Compost: Organic Magic Part 1

In the second of our series of informative articles on Natural and Organic Food, we take a look at that stalwart of any organic garden - compost. The very thought of compost often generates a picture of a steaming, smelly heap of slimy rotting manure in a disused corner of a garden. Well, in the productive minds of those not savvy as to it's true composition.

Nothing could be further than the truth! A properly constructed and well managed compost heap is certainly not smelly or slimy and although it may produce a little steam from time to time due to natures own rotting down process, it is a clean and disease-free pile of goodness.

Clean resource

Composting garden and kitchen waste into a clean, dry odour-free medium is nature's way of providing all the nutrients and structural requisites that your organic garden soil requires.

So how does someone make compost?

It's quite simple to make excellent compost, so easy in fact that it's a wonder so many people with gardens still throw out all their kitchen and garden waste to be dumped into already overburdened landfill sites when its so unnecessary.

How to Make Compost

All you need is a space in the garden about three feet (1 metre) square, although bigger is better if you can spare the room. You'll need to be able to access the heap from the front with a garden fork and a wheelbarrow, so don't put it behind a shed unless you can get at it!

First up, you'll need a container to hold the material together. Plastic composting bins that you can buy at DIY shops and garden centres are ok for very small spaces, but because of their small size they don't produce such good consistent results. Better and cheaper to make your own.

The simplest type consists of four posts driven into the ground then chicken wire wrapped around them to form a simple cage (without a lid). Better is to enclose the area with wooden slats, nailed to three sides with the front side having the ability to be opened to retrieve the finished compost.

Making a Compost Bin

I'll leave the engineering design up to you, but you could get creative here and either form a hinged gate, or double the posts at the front one in front of the other so boards can be slid down between them one on top of the other. A more permanent structure could be built using breeze blocks or ash blocks mortared together.

However you decide to build your compost bin, you must leave air holes down the sides so the air can get into the heap inside. This is of vital importance, because without air, the bacteria that break down the organic material into the finished compost cannot do their job and you will end up with that slimy, smelly pile of green goo after all!

Ok, now that you have the perfect wood, block, brick (if you really want a designer bin!) or simple wire mesh compost bin, it's time to start feeding it with your rubbish!

Now, just any old rubbish will not do here - to produce good quality compost, you need to a little selective of what you add to your heap.

And that'll be the subject of the next article on compost. It really is organic magic!