What to Put in Your Compost Pile Now for a GREAT Spring Reward!
So this is it! My first official gardening post! I have been holding off until I was confident about the information I was sharing. Tried and tested is my motto!
I started composting properly in January 2020. I tried before using the bokashi method but it was pretty gross. Bokashi is done in a bucket, you can throw all your kitchen scraps in, including meats and oils which is a no-no for regular composting. The thing is once your bucket is full, you have to let it sit for two weeks to rot and then you bury waste in a hole in your garden. You use the juices of the decomposing kitchen waste during the two weeks to make a fertiliser concentrate or “compost tea”. The concept is great, to be honest, but my weak stomach couldn’t handle the dirty side of it. I think I should give it another chance! Traditional composting has been my success.
First and foremost it is important to share that I live in a suburb in the North of Johannesburg. I don’t have much space and my neighbours and I share central walls in our gardens. We are very close to each other so it was important that my compost didn’t intrude on their noses.
Composting is ridiculously easy! I work on it every Saturday morning for an hour or so and then leave it to do its thing for the rest of the week! Your compost heap is a winter project. According to Sean from Livingseeds.co.za you get the richest, nutrient-dense compost if you over-winter it. I started mine in Summer and have been adding as I go.
For this post, I started a newer, bigger pile so I can show you the start and middle of the project. Before we take a look at my pile, let’s get the basics covered…
The Composting Basics
Compost is made up of Carbon and Nitrogen. These are the core components your soil needs to be able to feed your plants. Different things offer the Carbon and Nitrogen to your compost heap. You will also hear about needing Green and Brown items for your pile. To get Nitrogen in your pile, you add Green components and to get Carbon, you add Brown components.
Green = Nitrogen / Brown = Carbon
- Vegetable Scraps
- Green Leaves
- Lawn/Grass Clippings
- Garden Trimmings
- Teabags (Plastic-Free)
- Coffee Grounds
- Animal Manure (Herbivore Only!)
- Weeds (Without Flower & Seed Heads)
- Old Bouquet Flowers
- Human & Animal Hair
- Dry Leaves
- Wood Chips
- Cardboard Egg Cartons
- Toilet Paper Rolls
- Wood Ash (Untreated and No Coal or Briquettes)
- Dried Grass
- Shredded Paper
- Crushed Eggshells
- Toothpicks, Bamboo Skewers and Matches
- You want a Nitrogen (Green) to Carbon (Brown) ratio of 1:2.
- Too much Nitrogen and your compost will smell, too much Carbon and your pile won’t break down.
- When adding food scraps to the pile, dig a hole in the centre, add food scraps, cover with the compost.
- Keep your compost pile covered to retain moisture and keep pests out.
- If your compost pile is too wet, add more Carbon (Brown) items to dry it up.
- Give your new compost pile 3 weeks before you do your first turn. This gives all the bacteria and micro-organisms a chance to do their job.
- It is important to have airflow through the pile so turn it weekly or biweekly and remember to keep it moist.
- If you spot any kitchen scraps sticking out, push them into the pile and cover-up. This prevents fruit flies and other nasty critters.
- Protective Gloves
- Garden Fork
- Small & Large Spades
- Watering Can or Hosepipe
- Shears / Scissors
I used my small compost as a starter for my new pile, incorporating it throughout the new pile. One of our reed type plants died so I pulled it up and chopped it small, laying it at the base of the new compost pile. This will aid in aeration of the pile.
I then layered grass clippings, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, wood ash, teabags and newspaper strips to make a pile that is double the size of the old one.
You will notice over time it shrinks. This is due to the solid matter being broken down into rich, crumbly earth!
Last thing… If you move your compost to a different spot each year, you can use the soil below to grow things. Prime example, my small post has been on the hard, dusty compacted earth below our washing line. The ground is sandy and it often floods due to water not being able to penetrate the compacted dust.
Having the compost pile on one spot for five months has made the soil loamy, dark and enriched. I took a photo of the soil as it usually is compared to the newly enriched soil. Take a look at the examples below.
With My Love,