Composting is where the gardening thing comes full circle. You've created your garden bed, you've nurtured your plants.
The results have been eaten by the family. . . and now the plants and refuse from the garden can be recycled into next year's compost. It is the closed loop of nature.
This is so simple and so obvious a thing to do, I'm still staggered that people will send this sort of rubbish to the tip.
When I was totally intimidated about cooking and convinced I couldn't do it, a friend of mine said ‘It's just chemistry. If you add X to Y under these conditions, this MUST happen’. I think this applies big time to composting.
So what does your compost need to work?
It needs moisture (but not too much).
It needs heat (and will generate a good deal on it's own)
It needs air.
It needs bugs, bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms (pretty much under the ‘Build it and they will come’ principle)
There are a few ways to work the compost. If you have a bit of room, build a couple of 3 sided enclosures (about 1M square) out of wood, wire, tin, whatever is laying about the place. If you're in a place that gets a lot of rain, think about keeping a tarp handy so the compost heap doesn't get too soggy. It should be in a shady corner of your garden.
Composting doesn't work if you continually feed just one pile. The composting is never finished in those circumstances. So start with one pile by adding waste plant and kitchen refuse. This can include grass clippings, spent plants, fruit peelings, egg shells and non fatty kitchen scraps.
NEVER use fat, oil or meat in your compost. They will attract vermin. Other things that will slow down your compost include paper, rice hulls, wood shavings, woody cuttings and tough or oily leaves (like those from evergreens). Diseased plants and weeds should also be kept out of your compost.
Fill the compost enclosure to 6-8 inches (15-20cm) with your refuse. Then spread a couple of scoops of agricultural lime and a handful of complete fertilizer. Continue layering to a height of about 3 feet over time. Every few weeks, turn the compost to encourage decomposition. If the compost material is dry, give it a light watering after turning.
Start your second pile while this one is ‘cooking’.
Your compost should be ready for the garden in 6-8 weeks. By continuing to alternate between the two piles, you will have a continuous supply of fresh garden compost for your garden beds while recycling your kitchen refuse.
Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com ) splits her time between being a media executive and an earth mother goddess. No Dig Vegetable Gardens represents a clean, green way to grow your own food. The site covers all aspects of growing, cooking and preserving your harvest.