FAQ’S – Frequently Asked Questions
When reading all the thousands of words written about composting, I found that certain questions cropped up again and again. Here is a small sample of these FAQ’S (frequently asked questions,) the answers to which may prove to be of use to you.
If you have any other questions, please just ask them in the Comment Boxes below.
What is compost, anyway?
Compost is rotted organic material.
What does it do in my garden?
It provides nutrients for your plants, it is a soil amendment (improver) and it provides a way of recycling garden waste.
Why can’t I just buy it in the garden centre?
You can, but it becomes expensive and because it is rarely pure compost, but has various additives and it may not supply many nutrients.
Why can’t I just use fertilizer from the garden centre?
Fertiliser acts on the plants, not the soil, so really, it only does half the job. Compost acts on the soil, adding nutrients and improving both its friability and its powers of water retention. We should be improving our soil for maximum benefits, so that our plants will naturally thrive in an environment that is tailor-made for them.
What is the difference between hot and cold composting?
The main difference is in the speed at which composting occurs. Cold composting is slow while Hot composting is faster. This is because the micro-organisms need heat in order to speed up their efforts. The hotter they are, the faster they can work to digest your waste and so the more heat will be generated. Once the conditions in your pile are right, the heat will allow the bugs to work faster, so the process will occur at a much faster pace.
I have a back problem. Do I have to turn my compost?
If you want to hot compost, you will need to develop some system where your compost is turned. You could use a compost tumbler , for instance. Even cold composting needs some turning to aerate the pile and turning tool may be your answer here. If your waste is from the kitchen, you could also consider having a worm farm or Bokashi, neither of which involve turning.
Where can I buy a compost bin?
Councils often have good deals going with chosen companies. Garden centres tend to have limited ranges. On-line retailers are probably the best source of a variety of brands.
What tools will I need?
In the beginning, a fork for turning. Later you might choose to add a spade and a hose. Depending on what materials you compost, you may need something to assist in chopping up your waste, particularly if you are disposing of woody materials from pruning etc. Also consider an aerator to assist in turning your pile as it grows.
Is it very expensive?
As cheap or expensive as you like. DIY bins can be really simple and cheap. (See the bins made from hay bales, breeze blocks, or old pallets and boards). On the other hand, they can be really expensive. The components of a New Zealand box-type bin, can retail for as much as £200.00. A simple ‘dalek’ bin can retail from £40.00…… but if you purchase through a council scheme, it can be as low as £15.00. Worm farms made at home, can cost little more than the price of a couple of plastic boxes, while a Hungry Bin worm farm (also a New Zealand design) can cost around £175.00
Do I need a big garden?
Not really. Choose your compost system to suit what space you have available.
Where should I put my compost bin?
Your bin should be sited in a sheltered, shady but warm area, where the sun can help to keep it warm, but where it is not hot enough to dry out. In the winter, if it is cold it will probably lie dormant anyway, although a really well-managed pile can generate a surprising amount of heat, even in cold temperatures.