Do you get the guilt’s every time you push your left over waste from breakfast, lunch and dinner into the bin? Or are you a parent who is frustrated by the daily slave in the kitchen only to have your kids mindlessly refuse to eat what you’ve prepared – how many times have you used the line ‘starving kids in Africa….’ only to frustratingly fall on deaf ears.

What to do with excess food waste is a common problem for many households, particularly those who don’t have enough space for the chooks. But never fear; you don’t need an animal or a backyard to help you turn your food scraps into compost.

But not sure where to start? Here are some handy tips to get you going this year.

Step 1 – Create a worm bin
If you are indoor or outdoor the creation of a worm bin is the first step in your composting journey. Buy, borrow or repurpose a ‘bin’ (a bin can be anything from an old dresser draw, bath tub, fish tank, wooden box or plastic bin). Make sure it has access to air so if planning on a lid put some holes in the top.

Note: If you’re inside an apartment or in a small space there are quite a few options out there like the Hungry Bin, the Bookashi or a compost tumbler.

Step 2 – Filling your bin
If you’re setting up permanently outdoors would recommend you layer your bin starting with a thick layer on the bottom of coarse material from the garden like cuttings and mulch. Then add on top garden clippings and kitchen vegetable scraps. Finish with dry leaves and paper to reduce odours. These will all break down fast and provide nitrogen and moisture. As time goes on keep this balance between wet waste and dry waste about 50:50.

Step 3 – You can get yourself some worms (not essential!)
You’ve got your bin now you need your worms to live in their new happy home. Composting with worms is also called vermicomposting. They aerate the soil and introduce good micro-organisms to speed up the composting process. But not every worm will work for you. Get hold of some Red Tiger worms from your nearest Garden or Bait Center.

Step 4 – When to add worms
Now adding worms is not a mandatory part of the composting journey. If your compost bin is getting enough air anaerobic respiration could be doing the trick in breaking down your compost pile. So when a bin is happily composting (and generating heat) there is not a lot of point in adding your worm friends. Adding them will either speed up the process of kill them off! If however you are at the end of the process, you’ve finished adding any new food waste and you are ready to put it on the garden, but you’re not quite happy with it. Now would be a good time to add your worms. If its reasonable compost they will bury straight in.

Step 5 – Looking after your compost
Remember compost is alive (a living system), the more diverse the stuff you put in it the richer it becomes, more air means less smells and keep it moist! We would also recommend avoiding meat scraps and dairy products to avoid pests.

Step 6 – What to do with your compost?
Compost is great for putting back on the garden to enrich your plants or if you don’t have a garden take your compost to the local farmers market, your community garden or cultivate some house plants.

Happy composting!

2018-05-07

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