Composting your Garden Waste

compost binThe Carrickfergus in Bloom initiative encourages all Borough citizens to create a pleasant environment by not only by providing colourful floral displays but also disposing of their garden waste in an environmentally sustainable way. Anyone can transform their garden waste into useful compost simply by installing a Composting Bin in their garden. Carrickfergus Borough Council sells Composting Bins, for further information contact our Sullatober Depot on 93351192.

Getting Started

bloom Place your composter on to well-drained soil and if possible in a sunny spot.

bloom Loosen soil beneath the compost bin in order to help drainage and to make it easier for worms and bacteria to enter the bin from the earth surrounding it.

bloom If you place a few inches of manure or kitchen waste onto the loose earth this will help to attract worms and micro-organisms.

bloom A good mix of waste material in your composter to aid decomposition is essential.

bloom Add the different types of material in layers - approximately 3" to 6" deep.

bloom Get yourself a kitchen bin to collect scraps. You won't need to trot down the bottom of the garden to the composter every time you prepare a meal. A large ice-cream container is okay.

What can you compost?

bloom Vegetable and fruit peelings: Mixed together there are excellent - high in essential nitrogen and carbon.

bloom Evergreen clippings: Take a long time to decompose and should be added to only in small amounts. Watch out for the resin you get from conifers. It's toxic and needs composting for longer.

bloom Tea leaves: coffee grounds and crushed egg shells.

bloom Leaves: Contain lignin and take a long time to decompose, the same as wood. Best dealt with separately in leaf mould piles.

bloom Annual Weeds: The compost temperature should rise to about 66oC/150oF, which kills off most weed seeds and diseases. Never attempt to compost pernicious weeds such as couch grass, bindweed or creeping buttercup. They simply love compost heaps and will keep on growing.

bloom Pruning: Add only in small amounts and chop up well.

bloom Grass cuttings: High in nitrogen and a good activator. Avoid thick layers as they can compact and turn to slime. If you have a lot of grass mix it with more woody and kitchen material.

bloom Straw and hay: Old and chopped is best. Soak well before adding if dry.

bloom Hair: Off your pet or family.

bloom Paper: (and soft cardboard such as egg trays can be added in small amounts but ideally should be shredded).

bloom Vacuum dust: The contents of a vacuum cleaner sack compost excellently particularly if you have woollen carpets. Do not try and compost if you have primarily synthetic carpets - synthetic threads will not.

bloom Animal manure: Vegetarian pets only, such as guinea pig or rabbit. Best mixed with straw. All are good activators.

Things to Avoid

bloom Disposable nappies, used paper hankies (in case the pathogens which carry out disease aren't all destroyed by the composting process).

bloom Excrement - human/cat/dog (for the same reason).

bloom Brightly coloured shiny card or paper printed with coloured inks.

bloom Hard objects, stones, bits of glass, metal, plastic.

bloom Cleaning fluids and other household/garden chemicals.

bloom Meat (cooked or raw) - the smell can attract animals.

Getting the Best Result

The micro-organisms in your composter will work at their best when the material is kept warm, moist and oxygenated.

Activators: Natural activators include: Grass, nettles, pond weed, seaweed, urine, horse, cow, sheep, pig and pigeon manure and rabbit or guinea pig droppings. Activators or accelerators, although not absolutely necessary, heat up and speed up the composting process. Particularly useful during the colder winter months. You can buy a range of activators from your Garden Centre, which give your compost a heavy dose of nitrogen. These include blood and bone meal, nitro-chalk and sulphate of ammonia. Contact your local Garden Centre for further information.

Warmth and moisture: Always keep the lid on your compost bin; it retains heat and moisture when the weather us dry and protects it when it rains. Because you need a fairly high temperature inside your composter site it out of the wind. Site your composter in sunlight if possible. The plastic will absorb the UV rays and heat up the compost. Do not let the compost dry out. Add water when necessary in very dry hot weather. Remember to keep the lid on. You could insulate your composter using old carpet on top or by bubble wrapping.

Aeration: Plastic composters are designed so that sufficient air gets to the composting
micro-organisms. Regular turning of the material will ensure that air gets to the centre of the bin and will speed up decomposition. To help aerate your heap you can add scrunched up newspaper, which creates air pockets. The paper will decompose. Avoid using too must grass alone.

Options for Using Your Compost

bloom The compost is ready when it doesn't look like any of the things that you put in it. It should be brown and crumbly with no unpleasant odours.

bloom Dig it into the soil in early spring or late autumn to improve the soil structure and act as a slow release fertiliser.

bloom Compost will open up clay soil, making it lighter to work and allow better drainage and aeration.

bloom Compost will stick sandy soil together, making it heaver and so holding on to essential moisture.

bloom Use as a mulch. A 3" depth of compost spread around the garden helps retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. In addition, it releases nutrients into the soil and improves texture.

bloom Worms pull down the mulch into their burrows, pass it through their gut, breaking it down even more and mixing it into the soil at the same time.

bloom Well-processed compost can be used as potting compost.

Composting and Our Environment

Composting it not just about gardening - it helps our environment. Every year thousands of tonnes of kitchen and garden waste are thrown into our Wheelie-Bins. It usually ends up in expensive, unsightly and environmentally damaging landfill sites. So, lets put this valuable resource to use, help your garden and the environment and get composting!