Young environmental enthusiasts and parents — welcome to the exciting eco-adventure that is composting! Composting is a fantastic way to turn food scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich soil that helps plants grow big and strong. In this guide, we’ll explore the wonderful world of composting, explain how to set up your compost area and highlight the amazing benefits it brings to your family, garden, wildlife and the environment.
The Magic & Science of Composting
Composting is like a fantastic magic show happening right in your garden! But instead of a magician, tiny creatures called decomposers work their magic. Tiny bacteria feast on the kitchen scraps and leaves, breaking them down into smaller pieces with the help of enzymes that are released. Fungi also have special powers to break down tough materials like wood and turn them into compost. Wiggly worms and other minibeasts also love to munch on the decomposed scraps, breaking them down into smaller and smaller pieces.
As these decomposers work their magic, they will eventually create something called humus. Fully-formed humus is dark, crumbly, and filled with nutrients that plants love. It is also the Latin word for soil. When you spread the humus around your garden, it’s like giving your plants a fantastic, nutritious meal. They grow big, strong, and healthy, thanks to the compost magic!
To begin composting, you’ll need a composting area. You have a few options:
Palettes or Spare Wood: Families can build a simple compost bin using palettes or spare wood. This creates a cosy space for your compost to break down. Ensure there are gaps between wood slats, so that minibeasts can come and go as they please.
Wire Composter: A wire composter is an easy option, so long as adults can ensure there are no sharp edges that might hurt children, themselves and wildlife. This option is like a big basket that keeps your compost in one place.
Commercial Composters: You can also buy special composting bins from stores. These are convenient and keep everything tidy. However, they’re not as much fun as you’ll miss out on the composter creation part of the activity!
What Goes In?
Now that you have your composting area ready, it’s time to start composting! You can add things like:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps — those banana peels, apple cores and carrot tops are perfect for composting.
- Eggshells — after you enjoy your breakfast or lunch eggs, crush the shells to help them break down faster and add them to the compost.
- Coffee grounds and tea bags — if your household makes real coffee, save the used coffee grounds for the compost bin. Similarly, tea bags can go in, but be sure to remove staples, which some tea bags have to attach their ‘tag’ to a string.
- Garden waste — leaves, grass clippings, and small plant trimmings can also join the compost party.
- Shredded paper and cardboard — if they have no glossy or coloured ink and do not have plastic lamination (they should tear easily if not), these can go in too.
What Stays Out?
Composting is magical, but some things just don’t belong in the compost bin. Never add:
- Meat, seafood and dairy — keep these out as they can attract pests and make your compost smell unpleasant.
- Oily or greasy food items — don’t include these as they don’t compost well.
- Pet waste — never add this as it might contain harmful bacteria.
- Plastic, glass or metal — only natural stuff can become compost, so no plastic wrappers, glass or metal cans should go into the composter.
- Diseased plant material — keep this out of the composter otherwise it could spread diseases to healthy plants.
3 Composting Tips for Kids:
- Become a compost hero by helping collect kitchen scraps. Ask parents for a special container to store things like fruit peels, vegetable scraps, and eggshells. Once it’s full, take it to the compost bin with a big smile, knowing you’re making a difference!
- Get parents to help turn over the rotting compost occasionally with a spade or fork, or to supervise children doing it if they’re old and strong enough. Mixing everything up helps the compost break down faster. It’s like giving compost a good stir to make it even yummier for the plants!
- Why not decorate the composter? Children could turn it into an art project! Ask parents’ permission to decorate the outside of the composter with colourful drawings or paintings. Make it look like a happy home for all those minibeasts and decomposers living inside.
The Big Reveal
Composting takes time, just like growing your favourite plants. You have to be patient and wait for the magic to happen. After a few weeks or months, it’s time to unveil the finished compost! Your compost will look dark and crumbly, and it will smell earthy – like the scent of fresh soil after the rain. This is the moment when you realise you’ve been nurturing something incredible!
The Superpowers of Compost
Composting has amazing benefits for everyone:
For Your Family — Composting not only teaches children about nature, recycling, and caring for the environment but is also a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about the various minibeasts, such as insects, worms, and grubs, that call the compost home. It’s like having a little ecosystem in your garden!
For Your Garden — The finished compost becomes a valuable resource for your garden! When you spread that nutrient-rich compost around your plants, it’s like giving them a delicious and nutritious meal. Plants love compost because it helps them grow big, strong, and healthy. So, by composting, you’re not just reducing waste; you’re also creating a superfood for your garden!
For the Environment — When we compost, we help reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfills. Less waste means a happier, healthier planet for plants, animals, and all of us. Additionally, composting conserves water and reduces the need for harmful chemical fertilisers, making it beneficial for the entire ecosystem. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
Congratulations on embarking on the composting journey, young environmentalists and parents alike! With this newfound knowledge, you can work together as a family to make our planet greener and cleaner. Happy composting!
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