Greener Gardening & Composting
Just by making simple adjustments to your gardening routine, you can create an eco-friendly oasis that will dispose of household waste, become a haven for native wildlife and supply you and your family with tasty home grown fruit and vegetables.
Composting is the process whereby food and other household waste are transformed into nutrient rich chemical-free plant food. All you need is some simple equipment, a routine and a bit of patience!
First, invest in a compost bin. North Sydney residents who complete a Compost Revolution tutorial and pass the quiz will qualify for a worm farm and/or compost bin at a 50% discount. If you prefer a different type and are happy to pay a bit more, they are available from any good hardware store or nursery. If you can't afford a bin though, you can still create a composting area in your garden. Just choose a well-drained sunny position to begin.
Start your composting by spreading a layer of coarse material such as broken sticks, prunings, dry leaves and torn newspaper. The layer should be around 8-12cms in thickness.
Next, add a thin layer (around 1-2cms) of rich soil. Add enough water to make the layers moist.
You're now ready to start adding household waste such as food scraps. These can include coffee grounds, leftovers, vegetable peelings, mouldy or out of date food and old bread. You can even add the contents of your vacuum cleaner dust bag or brush and dustpan! Please remember - no plastic at all.
Every time you add a layer of household waste, add another thin layer of either grass clippings, soil, garden prunings, shredded newspaper or wood ash.
Continue layering until your compost bin is close to full, or there is sufficient height to your compost heap.
Cover the compost with hessian bags, carpet, underlay or a layer of mulch.
Turn the compost every few weeks with a fork or shovel. If your compost becomes wet and smelly, turning will help it dry out. If the compost appears dry and powdery, water and then turn it again.
Dos and don'ts of composting
Do use cooked leftovers, grass clippings, old flowers, weeds without seeds, tea leaves and coffee grounds, vacuum cleaner dust, sweepings from inside and outside the home, small amounts of poultry manure, torn up paper products such as newspaper and pizza boxes, vegetable peelings, leftover salad stuffs, wood ash or BBQ charcoals.
Don't use dog, cat or human faeces, raw or cooked meat and fish (or only in very small quantities), dairy products and fats (or only in very small quantities), household or garden chemical products, cow or sheep manure.
Using your compost
- After a few weeks your compost should be ready to use around the garden. It will have a dryish, rough and consistent texture with a pleasant earthy smell.
- Use as a starting mix for vegetable and flower seeds by mixing one third sand with two thirds compost. This mixture should have a fine texture.
- Compost can also be used when planting seedlings by digging into a newly turned garden bed.
- Spread a thin layer across lawns anytime during the year to encourage healthy growth.
- If using compost with potted plants, sieve out larger particles.
- For indoor potted plants, mix sand with the compost to encourage good drainage.
- Use compost as mulch anywhere around the garden and reduce the need to water. Add 5-7cms of compost to the soil around the roots of a plant to the outermost edge of its canopy.