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About half of what we throw into the rubbish is food and garden vegetation. Composting keeps these materials out of landfills – which is better for the environment, your garden and the dump site. Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow better.
Why compost in the tropics?
Your garden will:
- Become home to its own beneficial bacteria and fungi, which break down organic matter to release the nutrients
- Grow better due to more ‘natural’ nutrients in the soil
- Require less chemical fertilizers
Your Council landfill will:
- Produce less methane emissions and
- Fill up more slowly
Successful composting requires five things, and in the tropics we have plenty of all of them.
- Browns - dry leaves, branches, twigs, dry grass clippings, straw/hay, and non-glossy paper
- Greens - vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves/bags, and green vegetation
Tried it before and had problems?
It’s pretty easy, if you follow these golden rules:
- Remember to check and turn over the pile with a garden fork every now and then.
- Don’t let it get waterlogged; it needs air to ‘breathe’. Keep it damp but not wet - put air holes in the sides and lid. Big bin? Place an irrigation pipe down the centre of your compost bin to let more air in.
- Set it up in full sun, where it can drain. Avoid cement underneath; the ground is best as it allows worms, bugs and microbes better access.
- To avoid attracting pests and having a stinky compost pile, don’t put in dairy or meat scraps and bones (Freeze these until bin day and then put in with the rubbish).
- To avoid spreading plant diseases don’t put in cuttings from diseased plants. (Bag these and bin).
- To avoid adding unhealthy chemicals don’t use glossy paper with lots of coloured printing. (Into the recycling bin with these of you can’t repurpose.)
- Crush eggs shells before adding.
- Break up the ‘browns’ and don’t include a lot of palm frond material.
- Think layer cake: put a layer of browns across the pile regularly to help air to circulate.
How to start? You can buy a compost bin – hardware and garden stores stock a range of sizes and types. You could make your own compost bin or simply start a compost pile in your garden. Note: The natural enemy of the tropical compost pile is the red-legged scrub fowl! These endearing and protected birds will forage the pile for bugs and worms, spreading the material all around. Ironically - they also know how to compost; they build composting mounds and use the heat generated by the process to incubate their eggs! Laying wire mesh over your compost pile should keep them out.
For more detailed composting information, click here to view - How To Make Amazing Compost by Naomi Lacey, The Sustainability Network.