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How to make compost

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How to make compost

About 37% of Gisborne's waste going to landfill is green waste that could be composted. Not only does composting help minimise what gets thrown out with the rubbish, it's great for the garden, reducing the need for watering and helps you grow organically.

Attend a free compost workshop

Together with Tairawhiti Environment Centre we hold free one hour workshops and you get to take home a free compost bin (1 per household). The workshop are held at 386 Palmerston Road. Bring the family along too.
Book your spot with Tairawhiti Environment Centre

Thursday 10 August 1pm - 2pm
Tuesday 19 September 12noon - 1pm
Saturday 4 November 12-1pm

Composting at home

Composting changes garden and kitchen scraps into a natural plant food.  Put it back on the garden to grown even more plants and food.

What you can compost

You can compost a mixture of 'greens' and 'browns'.   'Greens' are nitrogen rich wastes and include: kitchen food scraps, fruit peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass and plant clippings, hair, fur, animal manure, blood and bone, seaweed, fish bones, chopped weeds (not noxious varieties).

'Browns' are high in carbon and other elements and includes: dried leaves, twigs, sawdust, wood shavings and wood ash (untreated), hay, peat, vacuum cleaner dust, shredded paper and newspaper, egg shells, crushed sea shells.

What you shouldn't put in your compost

Don't put these in your compost - meat, grease, fat, dairy products, cakes, bread, large bones, weeds that can propagate, walnut leaves.

Steps to making great compost

Site your bin

Place in a warm spot on bare soil, close to a water source.  If you think you may be troubled by rats or mice, fold netting under the box.

Make a base

Start with a 8cm layer of twigs at the bottom of the bin to help with drainage and air flow.

Add brown

Begin your pile with a carbon layer, ideally a loose pile of fallen leaves (no more than 8cm deep).

Add green

Aim for no more green than brown. Too much green can lead to smelly, slimy conditions (no more than 8cm deep).

Add an activator

A scoop of compost or soil in the pile encourages microorganisms. Some experts add fertiliser too, but a well-built pile will have enough nitrogen without it.

Repeat brown and green layers

Continue layering brown and greens, ending with a layer of brown. Small pieces decompose faster, so consider cutting down any large ones, this also makes it easier to turn.

Keep it moist

Moisten each layer by misting it lightly with a garden hose without making it too wet and soggy. Check often, and water as needed. On an open pile, cover with a tarp to hold in moisture.

Take a turn

After a week you’ll notice the pile start to heat up. Now is a good time to turn it, mixing the layers. Move the drier material from the outer edges into the centre of the pile and break up any clumps. In general, the more you turn the pile the faster you will have finished compost.

In winter

The pile may not heat up and the process will slow dramatically.

Harvest time

Depending on your ingredients and conditions, your compost will be done in 2 months to a year. When compost is ready for use, it will be dark brown and free of recognisable ingredients. It can be used as mulch or dug into the garden.

A new bin

Usually more than one bin is needed but extra materials can be stored in rubbish bags, a drum or in a loose pile awaiting mixing in the compost bin. If the compost bin is full but has not finished breaking down, the bin can be slipped off, the pile covered and the bin resited to take the new material.

How to look after your compost

  • chop or shred components well and turn frequently. (Note: your pile will compost without turning but it will take longer)
  • turn once the heap starts to cool down (keeping it hot destroys weeds and seeds) or it develops a bad odour)
  • cover the heap in heavy rain.
  • keep moist - don't let it dry out
  • if at first it doesn't heat up, add more 'green' material, such as manure or blood and bone
  • if it doesn't heat up, the material may be too bulky. Try chopping bulky material with a lawn mower before composting
  • if it becomes too wet, turn and add 'brown material'

When the compost is ready to use

Compost is ready to use when the majority of it looks like potting mix.
Any material that didn't compost can be removed and put back into the heap for further composting.  It can be forked into the garden or used as a mulch.

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