Then repeat steps ABC. Finish with step D. Placing brown ingredients on top of food scraps will help make a richer compost, reduce odours and reduce the chance attracting fruit flies
4. Maintaining Your Compost: Keep your compost well aerated to prevent foul odours or methane. Turn your compost with a garden fork when required, alternatively place garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air in.
Depending on the mix of ingredients the duration for the compost to turn into a rich soil can be anything from 6 weeks to 6 months.
Hint: Cover your heap so that it is just moist, not wet. If it is wet or saturated mix more dry brown material through it and turn.
Hint: If you wish, add compost accelerator (young nettles are an excellent natural accelerator) to help speed up the composting process.
What to add to a Compost Heap
- Vegetable and food scraps
- Fallen leaves (in layers)
- Tea leaves and tea bags
- Coffee grounds
- Vacuum cleaner dust
- Soft stems
- Dead flowers
- Old potting mix
- Used vegetable cooking oil
- Egg shells
- Old newspapers (wet)
- Grass cuttings in layers
- Sawdust (not from treated timber)
- Wood ash
- Human and animal hair
- Chicken, cow or horse manure
What not to add to a Compost Heap
- Meat and dairy products
- Diseased plants
- Metals, plastic, glass
- Domestic animal manures (especially the droppings of cats and dogs)
- Large branches
- Weeds that have seeds or underground stems
- Bread or cake (may attract mice and ants)
- Sawdust from treated timber
Smelly Compost: If it gets too wet or if there is not enough air in the heap your compost can smell. A common cause is having too much food or green ingredients and not enough brown ingredients in your compost.
How to fix it:
- Fork in dry leaves or garden mulch.
- Add garden lime, dolomite or wood fire ash to the heap to reduce acidity.
- Turn the compost to add air.
- Combine nitrogen-rich ingredients with sawdust or shredded newspaper before adding to the heap.
- Give your compost heap a ‘floor’ of planks to ensure good drainage and air flow.
Pests/ Vermin: Cockroaches, mice or rats can sometimes make your compost their home.
How to fix it:
- Always cover food with a layer of brown ingredients or soil – then cover heap with under-felt, hessian or layers of newspaper or cardboard
- Turn the compost to discourage habitation.
- Fine wire under the compost bin or heap helps keep out mice and rats.
- Avoid placing dairy products, meat and seafood in the compost.
Compost Slow to Mature: A slow composting system can mean that the compost is not hot enough, or there may not be enough air or water.
How to fix it:
- Add nitrogen-rich material, such as kitchen scraps or green garden vegetation.
- Turn the heap and add water.
- Cover the compost with insulating material in winter if it gets too cold.
Where can you get a compost bin from?
To make it even easier Council sells compost bins and worm farms to its residents. They can be purchased from Council's Civic Centre on Flushcombe Road, Blacktown. Contact council for current prices for worm farms and compost bins. Worm farms need to be picked up at Council. Alternatively, you can get either compost bins or worm farms from local hardware stores or garden centres. Keep your receipt and claim your rebate.
Download the Easy Compost guide - Easy Guide to Composting.pdf