Ever take any notice of what you’ve chucked out into the rubbish after breakfasts are finished? Leftovers can include mushrooms, tomatoes, eggshells, banana skins, fruit, fruit peel, tea bags, coffee granules, serviettes, tissues, empty toilet rolls and so on.
On top of all that include the leftovers from your own meals and you’ll realise that you throw out quite a lot of refuse that could be turned into ‘Black Gold’, a highly rich compost which you virtually cannot buy anywhere. Most County Councils are now starting to charge for refuse, by weight. It doesn’t make much sense both paying for refuse and buying compost for your garden when you can eliminate the cost of both with a small bit of effort.
Around 2001 I decided to try and start composting with worms, also known as vermicomposting. I can now say that it working very well. Notice I said now, because it certainly didn’t happen by tossing everything into the compost bin and expecting miracle compost in three months. It doesn’t and despite great expectations it didn’t happen that way. It takes a lot of patience and paper. Here are my experiences and advice to how to go about it.
Discreetly place your compost bin in some far corner of the garden. I find it works a lot better if you leave the lid of the compost bin off. When I left the lid on I used to find the worms climbing up the inside of the bin, apparently trying to get out. Place a nice bed of well shredded paper and a mix of leftovers at the bottom of the bin over which you should spread the worms. Place a similar layer of paper and leftovers over the worms and you’ve started. From here on it’s a matter of taking it slowly. You need to let the worms get used to coping with small quantities of leftovers first of all. You can slowly build up the amount of leftovers you toss into the compost bin. You’ll need to spend about 10-15 minutes each weekend checking out your bin and finding out how you’re worms are doing. You do get kind of fond of them after a while. About once a week give the compost a very light airing with a garden fork.
In the kitchen, shred some newspaper into strips and place at the bottom of the leftovers pot -it soaks up any liquid draining to the bottom of the pot. Throw in your leftovers but exclude all cooked meats and bread – these encourage rodents. When your kitchen pot is full, empty it into your compost bin in the garden. Don’t forget to put some shredded paper into the pot each time you bring it back to the kitchen.
In the first few months your worms will only be able to cope with small amounts of leftovers so take it easy at the start. As the months go by you’ll find that you’ll be able to use the compost you take from the bottom of the bin to layer over the fresh leftovers at the top of the bin, thus eliminating the need for any earth or bought in compost. As time progresses (over a year or two) you’ll find that you need more bins or other containers.
You’ll learn for yourself what suits the worms and what doesn’t. When they’re breeding well you’ll see thousands of tiny white eggs and white thread like young worms. You’ll see what material composts extremely fast or slow. I discovered that the worms absolutely love any milk or yoghurts you might have leftover and that may be going off.
Don’t throw in whole newspapers, books etc., as these cannot be broken down easily by the worms. Make sure you shred them first. I’ve heard of some people who’ve bought shredders for the job. I find it just as easy to shred it by hand. You won’t be able to compost every bit of paper in the house. You just use as much as is needed for a 50/50 ratio with leftovers. I bring the rest of my paper and bottles to the recycling centre in the town. You’d be surprised how little rubbish is left for refuse collection at the end of each week.
More advice can be obtained on the internet by doing a search for ‘worm composting’.