Our compost features prominently in the life of our community garden at London Road Station. About 20 people who live in and around the area bring their organic vegetable and fruit waste to our compost bin. Many of these contributors don’t have gardens, so we are their only opportunity to compost. And we are very grateful to them.
It’s inevitable, thought, that different people will have different interpretations of what is compostable. In principle, it’s any organic matter that will decompose, but we exclude the obvious things like meat and cooked food as these can attract vermin, and we are composting in a public place. We also ask composters not to add egg shells for the same reason and fairly obviously, pet waste and straw or sawdust bedding is out too.
We do not exclude citrus material. The old argument has been that the acid in citrus juice and skins will slow down the compost process and/or kill the worms that help it. Apparently, if citrus material is only added in moderate quantities, and if it is shredded beforehand, this is unlikely to happen.
However, people have been adding things – quite understandably – that are organic, not cooked etc. but that take a long time to break down. We’ve found a wooden toothbrush and coconut shells recently. These – along with tea bags and avocado stones – are a nuisance in our compost because of the way we have to organise it. We need the compost to be ready after 6 months ‘resting’; it takes about 6 months to fill one of our bins. And we have two. Anything that doesn’t thoroughly break down within 9 months or so will remain in the compost when we try and use it.
We already have too many ghost tea bags – the textile part doesn’t break down quickly – floating around the plot. Please no wooden items, no tea bags unless shredded, no hard fruit or veg shells or stones.
Composting is problematic if we get the balance of materials wrong. Currently, we’ve also had quite a lot of cardboard deposited. This absolutely needs to be shredded as otherwise, again, it won’t decompose in manageable time. Please avoid large amounts of cardboard or paper. We have a Compost Master who checks the balance of the compost regularly and will adjust with shredded cardboard etc. when necessary. But thank-you, composters. Your veg peelings turn into wonderful nutrients for our soils.