Guide to wormeries and home composting

Page 1: Why compost?
Page 2: Why compost with worms?
Page 3: Will it be labour intensive?

Hannah Shanks - Editor

What is Composting?

Composting is the conversion of biodegradable, organic matter into compost. The "raw material" could be kitchen, home or garden waste and the result is a nutrient-rich fertiliser. Composting is an entirely natural process, but you can speed it up by providing an environment where decomposers can flourish.

What is a wormery?

A wormery is a system of converting organic matter into compost with the help of earthworms.

Why should I compost?

Composting is environmentally friendly about 60% of all household waste is organic, so recycling this waste will help reduce the volume of waste in British landfills and waste-disposal lorries on the roads. In 2004, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) launched a Home Composting Campaign. The aim is to get a million Britons composting at home, thus diverting 400,000 tonnes of waste from landfill an amount not to be sniffed at!

Compost, the by-product of composting, is an excellent fertiliser, which improves soil structure, water retention and drainage in the garden. Some composting systems allow you to collect liquid fertiliser, an excellent plant feed when diluted with water. Best of all, composting is free.

What should I compost?

All biodegradable material eventually decomposes, and it's surprising what can be added to your compost heap:

  • Kitchen waste - vegetable peelings; food scraps; egg shells; teabags and coffee grounds.
  • Home waste - dust from the vacuum cleaner; hair; eggboxes; newspaper; toilet/kitchen rolls.
  • Garden waste prunings; grass clippings; leaves.
  • Animal waste - manure; bedding like sawdust, shavings or hay.

A small-scale composter does not produce sufficient heat to kill all bacteria. So avoid the following compost "ingredients":

  • Manure from non-vegetarian animals (e.g. cats or dogs)
  • Meat/fish scraps; dairy products
  • Oil/fat

Also avoid pernicious weeds (e.g. bindweed, couch grass) as these are very difficult to eradicate once established in your garden.

For efficient composting, you need sources of cellulose (carbon) and protein (nitrogen):

Cellulose

  • Straw
  • Sawdust / wood shavings
  • Dry leaves
  • Cardboard and newspaper

Protein

  • Grass cuttings
  • Leafy weeds
  • Animal dung (chicken manure is especially good)
  • Fruit / vegetable peelings

and if you live on the coast, seaweed is an excellent compost ingredient!

 
 


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