Why do I compost?
- It saves me money and time (especially without a car) buying compost from the garden centre.
- I know what’s in my compost, that it hasn’t come from endangered peat and doesn’t have any chemicals in it.
- My local council does not have a food waste collection so I’m recycling my unavoidable food waste and plant waste from vegetable growing.
- It increases the microbial and insect diversity of my soil, improving the health of my plants.
- It provides a liquid fertiliser.
What are your options?
- Give it to someone else!
If you don’t have space, or enough plants, then contact your local community garden and see if they would like your food waste for their compost. If you are in London this handy guide will help.
A wormery will recycle your waste food to make a superb fertiliser for your crops and containers. Wormeries can be perfect for small spaces: they’re small, don’t smell and make compost faster than conventional composters. You can either buy one (many councils offer them at discounted prices) or it can be fun to make your own. Downsides – they can’t be fed everything and can take a bit of time to get up to full capacity.
3. Garden Compost
A traditional compost bin is good for a larger space that generates more green / brown matter which can be included with your food waste. Downsides – Not practical for small spaces or balconies, you can’t include cooked food, you have to put in place measures to not attract vermin.
Bokashi is the Japanese word meaning ‘fermentation’. Bokashi Bran is unique. When used with a Bokashi Bucket, it allows you to compost all of your household food waste – including meat, fish and dairy products. The Bokashi Bran is enriched with effective micro-organisms and mollasses, this ferments the food waste and neutralises smells. Once fermented in the Bokashi Bucket it can then be dug into the soil as an excellent conditioner, added to a compost pile or bin, or introduced to a wormery.
When introduced to a compost heap, the Bokashi’d waste acts as an accelerator to speed up the composting process. The process also gives you a liquid which you can use as a plant food (dilute to hundred parts water) or to unblock / reduce algae build up in drains. You can buy a bin or make your own. You need to make, or buy, two so one is full while the other is filling up.
5. Council composting
The LondonWaste EcoPark in North London produces 12,000 tonnes of compost a year. The compost is made from food waste and green waste from gardens. This is roughly shredded and then mixed with a small quantity of compost activator (containing micro-organisms and enzymes). This mix goes into a large, enclosed tunnel. Fans under the floor, blow air through the waste. The pile heats up as it begins to decompose, and the temperature is carefully monitored. It must reach 60oC for at least 48 hours so that pathogens, and most weed seeds, are killed. After a minimum of one week in the first tunnel, it is turned and transferred into a second tunnel, where the process is repeated. This helps ensure that the materials are thoroughly and evenly composted. The compost is then transferred out of the tunnel, mixed with other batches (to help minimise inconsistencies between batches), and left to mature for several weeks.
The final step is to sift the compost through a large drum – removing anything larger than 20mm. Many municipal composts give away some of the produce to gardeners and allotments. Check out your council website to see if this happens in your area. London boroughs that have a food waste collection so far; Barnet, Bexley, Bromely, Barnet, Croydon, Hillingdon, Harrow, Hackney, Hounslow, Harringey, Islington, Richmond, Southwark and Waltham Forest. If you live in one of these boroughs and don’t have a food waste bin then contact your council to get yours delivered.
The main factors in choosing the composting option that is right for you will depend on the type of garden and amount of space you have.
Vertical Veg is a fantastic blog, and go to resource, for helping the novice gardener make the most of the space you have no matter how small.
I use the Bokashi method as it works for the space that I have. In the next post I’ll explain my method for producing compost.