How to compost with your kids

What better way to enjoy spending quality time with your kids outdoors than getting hands-on with a mucky, grubby, wormy, pile of compost?

Composting is heaps of fun and an easy, inexpensive way to support sustainability. Kids can be involved at every step and will love watching Mother Nature’s “magic trick” at work in their own backyard. The whole family will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that together you are doing your bit for the environment.

What is compost?
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It’s the process of taking your everyday household waste and waiting for it to break down into a rich, organic soil over time. This happens naturally to all organic materials, but backyard composting accelerates the process.

Why compost? My waste will be composted in landfill anyway
There are real problems with putting green waste into landfill. When sent to landfill, air cannot get to the waste. So as it breaks down it produces harmful methane gas that damages the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

If the same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps it to decompose aerobically, producing much less methane or none at all – and a happier planet.

Sold! What do I need?
All you need to compost is a space to do it, plus food and garden scraps. You’ll also need a compost turning tool – a garden fork does the trick.

Compost bins are readily available at garden and hardware stores for about $50 – $100. A bin isn’t necessary though: you can build a basic frame from wood or wire. Or simply start a compost “heap” – just pile it up right there on the ground.

The key ingredients
Four things are essential to the success of your compost: air, heat, moisture and a good mix of ingredients.

Start your compost pile on bare earth with a layer of straw a few centimetres deep. Then alternate between layers of moist “green” materials and dry “brown” materials.

Green material is rich in nitrogen and includes food scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and grass clippings. Brown material provides carbon and includes dry leaves, twigs, newspaper, cardboard and saw dust. For best results your compost will consist of about 75 per cent brown material to 25% green material.

Once your pile is established, regularly aerate it with a garden fork. Keep your compost in a warm place and cover it with black plastic to trap the heat and keep excess rain water out. Ideally compost should be moist but not sodden. A pile that’s too dry will take longer to break down and a pile that’s too wet will create a foul odour.

The finished product
If you start your compost now, monitor it carefully and keep the balance right, you could easily have a valuable nutrient-rich soil ready in time for the spring veggie garden! Flower beds, potted plants, trees and even your lawn can also benefit from a sprinkling of compost. The kids will get a kick out of seeing the process through and helping to distribute your long-awaited bounty around the garden.

Got greenie kids? Visit our sustainability section online for more environmentally-friendly tips and tricks.