Posted by Callum VP, on March 8, 2021.
You are probably considering to start composting in your garden to help create natural, nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden. In this article we look the best types of composting and the benefits and drawbacks of each method.
What is Composting:
Composting is the breakdown and recycling of organic matter. Therefore, the process of composting can transform our garden waste into usable organic compost. Organic matter is defined as matter that was once living; like a plant, an animal, some fungi or faeces.
Nature leaves no waste. Therefore, in principle, most natural or ‘organic’ materials can be composted. There are many composting styles and it is important, for longevity, that you find the composting style that fits with both your growing space and calendar. But what are some of the different types of composting and how do you get started? Here are the methods I use to compost on the small holding and vegetable plot:
Traditional/Open Air Composting:
This method is a simple, easy and low maintenance way to compost. It involves piling up organic matter straight onto the natural ground. Some people prefer to contain their compost pile by building pallets around it. It is a common and traditional method that is still used today on allotments and farms. You just pile up old leaves, vegetable cuttings, manure, clippings etc (basically anything natural!) onto your compost pile and over time it will be broken down naturally by the earth worms and bacteria. Some people prefer to turn over their compost regularly, for a more even finish, some prefer to just leave it alone. But both methods will leave you with fresh homemade compost…so that’s your choice!
The upside to this method is that you can compost huge amounts of matter at the same time and so compost self-sufficiency is achievable. However, it requires space and your mound will attract animals like foxes, mice and rats so while it is ideal for an allotment or small holding, it is not so well suited to a flat or small garden where those little creatures might just wander too close to your kitchen!
Pros: You can compost huge amounts of matter
Cons: Attracts foxes, mice & rats
Best suited to: Allotments & small holdings
Least suited to: Small & balcony garden
A Thermo Composter:
A thermo composter accelerates the speed of the composting process. The principles are exactly the same but the materials differ slightly. Thermo composters, like the Thermo-King below, are closed compost bins that are usually made from specialised materials. They look smart, neat and come with measures that prevent mice or rats from getting inside. They are ideal for small/medium sized gardens…or for gardeners who like a really neat outdoor space! My Thermo-King is situated on a patch on lawn by the kitchen door. Every evening I empty any food waste into the composter and that is it. The earth worms come up through the lawn into the composter and break down my food waste. That waste turns to compost that can be redistributed onto my vegetable beds later.
Pros: Neat and speedy
Cons: Most are made from plastic (fair note: The Thermo-King is made from 100% recycled plastics)
Best suited to: All size gardens & allotments
Least suited to: Balcony/non-soil gardens
But What Is Green Composting…?
Green compost is just compost that is made using only green organic matter i.e. plants. General organic matter includes anything natural so includes animal faeces, fish bones etc. Some people prefer to use only plants in their compost. Organic permaculture practices, for example, encourage the use of only green compost because a truly balanced garden must be 100% selfsufficient. Green composting is really worth noting but forgive me for not going into too much depth about various principles now, because this article would end up a book!
Generally, it is completely up to you what you add to your compost bins as long as the matter is organic and natural.
So why Organic?
Composting relies on ground worms, woodlice, bacteria and more. Natural matter that is not specifically ‘organic’ can contain pesticides and adding them to your compost heaps means adding pesticides to your compost too. Therefore, when adding plants or manure to your piles make sure you only add ‘organic’ organic matter!