By Rebecca Sprosen-Bailey – Allendale Nursery

The secret to a good garden is compost and you can make your own compost very simply.

Composting is the act of recycling food and yard waste to create nutrient rich, crumbly humus robust soil from decomposed organic matter. Using your waste as a resource is both efficient and environmentally beneficial. Compost regenerates poor soils and enriches them by encouraging the production of good bacteria and fungi in existing soils. It helps the soil to hold water and can enhance a plant’s ability to fight off insects and disease. Soil that has been composted needs less watering, fertilizer and pesticides.

To create your compost plot, build a three sided wire or timber frame, leaving the front open to enable regular mixing. Start with thick layers of damp newspaper and cover with dry material such as straw, shredded paper, dry clippings and dead leaves. Then add a nitrogen layer of fresh grass clippings and garden waste, vegetable and fruit scraps and animal manure, but not carnivore. Alternate the layers of waste repeatedly until your bed is between 45cm & 90cm in height. Finish with a dry layer to discourage fly populations. Leave the bed alone to decompose allowing 6 months where it should decrease in height by about 50%.

To increase the rate of decomposition, add air by using a garden fork to lift and aerate the layers, or you can use a commercial tumbler/rotating bin. To speed the decomposition process, an activator can be added. This is material high in nitrogen and micro-organisms such as yarrow, comfrey, borage, stinging nettle, lake weeds, aged manure, seaweed and algae (with the saltwater rinsed off). Your compost pile is alive and to keep it so means having the correct amount of food and moisture. Watch what it’s doing; if it smells bad, add brown material; if you can’t see materials breaking down, add more green material. Keep it moist, but not wet as odours occur. Weeds with seeds and diseased plants should be binned.

The time, care and diligence you place in creating your own compost will reward you a hundred times over and your garden will love you for it.

Hope this helps and happy gardening.