Go Green With Us: Celebrating This Compost Week!

Why is Composting Important?

Composting is a big deal here at Tops Day Nurseries! It’s something we’re serious about because it’s good for the environment and it’s a great way to teach our little one’s about taking care of nature. When we compost, we’re recycling food scraps and other materials into nutrient-rich soil that helps plants grow in our outdoor areas.

But it’s not just about being eco-friendly; composting is also a hands-on learning experience for our little ones. They get to see firsthand how waste can be turned into something useful for our gardens. It’s a practical lesson in sustainability that’s fun and educational. Beyond the fun, composting is our way of showing our kids how to be responsible with the Earth.

By composting, we’re doing our part to reduce waste and make a positive impact on the environment. It’s a simple but powerful way to teach our children about caring for the planet we all call home.

Why Make a Composter?

Fun! Creating and managing a composter is an enjoyable activity that offers numerous benefits

Good for growing plants in: Compost enriches soil, providing essential nutrients for healthy plant growth and vibrant gardens.

Saves money: Producing your compost reduces the need for store-bought fertilisers and soil amendments, saving you money in the long run.

Helps support the soil: Compost improves soil structure, promotes water retention, and enhances microbial activity, fostering a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface.

Good for mental health: Gardening and composting have been linked to reduced stress levels and improved mood, offering a therapeutic escape from daily stressors.

Knowledge of the world: Composting fosters a deeper understanding of ecological processes, teaching valuable lessons about the interconnectedness of nature and human actions.

Learning a new skill: Engaging in composting provides an opportunity to develop practical skills, from managing organic waste to mastering the art of composting ratios and turning. It’s a hands-on learning experience that enriches both mind and garden.

What Does and Doesn’t go in a Compost Bin?

Composting Activities for your Little One’s:

Activity 1 – Explore your surroundings to identify fallen leaves and nearby trees. Equip yourselves with tools like dustpans, brushes, gloves, knee pads, and wheelbarrows or buckets to collect the leaves. Don’t forget your trusty tree and leaf identification cards to learn as you go!

Activity 2 – Set out on a quest to find plants fit for composting! Arm yourselves with trowels, gloves, knee pads, and containers like wheelbarrows or buckets to gather compost-worthy plants. Utilise plant identification cards to identify your findings accurately. It’s a thrilling adventure full of learning and discovery!

How to Make a Compost?

To make good compost you need an equal mix of materials that are rich in nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen comes from living GREEN materials such as grass clippings and plants from weeding. Carbon comes from BROWN materials such as dried leaves, woody stems and cardboard.

Another aspect of composting involves weeding. We believe there’s no such thing as a “weed.” Instead, we see weeding as simply removing plants we don’t want in our garden. Some plants are experts at growing in small spaces, especially around buildings and in cracks in pavement.

Can you identify any of the plants growing along buildings? Fences? Cracks in the pavement? Use the plant ID cards and remove unwanted plants with the trowel.

A common plant to find is Petty Spurge, this plant is toxic and the sap inside the plant will cause blistering to the skin.  This plant should only be removed by an adult wearing gloves, put this plant straight in the bin. If sap gets onto the skin wash off immediately with soap and water. Photo of plant included.

Keep leaves and weeds separate until ready to put into your compost bin, do you have the same amount of leaves and weeds? The mix needs to be equal amounts of green (weeds) and brown (leaves) material.  Add your green and brown materials slowly to the composting bin, turning it as you go, this ensures the materials are evenly mixed.                                                                          

Top up your planters, pots, growing areas and raised beds with leaf mulch or pine needle mulch, this will rot down over winter enriching the soil with nutrients.

How to Use A Compost Maker:

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  • Choose a site for your compost, ideally in a warm sheltered spot
  • Sprinkle 200-250g (about 2 trowels) over each  30cm layer of new material
  • Water the heap if the waste is dry or woody with approximately 4.5L (1 watering can)
  • Repeat steps 2 to 3 each time a new layer is added.
  • Your compost will be ready to use when dark, brown and crumbly. The time this takes varies from a few weeks to several months, dependent on air temperature and the materials you use.

Composting Top Tips:

Here are five simple tips for making compost:

  1. Mix It Up: Combine green and brown materials in your compost pile for balanced nutrition.
  2. Keep It Airy: Turn your compost regularly to let in oxygen, aiding decomposition.
  3. Stay Moist: Ensure your compost stays damp, like a wrung-out sponge.
  4. Chop and Cut: Break down large pieces of waste to speed up the composting process.
  5. Be Patient: Composting takes time, so give it the time it needs to work its magic.

Health and Safety Tips For Composters:

HazardRiskWho is at riskControls/action required
CompostingAirborne particles. Flies. Vermin. Lifting/turningSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Avoid turning compost heaps – keep as cold heaps.  Adults only to turn heaps when children not present and then wearing face masks and gloves to do this. Don’t make compost too wet by adding too much fruit waste as it will attract flies and make a less effective compost.
CompostPathogenic microbial contaminationSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Compost should be stored in a cool place – i.e. not a greenhouse.
MulchingAirborne particles. Fungi TurningSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Adults only to remove compost from composter or womery – wearing face mask &  gloves. Reduce the risk of airborne particles by wetting loose compost before applying.  Once compost is dampened down children can assist applying – wearing gloves.
Fallen leavesSlips/trips/litter within leavesSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Do not collect fallen leaves for making compost where there is a potential for hazardous objects – syringes/broken glass/sharp objects hidden amongst the leaves. Children and staff collecting leaves within a safe area need to wear gloves and use appropriate tools – rakes/leaf hands etc.
InfectionvariousSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Children to wash their hands after touching compost and before handling food/drink. Cover any cuts or abrasions before gardening sessions or ensure gloves are worn.
LiftingInjury/strainSetting staff, children, volunteer helpers.Children and staff are not to lift heavy objects or to overfill wheelbarrows where in use.

Solving Potential Problems with Your Compost:

Too Wet?
If your heap is too wet the chances are it has too much water or nitrogen. Turn the pile regularly to aerate & keep the temperature under control. Add some brown materials like shredded cardboard, newspaper or small twigs to balance  it out.

Too Dry?
The opposite is happening and you may have too much brown material. Add a layer of green together with a splash of water and a sprinkle of Garotta.

A Bit Smelly?
It’s best not to add fresh food waste to the pile like meat, fish or diary. Not only do they make the pile smell bad, but it can also invite unwanted pests to your garden.

Too Slow?
If the process is too slow you may find that your brown material is too large. Make sure you shred the sticks and tear the cardboard into smaller pieces to increase the available surface area for the microbes to get to work on.

Tips on Use
We recommend the use of gloves when using this product
Wash hands after use and avoid contact with skin
Store in a cool dry place away from children, pets and foodstuffs.


External Resources:

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/basics/compost-bacteria-information.htm

https://www.gardenhealth.com/garotta-compost-maker#horizontalTab2  

Posted in: General, Sustainability