Composting minimises household waste, improves soil composition, reduces water usage and helps to create a flourishing garden.

Set up a simple and affordable compost heap during International Composting Awareness Week Australia and help teach children to recycle food scraps, learn about the breakdown of plant and kitchen waste, see how compost helps the garden to grow and encourage children to contribute to environmental sustainability.

How to set up a compost

STEP 1

Location, location, location! Pick a well-drained, sunny position (heat is an important part of the composting process).

STEP 2

Choose an approach. There are a range of systems to meet your location and budget needs, from a simple covered pile to bins and tumblers.

STEP 3

Begin with a 10cm layer of broken sticks and twigs, torn newspaper, dry leaves and pruned plant matter. This coarse layer is important to allow oxygen to circulate through your heap.

STEP 4

Top with a thin, 1cm layer of rich soil or finished compost. Add enough water to make it moist but not wet.

STEP 5

You are now ready to add food scraps! Every time you add food scraps, top with a thin, 1cm layer of: grass clippings, soil, finished compost, twigs, leaves, pruned plant matter, shredded newspaper or wood ash.

What to feed a compost:

  • Almost all food scraps except meat and fish
  • Garden waste: grass clippings, pruned plants, twigs, leaves and most weeds
  • Small amounts of manure
  • Soil and finished compost
  • Wood ash from fireplaces and BBQs
  • Dolomite and lime (readily available from hardware shops and nurseries)
  • Torn newspaper, unbleached paper and cardboard, torn up pizza boxes
  •  Cut flowers and old potting mix
  • Vacuum cleaner dust

Do not feed:

  • Dog or cat droppings
  • Meat and fish
  • Dairy in large quantities (attracts fliesand vermin)
  • Chemicals
  • Diseased plants
  • Magazines and bleached paper
  • Plastic.

Handy hints

• Air and water are essential for a compost system. Without air, the decomposing process is much slower and smellier. To let in air, turn the heap once a week (turning too much will cause the compost to lose heat, an essential compost ingredient). Compost heaps also need water. They should be moist but not dripping wet.

• Diverse ingredients equal a healthy compost heap. Layering different ingredients ensures it has the right minerals and nutrients.

Troubleshooting

Too wet? Turn the heap and add dry material such as newspaper and sawdust.

Too Dry? Add water and nitrogen rich material such as food scraps. A trickling hose from above is handy.

Pests! Lessen the amount of dairy products and bones. Top with a layer of soil or newspaper.

Smelly! Make sure it is getting enough air by turning it over. Ensure you have a balance between food waste and dry ingredients.

Take our “sustainability survey” in our Healthy Learning Handbook to see how your centre, school or home stacks up visit www.edex.com.au/healthylearning