As part of our efforts to try and lead a more sustainable lifestyle we invested in a compost bin for our little garden. There’s something incredibly satisfying about growing your own produce, composting the waste, and then eventually returning that compost back to the soil. Everything we harvest is used in some form. It’s a great cycle to be part of.
Composting is really easy to do, and there’s a huge range of products out there to suit every garden size. Some people will just build their own but for us, with limited space, it made sense to get a compact, dual cylinder compost bin. Ours is also a tumbler, which makes turning the compost so much easier, and my back a whole lot happier. The benefit of a dual cylinder compost bin means that we can fill one side and then leave it to cook while we fill up the other side. It means we never have to stop composting!
We have our compost bin tucked away in the back garden, and fill it up daily with scraps from the kitchen. I recommend keeping a separate container on the go in the kitchen to collect your compostable items from the day. It’s important to keep a lid on things otherwise you attract fruit flies and cockroaches. We just use a tupperware container that gets emptied every night.
Scraps from the kitchen are a great addition to the compost bin but they can’t be the sole contributor or else the compost will become too wet. To balance it out you should add leaves, grass trimmings, and shredded twigs. You can also add things like shredded paper and cardboard. Basically you want to balance out your green and your brown so that you have a combination of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials. If your compost is too dry then it won’t break down quickly and if it’s too wet then it might start to smell. You’re working towards a rich dark colour, a crumbly texture, and an earthy smell.
There’s always a bit of debate about what is and what isn’t suitable to go into a compost bin. As far as kitchen waste goes we just stick to raw, unprocessed materials. We throw in any peelings or choppings from our fruit and veg, and anything that has gone rotten before we’ve had chance to eat it (although we’re trying to reduce this kind of wastage.) In a vegan household it’s not hard to gather a good collection of peelings and choppings. We also compost any dead flowers or plants (assuming they’re not diseased) and we mulch up the leaves and twigs from the garden. On occasion I’ll throw in the contents of the vacuum cleaner but that depends on what’s in there. If I’ve been hoovering up glass from yet another one of my breakages then I don’t want that floating around in the compost. Dust and hair is all fine. I think you tend to figure out what works for you in terms of what waste your household is producing.
Our first batch of ready to use compost took us a few months to cook. This was comprised of fruit and vegetable peel from the kitchen, dead flowers, mulched twigs and leaves, and some of the annuals from our garden that had finished producing fruit. As a general rule we give the compost a good tumble every time we add something new. Once the first cylinder was left cooking, we tumbled it about once a week until the compost was ready. Turning the compost helps mix all of the material together, and also gets oxygen moving around to help break everything down. Some people prefer not to turn their compost but personally I’ve always found it to be helpful.
So far we’ve used our compost as a mulch on our already established garden. We’ll also use it to prepare the vegepod when we come to our next wave of planting. It’s so easy to do and hugely rewarding to recycle some of our waste back into the garden where it can do some good. It’s just a few things less rotting in a landfill, a few more things being returned to the earth where they belong.