You’ve made the decision and got yourself a new compost bin, or maybe a tumbler. You’ve taken a while to appreciate the ‘newness’ of a clean item. Then you have to get to work and begin adding materials that will, at some point, deliver compost.
So, what to put in a compost bin to start. For food or garden waste to start rotting into compost you need to provide a good supply of the required microbial bacteria. The best way to do this is to dig up a shovel full of garden soil and let it be the first thing that goes into your compost bin or compost tumbler.
It’s no more complicated than that. The soil will provide a good dose of microbial bacteria which will transverse into the kitchen waste which you add next.
Looking at how to start making compost
Before you put anything in your new compost bin, take some time to choose a place where you know your bin or tumbler won’t be in the way. You won’t want to be bothered with moving it, especially when it’s half full of rotting material from the kitchen and elsewhere.
Right from the beginning, you need to decide on what type of bin is best for you. If you’ve never made compost before, then, you may want to keep it super-simple and just get a static bin. If you feel like being a bit more adventurous then take a look at some of the compost tumblers that are out there. We can help you make the decision about whether to try a static bin or tumbler. We have a post that considers the subject. We explain some of the pros and cons and look at possible strategies that you may need to use. You can see it at ‘Tumbler composter vs bin’.
When you get a brand new compost bin it will be so clean that you won’t want to make it dirty. So make the most of that clean and new look because it won’t stay like it for long, at least on the inside. Making compost is all about dirt. If there is no dirt involved then you aren’t making compost.
What can you put in your compost bin?
You can put anything in a compost bin that is food to us or others with a similar cuisine habit. If it will go mouldy or rot you can put it in the compost bin and expect it to convert into compost.
Anything from the fridge that has gone past the ‘use by’ date can go in the compost bin. All left-overs from dinner plates can be scraped into a kitchen-caddy and added to the compost bin when convenient.
All fruit and vegetable peelings can go in a compost bin. The process will be helped if you cut the peel into small pieces but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
If you are looking for somewhere to dispose of used cooking oil or fat then you can put this in a compost bin. This is only practical for small quantities and a good practice is to put some shredded newspaper in the bin the drizzle the used oil onto this.
Small amounts of cooked meat from the scrapings of plates can go in a compost bin. It’s wise to add some hydrated white lime because this will render down any potentially harmful pathogens that meat may carry.
If you aren’t familiar with hydrated white lime, we have a post that looks into the subject. You can see it at ‘What does lime do to compost?’. You will see that one advantage of using white lime will be the reduction of flies in the compost bin.
You have a compost bin but where do you start?
Any risks from cooked meat waste are further reduced if worms are living in the compost. They will digest everything and, in a sense, ‘clean’ the compost of harmful pathogens and viral material, making compost safer to handle later.
What is a compost accelerator?
Compost accelerators are a selection of cultured yeasts which will induce a fermentation of organic waste. These are additives that will accelerate the breakdown of organic material. But you need to question as to whether using them is really necessary.
These cultured compost accelerators will increase acidity because of the fermentation process. This maybe what you want if you are pursuing a Bokashi process which is a good way of neutralizing potentially harmful types of pathogens, often found in cooked meat waste, for example. However, in a straight compost bin situation we don’t want acidity if it can be avoided.
If you feel the need to use a compost accelerator in a compost bin or compost tumbler, be prepared to add extra hydrated lime to neutralize the extra acidity. It will become clear that the hydrated lime is needed when you notice that, after adding the compost accelerator, the compost will appear wet and stodgy.
Compost that has not been treated with compost accelerator will be taking the long route and will appear to be drier and crumbly.
So, if you want to use a compost accelerator it will do no harm but be sure to get and use hydrated lime at the same time. You can get compost accelerator anywhere. There are also large bags of hydrated lime but be sure to store this somewhere very dry to avoid it solidifying into hard lumps. Place the bag of lime inside a plastic bag and seal the top. Hydrated lime has the ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, it will then form hard lumps and become useless.
How do you set up a compost bin?
Setting up a compost bin is easy. There is nothing complicated about a compost bin. They are open at the base to allow good drainage and allow worms to have access.
The first thing is to decide what type of bin you want. If you want a static bin where you load from the top and remove compost from the bottom, then there are a range available.
Then it’s just a matter of finding a place near your house or maybe on your allotment where you can position it. It needs to be somewhere that’s out of the way but accessible. You then need to add a shovel of garden soil into the bin to make sure that the first delivery of waste starts to decompose.
Can I put cardboard in my compost?
Yes you can put cardboard in your compost. It could be said that ripped up pieces of cardboard are a requirement for making good quality compost. Cardboard is labelled as one of the ‘browns’ that’s needed to balance out the ‘greens’ which make up all the kitchen waste that’s generated. You will often hear about introducing carbon to mix with the nitrate factor to achieve a satisfactory compost. Cardboard can play a big part in doing this. If you can’t get hold of enough cardboard then shredded newspaper will do the same for you. Adding either cardboard or shredded paper will also absorb much of the surplus moisture that compost can generate especially if you’ve opted to use a compost accelerator.
How do I speed up my compost bin?
Making compost in a bin is, by its nature, a slow process. This is because it just sits there. It will make some difference if you use the compost accelerator and hydrated lime method but to speed it up such that you would notice, you need to introduce air into the compost mix. If speed is what you want then consider getting a tumbler style composter. Take a look at he Rolypig at Rolypig.com.
Do you need a compost bin to make compost?
No it’s possible to make compost by making an ever-growing heap. There are containers that you can make from wooden pallets that work very effectively as bunkers. You would ideally need two or three of these and run a system where you dig out the contents of the first bunker into another bunker. Then start filling the bunker that you’ve emptied. Moving the compost from one bunker to the next will do much to aerate the compost and accelerate decomposition.
This method would be ideal for converting large volumes of organic waste material. This would include cut lawn-grass, chopped hedge trimmings, dead plants and dead leaves. Kitchen waste could be added to this as it would be easily lost in the mass of material. The adding of hydrated lime can only improve the finished product.
The compost heap method without any containment is usually reserved for bigger, industrial processes where large quantities of compostable waste are involved. To do this on a micro-scale in the garden can be considered to be the most basic way of making compost.
How long does it take to make compost?
This will depend entirely on which system you use. If you use a static bin system where the waste is added regularly and the level builds up over time, expect it to take about 2 years to convert to compost. Leaving it this long will ensure that you will have, probably, the best compost that you will ever make. Going for the long method is usually the best way to make compost from dead leaves.
If you use a compost tumbler system then 6 to 8 months can be a realistic expectation. The advantages of using a compost tumbler are many. The main one being aeration. Composting is aerobic digestion where air feeds the microbial bacteria that feed on the waste. The tumbling action also allows for the added hydrated lime to mix thoroughly and have the optimum effect.
What not to put in your compost pile?
Do not expect plastic to break down in compost. It’s very easy to forget and allow the odd wrapper to find its way in. Nothing will happen to it and it will come out just the same as it went in. It will be dirty but won’t deteriorate. The same goes for glass bottles and metal cans. As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t go mouldy and start to rot then don’t put it in the compost.
What is the best material for compost?
The best material for making compost is a mixture of chopped grass from the lawn and dead leaves. Add to this a generous dose of hydrated lime and you will have the dream combination. The grass portion will rot very quickly but the leaves may take longer but this mixture will keep going in the right direction to provide a really good quality compost. Expect the process to take 8 to 12 months. Depending on the proportion of dead leaves, it may take longer but it will be worth the wait.
Another good material for making compost is kitchen waste. This type of material will rot in front of you. To make the most of this you need to add other ingredients. Most people make compost from a mixture of 2 simple wastes. These are waste food from the kitchen and old newspapers or cardboard from boxes. This is very convenient because there is a plentiful supply of both. The main thing is to make sure that you add enough paper or cardboard to the food waste from the kitchen.
Some say that the ratio needs to be 20 units of paper or cardboard to go with 1 unit of food waste. This is just a guide. You have to monitor what you add and if it looks like it needs more paper and cardboard, be ready to add it.
How does a garden compost bin work?
A garden compost bin is one of the simplest things to manage. You throw ‘green’ waste in the top and, eventually, remove compost from the bottom.
The standard compost bin has a slide-up door which has to be pulled up to open. The compost can then be extracted from here. You don’t need to touch this until the bin is nearly full or the contents have been in the bin long enough to convert into compost.
Because you will be regularly adding small amounts of kitchen waste over a long period of time, there will be a big difference between the older material at the bottom of the compost bin and the fresher material at the top. There will be a definite gradient from bottom to top. It will not all degrade into compost at the same time.
Compost takes time to make so it’s no good being in too much of a hurry. If you fill a bin faster than the compost can form, then consider filling another bin while the first one matures.
Another option is to dig out partially made compost through the extraction hatch and throw it in the top. This will help to agitate the contents as a whole allowing air to get into the mix. Doing this to a compost bin occasionally will accelerate the composting process.
Can you put paper towels in the compost?
Used paper towels can go in the compost bin. If they aren’t all wet and soggy then they soon will be. Being paper they will rot down and break apart. There is nothing that you need to do to paper towels to prepare them for composting. You can consider them to be part of the ‘browns’ that need to be added to provide the carbon input that balances the nitrate input from the main part of kitchen waste.
Can I put eggshells in my compost?
You can put eggshells in compost but to get the most out of them you need to crush them down to a powder. Some say that if you put eggshells in a microwave and cook for a while, they will dry out completely and disintegrate. I wouldn’t try this because there will be a diminishing amount of water available in the cooking process. This may be detrimental to the workings of the microwave. The best thing you can do is to crush them using the back of an old spoon then put them in the compost.
Can you add lime to compost pile?
Not only can you add lime but you should. When asking for lime insist on hydrated lime. This is the best quality lime that you can get.
Hydrated lime will reduce the acidity of the forming compost. It’s always difficult to suggest how much you use. You can tell a lot from just looking at the compost in the bin or tumbler. If it looks stagnant with preserved items which should be rotting down and maybe there’s a smell, then you need to use more lime than you are currently using.
Using lime in a composting process of any kind should be seen as a plus for the garden as a whole. The residue from the lime in the compost will carry through into the soil that you will be cultivating and have a positive effect.
Can you buy compost?
You can buy compost and there are plenty of suppliers out there. It’s supplied in convenient easy-to-handle bags and is ready to use. You need to store it under cover as, very often, the bags are perforated with holes to allow excess air to escape for easy packing. If it gets wet then it will become soggy.
You need to decide what type of compost you want. There are grades of compost. Look for potting compost if you want to plant small seeds. There are also coarse grades of compost.
You will find that the best compost that you will ever get hold of will be what you make from your own kitchen and garden waste. The problem is that you just won’t be able to produce enough of it. So going out and buying compost is often necessary if you are keen to be productive in the garden.
How do you start off using a Rolypig compost tumbler?
This could not be easier. A new, unused Rolypig is just waiting to get started. You need to place it where there is some room to roll it along. You don’t need much space because you can always turn it on the spot and roll it back the other way.
Before adding kitchen waste you need to load in one or two shovels of ready-made compost as a culture starter. This will contain all the microbial bacteria that will be needed to get to work on the fresh waste when it turns up. If you don’t have any other compost then use top-soil from the garden because this will do the same. This may have the added bonus of carrying worms which may take up residence and breed in the compost.
Then all you have to do is feed the Rolypig when you have anything for it. You won’t need to roll it until you find that you can’t easily feed in more waste in its mouth. You then have to roll it over by just half a turn to make room inside. This is when the composting process really starts in the Rolypig. The gradual rolling agitates the contents enough to aerate the material inside which will accelerate the composting process. Don’t forget to add about two tablespoons of hydrated lime per week as this will reduce the acidity and enhance the composting process. Add more hydrated lime if you think it needs it.
To sum up:
What to put in compost bin to start
Place your compost bin where it will be out of the way but conveniently near.
To start making compost, place a layer of soil in the bottom of the bin.
If you can find some red worms to put in the layer of soil, it will help. These will start work later.
If you put your compost bin on soil or turf, worms may migrate into the bin as it fills.
Sprinkle some white lime occasionally as you add material.