We asked renowned ecologist and worm farm expert Peter Rutherford, to provide answers to the most commonly asked questions we receive from composters around Australia and the world.
Step 1. Diversity and Aeration
Whether you’re using a compost bin or compost tumbler, every time you add a container of food scraps to your compost, you should add the same amount of garden materials, e.g. twiggy leafy matter. This provides diversity and aerates the farm. While lawn clippings are great in regular, small amounts, they are no substitute for twiggy leafy material. That’s because they don’t aerate the soil enough for the composting process. Be sure to sprinkle a teaspoon of Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner every week – the conditioner is alkaline, which stops the compost from becoming too acidic.
Step 2. Mix, Mix, Mix
Mixing your compost to aerate the heap, at least once a week, is vital for compost to work well and quickly. This can be done by using a Tumbleweed compost mate or Tumbleweed aerator, which you wind clockwise into the heap and lift to the surface. Why? Aerobic microbes, which like oxygen, drive efficient decomposition to create beneficial compost. Anaerobic microbes, which live where there’s no oxygen, for example, in the human stomach, create bad smells.
What can go in my compost bin or tumbler?
Compost is made when micro-organisms feed on plant matter and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. But remember, micro-organisms only eat organic food. That means you should only put materials into your Compost Bin or Tumbler that were once alive. This includes;
- Vegetable scraps and other organic kitchen scraps (including egg shells)
- Twiggy leafy matter
- Lawn clippings (regular small amounts)
- Small green prunings
- General garden waste
- Small amounts of meat or dairy are okay once you become an experienced composter, however they can cause problems like attracting flies and vermin.
- Some garden soil is also beneficial
- Small amounts of soggy or ripped up newspaper and cardboard.
- Small amounts of gardening manures e.g. chicken and cow manure will help speed up the process. Pet manure is best left out of your compost bin.
- Remember to follow our recipe for making great compost!
How do I know when my compost is ready?
It takes six to eight weeks for organic waste to mature and turn into compost. Don’t add any more ingredients during this time – simply mix it every week and ensure it remains moist. Once it’s ready, your compost will smell earthy and looking like a dark brown, rich, clumpy soil. If you can, work with two bins. That way, while one bin is maturing, you’ll have another bin that can take your fresh ingredients.
How do I keep rats and vermin out of my compost bin or composter?
Always ensure the lid is firmly replaced to seal your bin and prevent rats and vermin from getting in from the top. To stop them from burrowing underneath, use your Tumbleweed compost mate or aerator, to mix the compost all the way to the base of the heap then lift it back out. You’ll dramatically reduce the risk of rats and vermin by keeping the contents of your compost bin moist and aerated.
Why does my compost bin smell?
If you are following the ADAM principles, your compost bin should not smell. If it does, the first thing you should do is more mixing. Use your Tumbleweed Compost Mate or Tumbleweed Aerator to drill down to the base of your compost bin then pull it back out to let more oxygen into the heap (while this may be difficult, aeration is vital in the composting process). Other things you can do are: ensure there is good drainage under your compost bin; consider the need to add more leafy, twiggy matter; add a little extra Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner to reduce acidity.
Why is my compost taking so long to mature?
The microbes working in your compost bin need nitrogen. This is initially supplied by the food scraps you add to the bin, however you can add nitrogen to speed up decomposition. Use garden manures, such as chicken and cow manure and even some extra Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner. For best results, make sure you follow the ADAM principles and keep your compost moist and regularly aerated.
How do I avoid cockroaches in my compost bin?
Cockroaches like dry cavities. To eliminate them from your compost, apply your ADAM principles: mix and aerate your compost weekly, keep it moist and add a regular sprinkling of conditioner.