This section is to help you get the most out of your compost bin even if you have never composted before.
By composting you are reducing the waste you send to landfill and creating a very useful product for your garden.
Please see below or use the menu links on the left to find out more.
What is composting?
Composting is a natural process of decomposition of garden and kitchen waste (fruit and vegetables) through the action of bacteria, fungi, mini-beasts and other micro organisms. The end result is a lovely black soil-like product that will improve the soil structure of the garden. Benefits include:
- Reduces the need for artificial fertilisers
- Feeds the plants and the soil
- Retains moisture by improving soil structure
- Eliminates the use of peat, which has been extracted from important wetland wildlife areas
- Avoids fruit and vegetables waste from the kitchen going to landfill where they would generate methane which may contribute to global warming
- Each compost bin diverts around 150kg of biodegradable waste from landfill each year - that's roughly the weight of two people
Where to buy a compost bin
- Visit our home composting page with details of how to buy a reduced price compost bin
- Search on the web for compost bin suppliers or visit your garden centre
- Try the free ads which may have bins on offer
- Try free exchange web sites such as http://norfolkfreegle.org
- You could try making your own bin
How to start composting
Choose a well drained area in your garden to put a compost bin - it is possible to place bins on concrete, but there will be run off that may stain. The bin should be easy to get to. Placing it in sun will speed up the composting process.
Whichever type of bin you chose it is important to ensure that there is a secure lid to keep out the rain and that it is protected from vermin.
Use a caddy to collect kitchen waste (see below for what can and can't be composted). A good compost is a balanced mix of green 'wet' materials and brown 'dry' material. Too much of the same vegetation can cause problems. Mix the material as you add it to the bin - you can stir the compost or 'turn' it, but this is not essential. Chop up larger pieces if necessary.
The process of making finished compost can take from six months to two years and depends on many variables. Don't forget what you see in the top of the bin has no bearing on what's hiding at the bottom!
Protect against vermin
If vermin are likely to be a problem in your area, it is advisable to stand, or build your compost bin on a wire mesh screen or expanded metal, which can be folded up around the outside. Another way is to place four paving slabs on the ground in a square with a gap between them. This allows small creatures to get in and liquid to drain out without allowing easy access for larger vermin. Siting the bin away from the edges of your property or other barriers will help avoid placing the bin on a 'rat run'. Never put cooked food, meat, dairy or any processed foods into the compost bin.
Composted green garden waste does not provide a useful food source for rats, but good compost will get hot and offers a comfortable nesting site. It is good to visit your bin often and keep it somewhere near the home so it is not left undisturbed for long periods.
If you have a homemade wooden compost frame it is best to use this for green garden waste only. If it contains vegetable and fruit waste then it is more likely to attract rats. In this case, the outside will also need to be protected with metal mesh to prevent rats gnawing through the wood.
If you are unlucky and find a problem with rats in your compost bin, find a willing volunteer or yourself to scare the occupant away, then remove all the contents of the bin, resite it somewhere more suitable, ensure it is rat-proofed and put all the compost back in. This act will usually be enough to send the visitor away for good.
Worm composting is an alternative to the compost bin, especially if space is an issue. The system uses Brandling worms to create a dark and crumbly compost from garden and kitchen waste. Although you can buy special worm bins, it is possible to make your own using old plastic dustbins, water butts etc. This type of composting requires more care and effort to maintain, but it is fun, especially for children to learn about the process. Several suppliers sell wormeries or you can order from the home composting website: www.norfolk.getcomposting.com
Composting in schools
Composting in schools can help reduce waste fruit, paper towels, shredded paper etc. and produce a valuable resource for the school grounds. Please see http://www.recyclenow.com/schools/compost/index.html for hints and tips.
Having a wormery in school is fun and educational. Shop around to find one to suit your needs. An example of a small wormery can be seen here: http://www.thewormhotel.com/wormeries.php
A local teacher has recommended these links: