Recycle: the art of composting

The first thing I attempted as part of our move towards a sustainable life was composting. Every time I put my fruit and vegetable scraps into the garbage I felt so guilty and wasteful, but thought that without a vegetable garden I couldn’t really have a compost. The lovely ladies in the waste and parks teams at my work advised me that this was complete rubbish (excuse the pun!) and that I could start one straight away.

Since we rent and I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take this composting thing, I opted for a home made compost bin rather than buying one or having a compost pile at the back of the yard.

I looked around online and found some instructions on how to make a compost bin out of old plastic bins. This method kept it compact but also let me collect and use the ‘compost juice’ as fertiliser. We had two bins sitting around so this worked well. Sam drilled some holes in the side and bottom of the inner bin and we were good to go.

Bin of the left sat inside the bin on the right

I’ve now modified the bin slightly because it was getting too full and heavy and I could no longer lift the the inner bin up to get to the juice. Sam is planning to put a little tap on it for easy draining, but for now, I’ve ditched the outer bin and have got the inner bin sitting in a tub. Still does the job.

My new ‘MacGyvered’ compost system!

One I got started composting I realised that, a) that we actually didn’t eat that many fruit and vegetables, and b) what we did, didn’t yield much organic waste (we tend to eat veges like brocollini, tomatoes, spinach, etc and we don’t peel our carrots or potatoes). But it has slowly built up and with our tea bags, egg shells, hair (Turbo contributes to this the most!), cardboard, grass clippings and us increasing our fruit and veg intake, we have a nice little ecosystem in the works.

Our compost caddy for the kitchen (got it from Bunnings)

Once a week I add the items from our little bin in the kitchen to the main bin, give it a mix and then lay some grass clippings over the top (to be mixed in the next week but also to act as a barrier to keep flies, and therefore maggots, out). Each week, my compost drips liquid into the outer bin and then I use that to feed the vegie patch. If I am potting more plants then I grab some of the compost matter and add to my soil. The compost is not always 100% broken down, but I figure it is still going to do good.

My compost – it’s not 100% broken down but is getting there

So here is a few things I have learnt along the way that might assist you:

There is mixed opinions on whether other food waste, such as meat, bread, pasta, etc, should go into your compost. I’ve read numerous articles about this and from what I have worked out the main reason people don’t like it is because of the stench and that it attracts rats, both which will normally occur because of the composter’s inexperience in managing this type of compos. So its definitely not for a composting n00b, but once you have some experience with composting then adding more than just the basic organics is worth looking into.

Your compost needs a mix of green and brown matter to break down efficiently. Green items include fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grinds. Brown matter includes grass clippings, cardboard (no glossy stuff), paper (no glossy magazines), leaves, hair, lint, dust, cotton and wool.

It’s not life or death if you don’t get the green/brown ratio 100% correct. There is some websites that make this way more complicated than it needs to be. Just make sure that you top your compost with about the same amount of brown matter as the green matter you just added.You’ll know if you don’t have it right – if it smells, you need to add more brown matter; if it’s not breaking down fast enough, then add more green matter.

That liquid I mentioned earlier that ends up in the blue tub? That shit is liquid gold. My plants have thrived because of it and it has meant that I haven’t needed to fertilise as much because it does the job for me. So unless you are planning to plant vegetables in the soil under your compost pile, then I’d recommend using a compost bin that allows you to harvest this liquid.

2016-01-12 10.07.03
My compost juice – yummy right?!

I just hose down the tub – this cleans it while diluting the liquid – and then put it in a watering can and feed the plants.

Diluted with water and ready to pour onto the vegie garden

Worm farms and composts are not the same, so if you want to start a worm farm make sure you read up on it, as those babies have some special needs.

There is fancy all in one machines that break everything down super fast. They look really cool and are much neater than a big pile, but are quite pricey. Check out Closed Loop as an example.

Just to finish off, here is a list of some other, less conventional items that can go into compost bins – just some food for thought!



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