In Grow Organic Veg

5 Steps to Composting

We have 5 easy steps to composting. The start of what could be a journey to becoming more self-sufficient.

If you have ever wondered about growing some veg, now is the time to have a go!  Taste the difference and you will be hooked!

We have been growing organic produce for our small boutique hotel in the Pyrenees for the last 4 years, each year expanding the veg patch a little, and learning all the time.

The base for all successful growing starts with the soil, so what better place to begin than with the compost heap! Why? Because compost is fundamental to achieving the right soil structure.

Watch our quick video which outlines the 5 easy steps to composting, then read on for more information …..

What are the 5 steps to composting?

  1. Find the right place in the garden
  2. Buy or make a compost container
  3. Start saving organic waste
  4. Add brown waste
  5. Aerate

1. Finding the right place in the garden

5 Steps to composting. Finding the right place in the garden. Under a walnut tree!A lightly shaded area is the best spot as it helps stop the compost getting too dry.

As it happens it is also often more convenient to locate the compost bins in a shaded are of the garden.

Our bins are located under a walnut tree and face North, away from the Spanish heat!!

We may live in the mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees but we still get over 320 days of sunshine a year*, ideal for all the small group holidays we offer!!

 

TIP: Place your bins on soil as it allows worms to enter from below. If your placing the bins on hard standing then be sure to add soil.

 

*This statistic is based on a 10 year study in Sobrabre, the district where we live.

 

2. Buy or make a compost container5 Steps to composting. Making a compost container. Picture of our pallet container

The size of compost bin depends on the size and layout of your garden and how much organic waste you generate.

You can easily make a compost container using pallets, as in our case, or corrugated sheeting. We filled between the laths of the pallets with off-cuts of wood; this stops the organic waste falling through and still allows the heap to breathe!

You can also buy your compost container. These ready to go bins come in all shapes and sizes.

 

TIP: As a minimum you should have 2 bins, one with material that is decaying and one that is in use now.

 

 

3. Start saving organic waste – it’s a whole new mindset!

Saving organic waste soon focuses the attention on what you are throwing away. Believe me, before long you will also begin to pay much more attention to what you buy, minimising what goes in the waste bin and avoiding excess plastic packaging.

But what can go in the compost?

  • Fruit and vegetables
    Remember to take off any sticky labels as these do not decompose.
  • Eggshells
    Break up the egg shells otherwise they will come out whole!
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
    Avoid the fancy tea bags made of a material – hopefully out of fashion now!
  • Nut shells
  • Grass cuttings, leaves, branches, and twigs
    Don’t use all the grass cuttings in the compost and avoid a thick layer (see mulching article) Thicker twigs will never decompose.
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Sawdust
  • Woodchips
  • Cotton and wool rags
    Shredded or cut up small
  • Fireplace ashes (providing they are wood base)
  • Brown waste (see below)

TIP: We keep little pots (1kg yoghurt pot) in the kitchen to collect our organic waste when cooking, or when we have guests on our cookery workshops, part of our Cooking & Walking Holidays.


And what can’t go in the compost?

Onion and garlic peel will kill the worms and slow down the decomposition of the pile, so they are a definite no no!
But let’s also clear up the misnomer about citrus fruit. They will not kill the worms in a compost pile, although the worms will only eat them if they are partially decomposed. As citrus take forever to breakdown you must chop it finely or shred it before adding to the heap. We found this article really interesting, “Citrus Peels in Compost.”

We live in a stunning landscape in the Spanish Pyrenees, our highly alkaline soil means we definitely want the acidic citrus in our heap!!

 

4. Add Brown waste

5 Steps to composting. Step 4 adding brown waste, cardboard, to the heap.Brown waste, meaning newspaper, paper and cardboard, are in our opinion, a necessity, as well as getting you into that recycling mind set!

Cardboard and paper are rich in carbon and help balance the ingredients in the heap, bringing the carbon-to-nitrogen content closer to the 30:1 ratio recommended for good composting.

We tend to aim at a 20% cardboard content.

TIP:Tear the cardboard up and avoid layering when putting on the heap as it will take forever to decompose. Pull off any tape and plastic labels and don’t add shiny cardboard, it tends to be glossy due to a plastic film.

 

5. Aerate
5 Steps to composting. Step 5 turning the heap with a fork.
The secret to good composting is aeration, which means turning the heap.

This really should be done every 7 to 10 days.

By doing this you will avoid the compost heap compacting, which also makes it doubly hard to turn when you are ready!!

It also avoids the heap from smelling ( a sure sign that you haven’t turned it frequently enough!!).

 

 

TIP: If you have the space, make 3 bins as it gives you so much more flexibility when turning the heap.

 

 

We really hope you found this article informative and you have been encouraged to start composting.

Keep an eye out for more tips from our veg patch in the Spanish Pyrenees.
Hasta luego!
Simon

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