About half of what we throw into the rubbish is food and garden vegetation. Composting keeps these materials out of landfills – which is better for the environment, your garden and the dump site.
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow better.
Your garden will:
- Become home to its own beneficial bacteria and fungi, which break down organic matter to release the nutrients
- Grow better due to more ‘natural’ nutrients in the soil
- Require less chemical fertilizers
Successful composting requires five things, and in the tropics we have plenty of all of them:
- Browns - dry leaves, branches, twigs, dry grass clippings, straw/hay, and non-glossy paper
- Greens - vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves/bags, and green vegetation
Tried it before and had problems?
It’s pretty easy, if you follow these golden rules:
- Remember to check and turn over the pile with a garden fork every now and then.
- Don’t let it get waterlogged; it needs air to ‘breathe’. Keep it damp but not wet - put air holes in the sides and lid. Big bin? Place an irrigation pipe down the centre of your compost bin to let more air in.
- Set it up in full sun, where it can drain. Avoid cement underneath; the ground is best as it allows worms, bugs and microbes better access.
- To avoid attracting pests and having a stinky compost pile, don’t put in dairy or meat scraps and bones (Freeze these until bin day and then put in with the rubbish).
- To avoid spreading plant diseases don’t put in cuttings from diseased plants. (Bag these and bin).
- To avoid adding unhealthy chemicals don’t use glossy paper with lots of coloured printing. (Into the recycling bin with these as you can’t repurpose).
- Crush eggs shells before adding.
- Break up the ‘browns’ and don’t include a lot of palm frond material.
- Think layer cake: put a layer of browns across the pile regularly to help air to circulate.
How to start?
You can buy a compost bin – hardware and garden stores stock a range of sizes and types. You could make your own compost bin or simply start a compost pile in your garden.
Note: the natural enemy of the tropical compost pile is the orange-footed scrub fowl! These endearing and protected birds will forage the pile for bugs and worms, spreading the material all around. Ironically - they also know how to compost; they build composting mounds and use the heat generated by the process to incubate their eggs! Laying wire mesh over your compost pile should keep them out.