Making homemade compost is a great idea. It is environmentally friendly, saves you money and improves the quality of your soil. Synthetic fertiliser is made from petroleum and is hazardous to the environment. The oil used in fertiliser has to be extracted from the environment, the material has to be processed to make the fertiliser and then finally, the finished product has to be transported to a retail outlet.
To make homemade fertiliser, all you need is a container which is suitable to be used to hold the compost and you can begin. Suitable containers can be purchased from garden suppliers or alternatively, you can make your own. To make your own compost container, you can drill holes in a rubbish bin, which will allow oxygen to help with the decomposition process. A further method would be to use wooden pallets arranged in a suitable fashion, so as to hold the decomposing material. A benefit to use wooden pallets situated on top of soil, is that the earth worms can gain access to the compost and aid in the composting process.
To start the compost, you can layer dry leaves, shredded paper, straw, twigs or dead plants, with a layer of weeds, grass and kitchen scraps on top. The primary layer will add carbon and the secondary layer will add nitrogen, however, it is advisable to leave out any meats, fats or anything that has been cooked, due to the risk of attracting vermin. It is best to combine this layering affect, to try to combine the right ratio of nitrogen to carbon. Too much nitrogen will result in a foul smelling compost heap and too much carbon will slow down the composting process.
To aid with the decomposition, cow or horse manure can be added. You can then add water to the mixture, however, it is unnecessary to saturate the mixture. The compost can then be turned using a fork or shovel. You can move the outer layers in to the centre and vice versa to keep the mixture aerated. If new scraps are going to be added to the pile it is advisable to bury them in the centre of the mixture, this way you are reducing the risk of attracting pests.
The amount of time required for the compost to be suitable to be used as a fertiliser will vary according to the climate. A warmer climate will speed up the process and a colder climate will increase the time frame. As a rule when the mulch has started to turn brown and crumbly, it should be ready to be used.
By Ron Dalli
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