Introduction to Home Composting

As we become more aware of minimising food waste, composting is now a big priority as it keeps nutritents in the food chain rather than incinerating or burying them in landfill. 

There is a knack to home composting but luckily help is available from Master Composter Rachel Hammond from edge. To learn more, please join her Composting Masterclass on Thursday 17 March, as part of Composting week or follow edge on instagram to watch video tutorials.

Basic Composting Tips

1.Compost needs to be 50 / 50 greens and browns. An imbalace of greens and browns will create smell.

  • Greens include: leaves, vegetable and fruit scraps, grass cuttings, chicken poo – nitrogen rich
  • Browns include: twigs, wood chips, coffee grounds, shredded paper and cardboard – carbon rich

2. To avoid attracting rats:

  • Move compost away from edges of the container as rats don’t like to come out in the open
  • Food will attract rats, so consider a food specific compost process such as vermiculture (worms) or Bokashi

3. Have the right amount of ventilation:

  • you need to allow air into your compost (to enable microorganisms, worms and creatures to breathe)
  • but not too much ventilation as compost heaps need to reach a good temperature to decompose effectively 

4. Have the right amount of moisture:

  • your compost material needs to be slightly damp
  • but if it is actually wet then it will smell

‘Compostable’ and ‘Biodegradable’

Many products are now sold as either compostable or biodegradable but what does this actually mean?

Biodegrading means the process of breaking down organic matter with microorganisms, fungi and bacteria until it doesn’t exist. Compostable means it can go through a composting process and be broken down into its natural parts.

Often something labelled ‘compostable’ may need to go through a composting system more than once to break down sufficiently to want to use on your garden.

Also, composting processes vary in the speed of breakdown, which is largely down to temperature, and this is something we can explore in future posts.

Garden Organic conduct many composting experiments and trials and have found that items such as ‘compostable’ cutlery and takeaway cups etc do need somewhere in the region of 6 cycles through a compost system to breakdown.

So just be aware when buying that it doesn’t mean the product will degrade to nothing within 6 weeks.

Rachel Hammond

Rachel Hammond from Newbury is a landscape architect, urban designer, gardener and master composter, specialising in edible landscapes, food production and biodiversity planting. She has worked in the sustainability sector for the last 20 years, always growing her own food. She now runs edge, a non-profit which educates on and designs urban food production systems and ecological farming practices.


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