Composting by Andy Hamilton

If you are going to grow organically then composting should be one of your number one priorities. Much of the compost that is bought from garden centres comes from non renewable peat bogs and, as such, we at selfsufficientish are against the use of it.

Compost Bins

I have three compost bins: one that I bought from my local council at a subsidised rate, and two empty barrels which were dumped on my allotment.

The two barrels I have covered with a bit of old carpet to ensure that the heat stays in and the rain stays out.

You can make your own compost bin quite simply out of a pallet, as one of our visitors to our message board, Roger Watson, has. He says “I have to make big compost bins for leaves at this time of year. Here’s a tip, if any good to anyone.Grab four old wooden pallets and tie them at the ends to make a bin. They make a great bin and it’s easy to remove the compost later as you simply untie the side you want to work from. You can split the bottom layer off the pallets to make it neater but that takes a little longer.”

Within about six months you should have a load of compost in the bottom of whatever you bin you use. The bigger the better though as to get compost it has to reach a certain temperature before it starts to break down properly. You can buy some liquid that you pour in to aid this process, personally I use an age old method. I wee in it, I think it is something to do with the ammonia in urine. But, before we get people getting arrested for indecent exposure, make sure you don’t do this where people can see.

Keeping your household waste and what to compost

In my kitchen I have a small plastic bucket in which I keep my household organic waste. It has a resealable lid this not only keeps the smell down to a minimum but hides the unsightly look of kitchen waste. It is not advisable to compost any cooked food or meat as this can attract rats and other vermin (I believe that possums can be a problem in New Zealand). Another visitor to our site, Bob Riley, also suggests that you put in cardboard, such as cat food boxes, which you should shred before using. Paul (from Paul’s famous vegie burgers) also composts newspaper. He says, “much of the bacteria that you need to help break down your compost heap thrives within screwed up paper” and “most printing ink is made from vegetable dye so it is organic”.

You must also put in grass cuttings to help the help break the compost down. My allotment has the surrounding grass cut frequently so I just collect this up and stick it in.

Getting rid of Flies

One of the downsides to having a compost bin is the flies that it attracts, this is worsened when you keep your organic waste in your kitchen. I stumbled upon a solution as my girlfriend bought her sister Leia a carnivorous plant from a local Bath UK florist, costing £10 (I believe it is commonly know as a pitcher plant). At the time, in the height of summer, our mini home organic waste bin was attracting loads of fruit flies. Within two days they had all but gone. Leia now reports that her plant is thriving and is growing new ‘mouths’. She has also found out that it not only eats visible flies, but eats dust mites too. Thus making it an ideal house plant for asthmatics.

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