We often get questions from new Ridan users who may be having some problems getting the results they were hoping for, so we have put this article together:
How do I make perfect compost?
There are many people around the world who compost their food and garden waste for many reasons. Some want to make compost for their vegetable gardens, other may just be environmentally conscious and want to ensure their food waste is not going to landfill. Whatever the reasons it can be a very rewarding experience. However, as many first time composters find out, it is not always that easy.
You may be advised by an experienced gardener or groundsman to just ‘chuck it in a pile and let nature take its course’. For some it may be that easy, if their environment and their mixture is just right, but the reality is there is a lot that can go wrong.
Many of the problems faced by people wanting to make compost can be overcome by using a Ridan Composter due to the body of the machine protecting the mixture from rain and the rotating blades making sure the correct amount of oxygen is allowed to pass through. However, it is still vitally important to get the balance of ingredients right to ensure perfect compost.
What is perfect compost?
You will know when you have achieved perfect compost. It will be dark in colour with a natural earthy smell. The mixture will feel dry with a crumbly texture. There will be no sign of any of the original ingredients as they will have been broken down. The process is entirely natural of course, but the Ridan Composter is working with nature to give it a helping hand.
If the process has not worked, then the mixture could be slimy, contain large chunks of matter and possibly smell bad too. This is often due to the mixture rotting instead of being converted to compost.
What are the biggest problems?
First of all, we have to ensure the mixture is correct. There needs to be an equal balance of Nitrogen which comes from food and green waste and carbon which is provided by materials such as wood chips and cardboard.
To give the process the best chance, all ingredients must be chopped up as small as possible.
Any bio-degradable material can be added, but often, people who compost at home will avoid adding meat waste in with their mixture for fear of attracting rodents. Fortunately, with a Ridan Composter this is not a concern as the material is contained in a drum and situated off the ground.
Whether you are composting at home or using a Ridan, you must take care when adding grass clippings – particularly wet grass clippings. Too much can become a soggy mulch reducing the flow of oxygen and inevitably causing the mixture to rot. You can add grass clippings, but in small portions.
Balancing the mixture
Possibly the most difficult thing for anyone starting out with composting is getting the balance right. It’s probably best not getting too worried about this as you could end up over-thinking and not enjoying composting, but there are some things to look out for if your mixture does not seem to be working.
The basic rule is to avoid any excessive amounts. If for example you are composting a load of citrus fruits, then it is possible your mixture could be become over acidic. Try to balance out the citrus fruits with other food and green material.
If your mixture has become too acidic then you may notice an unpleasant smell and the process will slow down. This can be remedied by adding alkali substances such as ground lime or wood ash or maybe add additional carbon items like wood or cardboard to balance things out.
Wet and dry compost
One of the hardest things to balance is the moisture of the material. If the conditions are too wet or too dry then you are going to run into problems.
This is less of a problem for Ridan users as the machine protects the mixture from the weather allowing it to stay reasonably dry. The level of moisture required is provided naturally by the juices found in the food waste.
One of the most common problems with composting is having a wet mixture – especially in places like the UK where we get a lot…a lot of rain.
However it is not just rain that can cause a problem. Your mixture can become too wet if you compost a lot of water containing vegetables and salad items, such as cucumbers and carrots. You can combat this by draining your food waste before adding it to the mixture, or by simply adding additional dry items such as card and wood.
You will know when the mixture is too wet as it will stop composting and become slimy and compacted. It will give off a foul smell and likely attract flies.
This is due to the water making the various elements stick together, reducing the flow of air which is a vital part of the composting process. This foul, putrid material provides the ideal conditions for harmful microbes to thrive.
This is less likely to happen in your Ridan as the blades will keep the mixture aerated but it is still possible. If this happens, turn the handle until the mixture is expelled. You can then add the mixture back in, but mix it with lots of dry carbon material. Ideally, if possible find a way to dry the mixture out before returning it to the Ridan.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also have a mixture that is too dry. This is harder to spot as there are no tell-tale signs, except for the mixture simply not composting. The mixture expelled from your Ridan will look pretty much the same as when it went it.
If you are mostly composting food waste then this is unlikely to occur as there is often enough water contained in the waste food to help the process along, but in some cases you may need to manually add a little rain water, or a higher proportion of wet food waste to get the process up and running again.
The Ridan Composter is offered in three different sizes, but none are intended for domestic use. If you are just starting out composting at home, then there are many other suitable methods such as composting piles, bins, or small tumblers. The Ridan range has been designed to cater for schools, businesses and organistaions with a large turnover of food waste.