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Getting Kids Involved in Making Compost

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 30 Aug 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Kids Children Compost Composting Garden

If you enjoy gardening and are keen to get your kids involved in outdoor activities too, then why not get them involved in the task of making compost? There are all sorts of processes involved in creating compost and, although it’s not an immediate end result, it can be fascinating and rewarding for children to understand what happens to produce compost that can then be put to use in the garden. If you’d like to give this a go, then here’s a guide to getting started with getting your kids involved in the compost making process.

Why Make Compost?

For gardeners, having compost to put on the garden helps the soil and aids the healthy growth of plants. Although compost can easily be purchased from a garden centre, there’s something enjoyable in creating your own compost – and for children it can be almost magical, as ordinary ingredients transform into soil-like substances.

All the essential compost ingredients are readily available at home and it’s a great way of putting what would otherwise be waste materials to good use. In a sense, it’s a form of recycling that you can do in your own home and garden and is very environmentally friendly.

What Do You Need to Get Started With Making Compost?

An obvious starting point is to ensure you’ve got somewhere suitable to create your compost heap.

It’s a good idea to situate it away from the house, as it will naturally attract lots of insects, ants and worms – all of which are beneficial to the composting process. At the most basic level, you could simply choose a bare area of garden and create the heap there, but due to the insects and to help contain the composting ingredients and the smell, it’s a good idea to have a properly built compost bin to keep everything tidy and in one place.

Basic compost bins are readily available to purchase from garden centres or the Internet; some local councils offer them at a discount price too, as part of their recycling strategy. Most just need to be sited on the ground. They have a lid at the top to put the ingredients into and a hatch at the bottom, from where you can dig out the eventual compost.

What Can go into Compost?

Compost is made of garden and kitchen waste, but it can also include some paper too. Children can get actively involved in collecting together all of the different ingredients, sorting out what can and can’t go in and taking them all up to the compost heap.

To get the best results from your compost, aim to include a good mix of green, nitrogen-rich ingredients and brown, carbon-rich ingredients, which are slower to rot.

Some examples of good green ingredients include:

  • Grass cuttings
  • Green prunings
  • Uncooked vegetable and fruit peelings
  • Horse or cattle manure
  • Weeds
  • Tea bags and tea leaves
  • Coffee grounds

Examples of good brown ingredients includes:

  • Broken up cardboard pieces, such as from toilet rolls or egg boxes
  • Paper shreddings
  • Sawdust and wood shavings
  • Shredded or broken up newspapers
  • Hay or straw
  • Hedge clippings
  • Fallen autumn leaves
  • Finished bedding plants

It’s also possible to add broken up egg shells into your compost and some people add nail or hair clippings in.

What Not to Put in Your Compost

There are some things that shouldn’t go into the compost so you should ensure that children sort through items carefully and don’t mix these in. Importantly, avoid putting cooked food, meat or fish into your compost.

Making Composting a Regular Activity

If you’re going to get children enthused about composting, then making it into a regular activity is a good idea.

In order to collect household waste, such as vegetable peelings, egg shells or toilet rolls, you could put a small compost bucket by the back door and ask children to put things into it as they become available. They can be taken up to the compost heap and emptied into it as and when, or you could wait until the bucket is full and all add it in at the weekend.

Ideally, the compost bin ingredients do need to be mixed in regularly and this is something kids could jointly do with parents.

The length of time it takes to make usable compost varies – partly influenced by how much you put into it and how much you work on it. The shortest time to make compost is as little as two months, but for many gardeners it takes months or up to a year.

You’ll know you’ve achieved compost when a dark brown, earthy-type substance appears at the hatch at the bottom of your compost bin. Not all the ingredients may have fully broken down, but it’s perfectly normal to have bits of eggshell still visible and could even help discourage slugs when used around plants.

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