I’m a student and I grow a self-sustaining garden. Before you gasp, even if you don’t have a lifestyle-block or a spare paddock for cultivating, you’re only a banana peel and apple core away from creating your own home-grown ecosystem (no matter what your flat looks like on the inside). First off the bat, if you’re thinking to yourself “is composting really a necessity for my garden?”, take this into consideration; if you’re keen as a bean to start your own grocer, you definitely need the most friable, fertile soil possible, which you will achieve via the composting process. Essentially, you can form your own ‘humus’ nutrient-rich layer to lather on your earth and ‘superfood’ boost your veggies. All the while, you’re single handingly removing kitchen and garden waste from your crib and lifestyle.
Let’s get down and dirty.
For the most basic form of composting, it’s as simple as collecting all your unwanted or used organic food scraps, including your vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and fruit remnants like apple cores and banana skins. Don’t forget about that mouldy bread loaf from who-knows-when, or any mouldy food for that matter. That’s right - pretty much anything mouldy is already halfway to decomposing and can add flavour to your compost. Any type of container or bucket (either store bought ceramic or #homemadestyle) can be kept in your kitchen for collection of scraps for your compost pile in combination with lawn/plant clippings, dry leaves, human and dog hair, teabags, pencil shavings, any form of paper and paper towels. Finally you can say wholeheartedly to your lecturer ‘Excuse me, but the compost ate my assignment.’ In addition, you can chuck in the heap of vacuum cleaner dust, dust bunnies and dryer lint from that yearly spring clean.
You can either buy a compost bin from Mitre10 or dig a 15 cm pit, 122 cm wide and 183 cm long (on average) which is near a water supply and not in the shade. Fill your trench or bin with some of your compost mix and ideally sprinkle a little lime on top or farmyard manure on top in order to catalyse the breakdown process. Next, add 5 cm of soil and continue layering the compost mix between a layer of soil and a sprinkle of lime until your pit or bin is full. You can close your bin or choose to cover your trench if you want with some old sacks or newspapers. A hint - add a cup of sugar over the compost for an increased decomposition rate. Now grab yourself a stick or branch and aerate that compost by poking holes as deeply as possible in 5 or 6 different directions - it’s not that hard to do and all the better if your flatmate plays golf. Once your compost is brown, dry and crumbly, it is fully cooked and ready for the garden (if you start now, it could be a cheap and ‘made with love’ gift for Mum or Nan at Christmas.) Lastly, make sure to add water over the summer so your compost can stay hydrated, kids.
It’s not messy, there’s no funky smell too different from the usual, and it’s the truest form of recycling. Who could say no to nurturing your nature? Especially when you adopt little critters like my fantail friend, and it’s likely that the earthworms will find your homemade compost to be a new home too. I got a little compost-crazy and dished out my left overs straight to the ground but that’s the beauty of composting, there are no hard and fast rules!
Crucial handy tips and know-how behind composting:
- Be sure to grind your eggshells down in the kitchen wiz before adding to the compost as eggshells take a long time to break down but are essential as a nitrogen source.
- Only a small layer of grass clippings is needed for the heat factor.
- Add no coloured, glossy paper or paper towels with grease or chemicals, as you are at risk of adding toxic materials.
- Pencil shavings are derived from wood and graphite, providing a source of carbon for your mix.
- Vacuum cleaner dust, dust bunnies, and dryer lint must be from only wool carpets or natural fibre clothing.
- If you want to become a really serious composter, throwing in some roadkill is a popular practice in the United States - but beware this can attract rats. A rat trap is essential nearby and as a win-win, you can add the proceeds from your trap to the compost!
- Remember: Anything that has lived before can live again as compost. As long as you are contributing to a cycle of zero wastefulness from your garden to your plate, you can’t go wrong.