Compost

A compost bin filled with organic materials.

Create a compost space in your garden.

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More About The Challenge

You can only unlock the badge for this challenge once. It's up to you when you decide to hit complete on this one. You could do it when you manage to build your first compost bin. Or keep completing it each week you add more as a incentive to keep it up. It may be more rewarding to start the challenge for a year while you feed your bin and complete it when you manage to get your first usable compost. The choice is yours on this one.

Soil vs Compost

Soil and compost are not the same. Both are needed for healthy planting but it's worth knowing the difference.

Soil is formed from centuries of weathering that breaks down stone into finer particles. It depends on where you are but it can take around 200-400 years to produce just 1cm of soil. For this reason soil is considered a non-renewable resource.
A person holding some soil - thank you stock image person
Compost is made from decomposed organic material. You'll find generally compost has a darker colour compared to soil. Compost is filled with goodness that encourages microbial life. This gives benefits to plants such as better disease resistance. Compost will usually take you around a year to make but can be made in as little as 3 months.

It is possible to grow plants in just soil (for a short time anyway) or just compost. However a mix of both tends to work best. We would recommend around a 50/50 mix.

Where To Build Or Place Your Bin

Heat from the sun will help speed up the composting process so it's best to place your compost bin in a sunny sheltered place.

If you're growing your own produce a sunny sheltered place is also the best place to plant. In this case your compost bin will work just fine in a more shady spot too. If you have a large garden then this may not be an issue at all.

If you have the space the bigger the bin and the more you add the faster the process will happen. Composting produces heat and larger bins will be able to generate and retain that heat more effectively.

How To Build A Compost Bin

Building your own composting bin is pretty straight forward. You can source the materials relatively cheaply or even sometimes free.

Wooden pallets, old chicken wire or woven branches all make for great materials. For smaller spaces even using a plastic bin will work as long as you add holes to the bottom and side for ventilation and lift it on a few bricks.

What Can You Put In Your Compost

Getting good quality compost is not just a case of throwing in all your waste and leaving it. You'll need to add the right ratio of different ingredients.

Tip: Once your bin is full and you have the space why not start a second.

Green & Brown Materials

Compost materials can generally be put into two categories, green and brown.

Green Materials

These are ingredients rich in nitrogen and containing moisture. Don't let the name fool you, coffee grinds which brown are rich in nitrogen so are classed as green materials. These are used for plant cell growth.

Some examples are:
  • Fruit and veg scraps
  • Softwood plant prunings
  • Weeds (without seed heads)
  • Rabbit, chicken, duck and guinea pig droppings
  • Horse and cow manure
  • Grass clippings
  • Used coffee grounds

Brown Materials

Brown materials are carbon rich and usually dry. These are used as building blocks for plants.

Some examples are:
  • Newspapers, paper (not magazine) and cardboard
  • Sawdust from untreated wood
  • Autumn leaves
  • Dried grass
  • Dead plant matter
  • Deciduous wood ash

Ratio Of Compost Materials

A general good mix ratio is 2 parts brown to 1 part green. However at different times of the year you may have more or less access to different ingredients. For example during autumn you'll have more access to fallen leaves (brown) and during summer more access to grass clippings (green). The key is to have a diverse set of ingredients put into your compost bin.

You can add your ingredients in layers or mixed, both should work fine. It's not required but mixing the contents of your bin every few months will help speed up the process and introduce more air.

How Long Composting Takes

"The best time to start composting is last year, the second best time it now"
A full bin will usually take around a year to produce usable compost. This time will certainly vary depending on conditions. A few things that can speed up the process are:
  • Warmth from placing it in a sunny spot
  • Larger bins generating and retaining more of their own heat and,
  • Mixing the bins contents every month or two
In the right conditions you may even be able to get usable compost with grass clippings, shredded paper and shredded autumn leaves in as little as 3 months.

What You Can't Put In A Compost Bin

There are a few things you'll want to avoid putting in your compost bin. The reasons tend to be to prevent bad smells, stop pest problems or adding things that could harm your plants. Try and avoid anything from the list below.
  • Meat, fish, eggs or bones
  • Cheese and other dairy products
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dog and cat faeces or litter
  • Weeds that have grown to seed
  • Diseased plant material
  • Glossy paper
  • Grass or other plant trimmings treated with pesticides
  • Teabags as these are likely to contain plastic

How Composting Helps The Environment

Composting is a great way to help your plants grow stronger but it also helps the planet.

If you're growing produce to eat then a good quality compost will help boost your harvest. This means even less reliance on supermarkets, reducing packaging waste and CO2 produced from transport.

Having compost at hand can help reduce or even eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.

Less waste sent to the landfill is another benefit. Organic waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.

Composting can also help offset CO2 in the atmosphere through carbon sequestration. Really what this means is that compost can take carbon and store it. This is done by microbes in your compost that filter carbon in it to create stabilized forms of carbon in soil.
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