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Why Compost?

When working in an organic system we use natural decay to our advantage. We can aim towards a ‘closed loop’ by recycling all nutrients and organic material back to the soil that it grew in, keeping it healthy, with good structure and nutrient levels.

This is the most sustainable way to garden. By composting at home, we are saving money, wasting less and reducing our carbon footprint.

We don’t need to buy and transport commercial compost, (especially PEAT which needs to stay put, as our perfect carbon sink).

We are doing a lot to save our environment, and its free…

What to add

The food is all of your garden debris, prunings, and vegetable and fruit kitchen waste, but not anything cooked, such as meat, fish, dairy, bread which will make compost smelly and attract rats. A mix of 50% ‘green’ (nitrogen rich) and 50% ‘brown’( carbon rich) is best in theory, but you will fine tune your own bin with experience.
Greens are: grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peelings, compostable tea bags, coffee grounds, weeds (try to catch them before they go to seed) old veg and annual plants. Anything soft and sappy. Nettles are ideal, but avoid putting the roots of any perennials directly in the bin without soaking for a few weeks to rot them down first, 
Browns are: woody stems and prunings, older tough plant growth, un-recyclable cardboard like pizza and egg boxes, Even old feather pillows , cotton flannels, and wool jumpers. You can also add straw and wood shaving bedding from vegetarian pets with their deposits. ( avoid cat and dog poo which carries too many toxins)

Heat - The more chopped and mixed material you add at once, the hotter it will get, so the weeds seeds, unwanted disease spores will be killed off. It could be ready within six months. This is easy to do in late spring. But colder, slow composting will still work, adding in layers as you have it ready. It will take longer, a year or maybe more.

Air - Woody material helps to create air pockets, for the tiny creature to breathe. If your compost seems too dense and sludgy, and starts to smell, it may be too much green, and not enough air. The smell indicates “anaerobic” is taking over from “aerobic”or breathable environment.This is where turning your compost can help. Take it out and fork it over to fluff it, maybe add woody clippings/ cardboard/ scrunched paper, and replace.

Water - Usually, the balance of water will work with 50% green. 50% brown materials.. Too wet - it will be smelly as there’s no room for air to support the microbes needed for decomposition. Add more woody material and turn the heap to reintroduce oxygen. Too dry - it’s often also too woody, so living beings will slow down or depart. In wet weather, open the bin to the rain, with a porous top. Another helpful liquid to add is human wee. Its sterile, and adds the missing nitrogen from lack of greens. Our forebears with their under the bed potties knew how useful the contents could be.

Using your compost

When it’s ready to use it’s deep brown, and has a pleasant smell like a forest floor. It might still have lots of woody pieces, but you can spread this directly onto beds as a mulch ( about 5cm deep) to protect and feed your soil. The rough texture will discourage slugs.

Sieved home compost, mixed with coir or horticultural sand to dilute its nutrient content, will make your own seed and potting compost. You can use the woody leftovers as a base for your next heap, they are already full of the right microbes and fungal spores.

And all this for free, just the cost a space in your garden, and a bit of lifting and moving.

Norfolk has 65 master composters trained and supported by Garden Organic to help raise awareness of the benefits of composting

Further steps

You can experiment with specialist composting which can cope with cooked food like a wormery , bokashi bins, and hot bins which provide a liquid residue, or compost tea. The most useful compost tea is made with Comfrey, grown specially in organic gardening, for making a quality liquid feed. Many perennials make a good liquid feed once they have rotted down over several weeks. Nettles are especially rich in minerals. Drain off the liquid and dilute one part to ten for feeding veg and flowers. The mush can then go onto the compost heap.