Food and organic waste can make up a big portion of what’s in your red bin.
When food and other organic waste goes to landfill it gets compacted and creates methane gas – that’s bad news. There’s also a big cost for sending things to landfill.
By composting or worm farming, the same waste can be turned into natural fertiliser to improve your garden without making harmful greenhouse gases.
Compost can be set up in a bin or an enclosed heap. You can buy bins at our Botanic Garden’s plant sales or at most hardware stores.
How to compost
Put your compost somewhere that’s well-drained and easy to access.
You can add these things to your compost, and it’s good to have a mix of all of them:
- Food and veggie scraps
- Coffee grounds and tea leaves
- Grass clippings, leaves and twigs from your yard
- Newspaper or shredded paper.
Do not put these things in your compost:
- Meat, fish and dairy
- Oil, fat or grease
- Onion and garlic
- Dog or cat poo.
Keep your compost slightly damp, and turn it regularly so it gets fresh air. Layer food scraps with grass or garden clippings to keep it well balanced.
Compost can get warm as organic waste breaks down. If you’ve got an open compost heap, cover it in hessian – especially in winter – to keep it warm.
If you see earthworms in your compost, that’s a good sign! They can help break things down more quickly to make great fertiliser for your garden.
Using your compost
It can take up to 10-12 weeks for compost to break down so you can use it. Add finished compost to garden beds, or as topsoil on lawns. You can also use it as potting mix, either on its own or mixed with dirt from your garden.
Bokashi is an indoor composting system that uses a powder or liquid spray to help ferment and break down waste quickly. It’s a good option for people living in apartments or smaller spaces.
You can put all types of food waste in a bokashi, including cooked and raw food, fruit and veggies, coffee, tea, paper towel and much more. You can even add meat, fish, dairy, onion and garlic, which shouldn’t go in a traditional compost.
How to bokashi
You’ll need an airtight bokashi bin. These can be bought at hardware stores, or you can make your own. They have a tap at the bottom so you can regularly drain off the ‘juice’ and dilute it in water to use it as a garden fertiliser.
Add your scraps to the bin, and compress them to remove excess air. Add your bokashi powder or spray, then seal the lid tight and drain off any juice.
Once your bokashi bin is full, you can either bury it in your garden (not too close to plant roots) or add it to an outdoor compost bin.
Don’t have a garden? Check with family and friends if you can add bokashi scraps to their compost pile or garden when your bin gets full.
Visit Bokashi Composting Australia’s website for more information.
Worms can munch through your food waste, and turn it into castings and liquid fertiliser for your garden. Here's a quick video to show you how to make a worm farm, or read below for more details
To get started, you’ll need:
- A cool, sheltered spot to set up your worm farm
- A worm farm container, which you can buy through Wollongong Botanic Garden, or at hardware stores or nurseries.
- Bedding – this should be 10-15cm deep and can be a mix of shredded newspaper, and horse or cow manure, worm castings, coco peat or coir peat. Mix and wet the bedding so it’s as moist as a damp sponge.
- 1000 – 2000 worms from a hardware store or nursery. Add the worms to the surface of the bedding, and give them a few days to get used to their new home.
- Fruit and vegetable scraps. Add these a few days after you set up your worm farm. Just add a thin layer, and don’t totally cover the bedding.
- A damp hessian sack or old t-shirt to cover the scraps and worms.
Add more fruit and veggie scraps only when the worms have worked through the previous scraps. You can also include small amounts of paper, cardboard, and egg shells.
Do not add these things to your worm farm:
- Meat, fish or dairy products
- Onion, garlic or chilli
- Citrus fruits
- Oil and fats
- Garden clippings
- Animal droppings.
Keep the worm farm slightly damp by watering it lightly if it starts to dry out.
Most worm farms have a tap or tray at the bottom to collect worm ‘juice’. This can be diluted with water as a fertiliser for your garden.
Once a worm farm tray is full, tip it out on a flat surface and gradually scrape away the material until you’re left with mostly just worms, then start again with a new tray.
The scrapings – or castings – from the full tray can be used on your garden, or mixed with regular soil as potting mix.
Keeping chickens is a great way to recycle your food scraps, reduce grubs and get your own supply of fresh eggs.
The number of chickens you can have, and how you need to house them, is explained in state law. Use the links below to read more:
- How chickens need to be kept (scroll to Part 5, Division 2: Keeping of Poultry)
- Rules for chicken enclosures
You cannot keep roosters in residential areas.
Need a hand to get started with organic waste? We often run workshops to help people get set up worm farms or composts.
Upcoming workshops are shown below, or keep an eye on our Events Calendar.
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