A deep dig into composting

All the organic ins and outs of environmental decomposition.

What’s the dirt on compost? It’s the magical substance that’s formed when food scraps and garden waste break down into their component nutrients, creating a rich natural fertiliser that boosts plant growth and fertility. Compost has a lasting effect on water retention, soil structure and plant resistance, promoting stronger and healthier greens.

Even better, a significant proportion of household waste can go into your compost bin – think fruit and veggie scraps, weeds and clippings from the garden and small pieces of cardboard and newspaper. Something as simple as turning half your usual kitchen waste into compost instead of sending it to landfill helps reduce emissions. And it’s too good an opportunity to pass up even for your rookie gardener. Your waste can be put aside to decompose for a few months and voilà! You’ll be rich in a natural fertiliser to feed your plants.

Mitre 10 have compiled a series of guides on composting to help start you on your environmental journey, from helping you make compost to setting up a worm farm. Coupled with their range of eco-friendly compost bins, they can help you get started right from home. Find out more at mitre10.co.nz/guides-and-advice.

Make it yourself

Making your own compost is as easy as collecting the scraps that go into it. Composting is an aerobic process, introducing microbes to oxygen so food and garden waste can become fertiliser.

It’s made up of a mix of materials rich in carbon and nitrogen layered alternately. Your brown carbon layers, including dried leaves, twigs, wood chips and shredded cardboard or newspaper, form the starting point in your organic breakdown. To enhance the process, your nitrogen layers of food scraps and garden waste will encourage the growth of microbes, helping your carbon layers decompose.

Between layers, adding a soil amendment such as lime speeds up the decomposition process and helps balance your compost’s pH levels and keep pesky flies away. As you build layers, add water to keep moisture within your heap throughout the seasons. And be sure to regularly turn your compost so air can be accessed by the microbes. What works for you Mitre 10 offers a range of composting options to suit every household.

The easy gardener: Those who don’t want to put effort into the build-up of a heap may opt for the tumbler. An even amount of carbon and nitrogen-rich material is still required and eases the hassle of layering – just throw it in and turn the tumbler every few days. Being off the ground makes them a great option for limited backyard space.

The impatient gardener: Those who want quick results will enjoy the bokashi system. The process requires a few sprays of bokashi and a bin for scraps. Every few days, drain the built-up liquid using the tap and use as fertiliser. When the bin is full, leave it for three weeks, then bury the contents to boost your soil.

The next level gardener: If you want to spice up your composting technique give worms a try. Starting out, worm farms require some work to check your worms are digesting what you put in. Eventually a liquid will form, called worm tea, which makes an excellent fertiliser.

DIY: Why not make your own compost bin? Bins can be converted from all sorts and still achieve the same benefits. Wooden crates, barrel drums and rubbish bins all work well if ventilated and secure

Composting challenge

New to composting?

Try our four-step challenge.

STEP 1: Choose your composter. Pop into your local Mitre 10 to pick up the perfect composting solution for your home, and have a chat to the garden team in-store if you need advice.

STEP 2: Start collecting waste. Gather up food scraps and garden offcuts and pop them into your new compost bin along with any cardboard or newspaper scraps and a spot of lime to speed up decomposition.

STEP 3: Give it time. Let those microbes do their work! Check-in on your compost after a couple of weeks, and be sure to turn it regularly.

STEP 4: Challenge your friends to start composting. Got some pals who aren’t composting their food and garden waste yet? Show off your skills and help them get set up.

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