Fact sheet: Wendyl Nissen - Food waste and composting
If you are still sending food scraps to the landfill and not recycling them by composting then you are missing out on a great opportunity to fertilise your garden, or even your local park's garden.
My first attempts to compost were with Bokashi which is great for people who live in small homes without a garden.
All you do is keep a bin under your sink and layer your scraps with a helping of Bokashi mix, which looks like sawdust and contains all sorts of beneficial microbes. Once the bucket is full you drain the juice at the bottom and dilute it with water to fertilise your garden, burying the rest in a hole in the garden. No smell!
Normal composting is a little more complicated:
Position the compost bin in a warm place. Heat speeds up the decaying process, so putting it in the shade at the back of the house isn't going to work.
Think of a lasagne. This was taught to me by Judy Horton from Yates, and it is simple. You layer your bin with green matter which is technically still alive and kicking, such as kitchen scraps, garden prunings, cut grass and coffee grounds, and then brown matter, which is dead stuff like hay, paper, wood chips, sawdust and dead clippings or grass. Keep layering brown and green matter to get the best results.
Do not use meat, pet manure, weeds with seeds or herbicide-treated matter.
Think aeration. Turn it often. This is easy if you have one of those old-fashioned compost bins made of slats of wood that are quite big. But in a small black plastic bin it can be quite a mission to get a garden fork in and turn it. So make some holes by hammering in cardboard or plastic tubes.
Keep it moist, but not soaking.
Make it easy on yourself and buy a box of compost starter from your garden centre to get all the right micro-organisms in there, and also think of your bin as a giant yoghurt-making machine. Throwing in the odd bit of compost or dirt from elsewhere can help keep the culture alive. And if you know someone who keeps chickens ask them for some chicken poo, which is heaven to compost bins because it is nitrogen rich and speeds up the decaying process.
The perfect solution for someone with limited space, who wants to recycle kitchen scraps and have something to fertilise the garden, is a worm farm. You can buy them off the internet or at garden centres, I recommendwww.hungrybins.co.nz.
Here's how to get started:
You should have three layers in your worm bin. The bottom will collect the liquid, which you drain off and dilute 1:20 with water before applying it to the garden.
The other two levels are where the worms live and gradually move up the farm allowing you to scrape the worm castings from the other bin and use these as you would compost, spreading around your favourite plants or as a general top dressing for the garden.
You start the worm farm by wetting 7 cm of bedding (such as torn up newspaper or cardboard). Throw the worms on - about 250 g - and feed them about 250 g food a day.
They will eat leftover vegetable and fruit scraps, tea and coffee, vacuum cleaner dust, hair, torn up newspapers, egg, milk and pizza cartons (soaked) and crushed eggshells.
They don't like citrus peel, onions, fat or oils.
Keep the worm farm warm, but not in direct sun.
Some people find it difficult to compost because they don't like the smell or they can't get the mix of brown and green matter right an it all gets a bit slimy.
Trench composting is a wonderfully easy way to recycle vegetable matter and if you do it now it's a great way to prepare your garden beds for spring planting.
Collect a week's worth of scraps in a bucket - or two if you are good and eat lots of veggies and fruit!
Dig a trench 30cms deep then fill it with 15cms of waste along the trench. You can also add plant trimmings, lawn clippings and weeds if you like. If you want you can add some manure such as sheep droppings or similar to speed up decomposition and make the trench even more nutritious for your plants.
Cover it over with dirt and leave it. Come spring it should have all decomposed and be ready to welcome your spring seedlings.
*You can also do this on a smaller scale by simply digging a whole 30cm deep popping in some vegetable matter and covering it up.