I am a fan of early childhood centres making their own compost. What better way to cut down on your waste and carbon footprint, than composting your food and garden waste?
And even better, children learn the cycle of nutrients that comes from the decomposition of waste to release goodness back into the soil.
Every plant that grows in our garden sucks nutrients out of the soil. Overtime the soil becomes depleted of nutrients if we don’t feed it, and our plants won’t grow strong and healthy. Compost helps to replenish the nutrient levels in the soil.
So what is compost?
Compost is made up of anything that can rot down – if it was once alive, then it can be composted.
It provides food for the thousands of micro-organisms, insects, worms and other microscopic plants and animals who work tirelessly to feed the soil nutrients for plants to absorb so they grow strong and healthy.
Like humans, compost needs a mixed diet. The diet of a compost pile is made up of nitrogen rich material such as fruit and vegetable waste, grass clippings, garden waste, eggshells and rabbit or guinea pig bedding, horse, rabbit, guinea pig, or chicken manure (no dog or cat manure), and carbon rich materials such as dried leaves, shredded paper, shredded cardboard/egg cartons, and woody garden prunings.
These are added at a ratio of 3:1 nitrogen to carbon, combined with a little water and oxygen. The ratio helps avoid:
- Too much moisture if you add lots of vegetable/fruit waste and lawn clippings
- Too dry if you add too many carbon materials
Compost needs to be turned regularly to keep air moving through it otherwise it will become anaerobic, which means the decomposition will slow right down and it could become smelly.
Making compost in early childhood centres
If we are to teach children how to be sustainable and reduce their impact on the planet, then compost is a good way to do this. Children who are involved in making compost and then adding the finished product to their garden learn about recycling waste to feed the soil in their gardens to make their plants grow up healthy and strong.
I believe that compost tumblers work well in centres. I have worked with centres using tumblers and we have made some beautiful compost with the children being involved every step of the way.
The beauty of a compost tumbler is that:
- It is fully enclosed so it doesn’t attract mice and rats
- It takes up a small amount of space
- It doesn’t need worms to work
- It is easy for children to add materials into
- Children can turn it easily adding lots of air and speeding up the process
- It is relatively easy to empty
- If used properly it will produce compost in about 3-4 weeks
It is best to get either two tumblers, or one that has a divider between two compartments. This means that one can be ‘processing’ while you are adding materials to the other.
If you want to become more sustainable, then starting to make compost is a great way to reduce some of your waste.