When Weekender found out that Monday, 7 to Sunday, 13 May was International Compost Awareness Week, it raised a few questions.
Chief among them, as specified by our mate Eugene, was how, in fact, compost becomes aware in the first place and once it is aware, should we be worried? Will compost take its revenge for our constant feeding of scraps, garbage and yuck onto its head and return the favour? Or, as we suspect, will it become like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors and demand ever-more plantain peels, breadfruit rind and fish scales, chomping it all down voraciously but never assuaging its hunger, so we are forced to spend all day eating constantly so we can try and generate enough waste to shut the damned thing up for a while?
Ah, a small child, about 5, has wandered in and corrected us on this matter. Apparently, it’s not about compost becoming aware, it’s about us being aware of composting, plus if we don’t stop being such a stupid ear silly face doo-doo head we’re not allowed to watch SpongeBob and apparently Weekender is also a plop face and a stinky sprout plang.
So allow us to humbly present some awesome facts about compost, most of which approach the truth a bit like a nightdress-clad starlet approaches a kitchen after hearing a strange noise in the middle of the night.
Up to 30 per cent of an average household’s waste is organic and can be turned into compost.
Composting is the best way to treat organic waste as not only does it save valuable landfill space by reducing the amount we throw away, but it replaces commercially produced peat products which can damage important wildlife sites.
Adding compost to your soil will nourish the soil by adding nutrients. It will also improve soil structure and attract earthworms, which in turn improve the health of your soil further.
While compost does not completely replace fertilisers its use is the key to an organic garden.
Jello Biafra, ex-vocalist from punk band Dead Kennedys, once stood for President of the International Compost Society, losing out only because he forgot to vote for himself in the ballot.
Compost can be placed on vegetable gardens and flower beds or around trees. It makes excellent ‘mulch’ to discourage weeds and keep moisture in the soil.
Sieved compost is ideal for potting, window boxes and hanging baskets.
Things that can be composted: Tea leaves and coffee grounds; crushed egg shells; cotton wool; hedge clippings: grass cuttings; leaves, flowers and non-woody prunings; small animal droppings and litter; wood ash and shavings; paper and soft cardboard (ideally shredded); contents of vacuum cleaner bags (woollen carpets only).
Things that cannot (but some may be recyclable of course): Diseased plants or persistent weeds; coal ash or soot;
Dog or cat faeces and litter; used nappies; wall paper strippings; clothes and textiles; glossy paper; wood; glass or plastic; cans, tins or aerosols; lawn mowings that have been sprayed with weedkiller; medical materials;
Foil or food trays; evergreen clippings.
Longer-decomposing materials include: potato/tomato remains; sawdust; woodchips; shredded newspaper; straw; bracken; nettles. So add them only in small quantities.
It is best to make your compost in an enclosure or container although a heap will work if kept covered.
The world’s smallest compost heap is owned by Iron Chef Masimaro Morimoto, who uses it as tiny fertilising mulch for his bonsai forest, which ironically is the tallest in the world with some specimens approaching 7 inches in height.
After siting your composter you should fill it with alternate layers of wet (e.g. kitchen scraps) and dry (e.g. vacuum cleaner dust) waste.
If available, add some finished compost, garden soil or a compost starter (available from most garden centres) to the pile. This will help to speed up the start of the composting process.
Adding a supply of branchling worms will also help. These are available from angling suppliers or can be collected from your garden.
Travel tips – how to ask abroad: Afrikaans, kompos; Albanian, përzierje plehrash; Azerbaijani, kompost; Basque, konposta; Filipino, pagaabono; Finnish, komposti; Hungarian, komposzt; Icelandic, rotmassa; Indonesian, kompos; Irish, múirín; Republic of Clang, Stinkacrapo; Italian, concime; Lithuanian, kompostas; Malay, kompos; Polish, kompost; Portugese, composto; Swahili, mbolea; Swedish, kompost; Turkish, organik gübre; Wales, Saeson.