Composting for schools

Information sheet

All around us an amazing process is continually taking place. Organic waste, such as plant material and dead insects are converted by millions of bacteria and micro-organisms into crumbly compost.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s):


Types of compost bin

You can use this process to turn garden and kitchen waste into a free, environmentally friendly source of organic matter, known as compost, which can be put back on to your garden, improving the soil and conserving moisture. It also helps to reduce the amount of rubbish that has to go into a landfill site.

The simplest way to compost material is to pile everything in a heap and cover with black plastic or old carpet. Most people use a container of some description. This not only looks neater but also helps to deter vermin. It is easier to manage and speeds up the composting process by keeping the heap insulated.

You will find that a wide range of containers are available on the market and some local authorities will provide cheap bins for people who live in the area. You can also make compost bins from old wood and pallets. Three is the ideal number to allow you to 'turn' compost from one bin to another. This mixes and adds air to the contents which in turn provides better quality compost.
                                                                  

Siting your compost bin

Make sure that your bin has an open bottom and is placed on a soil base. Try and dig the area beforehand. The open bottom allows moisture to drain away and gives access to soil organisms important to the process of composting.

In colder areas of the country a sunny site will encourage composting during cold weather whereas in hotter, drier areas a shady spot will help to prevent your heap drying out. If there is a prolonged dry spell of weather it is a good idea to add extra water to the compost heap to stop it drying out. 

Remember to allow good access to your bin for emptying and space for wheelbarrows to fit comfotably nearby.

Which materials can be added to the compost bin?

Aim for 25-50% of green waste from the garden: Flowers, leaves, grass cuttings, annual weeds and plant material.

Aim for 50% plus of brown waste from the garden: Chopped up twigs, hedge trimmings, bark, tough plant stems, straw or hay, kitchen waste from the small compost bins, fruit and vegetable waste, shredded paper, coffee grounds and tea bags.

Problems

Avoid allowing any one material to dominate your compost heap such as grass clippings or fruit waste. This can make your compost slimy and smelly.  If this is the case turn your compost and add more brown material.

Flies can be a problem, especially in high summer. Try covering your compost heap with shredded paper.

Vermin include mice, voles and rats. Discourage vermin from your compost heap by only adding garden and vegetable material. Never add cooked food or dairy waste to a compost heap. Call in the professionals if there is a rat problem.

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