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No, your compost should hardly have an aroma. You have probably been putting in too much nitrogen-rich waste, such as grass clippings, meat or fish. To counter the smell and regain the normal harmony of the compost add in some extra garden soil or shredded newspaper. Mix this in and then take a small batch of the finished compost or half-composted material from lower down the unit and sprinkle over the top.
The Johanna is designed for a household of up to five people with the compostable waste produced from an average garden. However, since this is extremely variable, if you believe you are filling it too quickly it would be recommended to have a second Johanna. A garden produces less waste in winter, so if you have space you could store some waste to layer in with food waste during winter.
When the micro-organisms are actively breaking down waste, energy is released. How warm the compost gets depends on what you have put in together with levels of oxygen and moisture. The micro-organisms work at between 2 and 75 degrees Celsius. Different micro-organisms work at different temperatures. The optimum working temperature in the composter will be around 45-65 degrees plus.
Yes, if you add layers of paper products (shredded paper and newspaper/ripped-up cardboard, toilet roll tubes, egg cartons) and sawdust and wood chips. These provide carbon to balance the nitrogen in the food waste.
Twigs, branches, dried leaves, sawdust, woodchips, paper products, crushed eggshells, garden soil.
Eggs, fish, meat, mixed food waste, fresh grass clippings.
It’s important to understand the cause of the smell, which in this case is due to poor aeration. You will need to add some chopped hedge clippings and other coarse garden waste. This must now be well mixed in and air forced around all the interior of the unit. If at this stage the compost is looking too wet, it may help to add some shredded newspaper to absorb any excess moisture.
You need to keep your compost moist; ants are attracted to nice dry soil-like materials. With a small watering can, gently add water to your mix and stir in well. You want the consistency to feel as damp as a squeezed bath sponge.
No, this is an indication of poorly covered, nitrogen-rich content. Firstly, mix the surface layer well and cover with fresh soil and clippings. Secondly, check that you are shutting the lid securely when you are filling up the composter.
The more insects and creatures munching away in your Green Johanna the warmer it will get and the composting process will continue at pace. So when you mix your layers look out for: mites, worms, false-scorpions, woodlice, springtails, nematodes, centipedes and earwigs.
There are six main reasons for a composter to stop working. Read through the options below to identify your cause:
- Too much carbon-rich material, such as dry leaves, twigs and paper, so add nitrogen-rich material, such as food waste or fresh grass and mix in.
- Too much coarse material, such as twigs, so the compost is too airy and dry. Remove this material, chop it finely and re-mix in thoroughly.
- A lack of material in general will always slow the process down and in some cases stop it completely. Add more waste materials, maintaining the carbon-nitrogen balance, to start up the process again.
- The whole mix is too solid and compact, strangling the air supply throughout. Give the whole thing a really good stir and add some very finely chopped twigs to help with the aeration.
- The compost has dried out, stalling the process. You need to be adding more moist food waste and water, stirring thoroughly. The ideal consistency is like a squeezed damp bath sponge. If you take a large handful of the compost and squeeze it, only a couple of drops of liquid should come out.
- Cold weather and a poorly-fed Green Johanna can bring a halt to the composting process. During the colder months make sure you are topping up the layers every day and consider putting an insulating Winter Jacket on the composter. Jackets are available at www.greatgreensystems.com
You can dispose of up to one kilogram of waste per day in a well-positioned and fully working Green Cone. As long as the unit has a healthy population of bacteria, a consistent ambient temperature and a balanced ‘diet’, it can dispose of the food waste created by the average family of four per day.
No, grass cuttings and garden waste will stop the Cone from working properly. For garden waste, you should consider the Green Johanna hot composter.
Yes, in moderation, if you are not using the residue on a vegetable patch and the Green Cone is not sited close to water sources. Pet excrement must be added to the Cone directly, never in a bag. Bags of any sort, even compostable or biodegradable, will prevent the Cone from working properly. Avoid adding cat litter as this may contain antibacterial agents and its quantity could quickly overwhelm the Cone.
No. The Green Cone is designed to break down waste naturally without assistance.
Yes, although it may slow down a little on darker, colder days. But a little accelerator powder will keep it working as usual no matter what the weather.
No. Any artificial additives will affect the way the Cone’s natural bacteria works to break down the food waste.
With a well-maintained Cone you may need to empty and clean it once every few years. Very little waste residue will be produced. Should the residue build up to approaching ground level and show no signs of reducing, the Cone can be removed to access the basket and the residue can be dug into any suitable area of ground.
Simply hand wash it in warm soapy water. Do not put in the dishwasher.
The Green Cone is a sealed unit and when properly installed, with the top of the black basket and bottom lip of the green outer cone below ground level and the lid shut securely, emits no smell; any smells are filtered out by the surrounding soil. This means there is no obvious attraction for flies and vermin. However, the eggs of fruit flies are already in the skins of many fruits and might hatch out in the Cone. Should this happen, a small squirt of organic fly spray will resolve the issue. It is important that the caddy is always kept well covered in the kitchen to prevent house flies laying eggs in the food waste, which would then be transferred to the Cone, putting flies into the system. Again, a squirt of organic fly spray will clear up the issue without hindering the eco-system in the unit.
Obviously, it is important not to spill food near the Green Cone.
Advice given in the handbook should be followed for the Green Cone to continue working properly:
- Position the Cone in as sunny an area as possible, not a dark, shady area as it is solar powered.
- The surrounding soil must be well drained and not heavy clay or chalk.
- The black underground basket must not be below the water table or in an area where water gathers.
- Accelerator powder should be added to the Cone so that there is enough natural bacteria to keep digesting the waste. This is particularly important in cold weather. If the level of waste in the basket is not decreasing, add accelerator powder, as directed in the handbook.
If the instructions are not followed, the digestion process could turn anaerobic (without oxygen) and the food waste may appear wet and slimy. The solution in this case is to reinstall the Cone in accordance with the instructions.
To correct wet compost we recommend reducing the amount of green waste (fruit, vegetable, kitchen scraps) and increasing the percentage of brown waste (dry grass, leaves, paper).
Generally the mix should be 50/50. However, in the case of wet compost it is necessary to increase the percentage of brown waste temporarily in order to get the mixture balanced again.
Once the mixture is moist (without being wet) it will be possible to revert to a 50/50 composition.
Exposure to sunlight and increased aeration are also helpful in getting the compost back to its correct balance.
If your compost tends to be rather too dry or too wet (or you are not sure how it is going), mixing the contents of the bin now and again gives you the opportunity to adjust the balance of materials. It can also speed up the process if the heap is short of air.
Turning and mixing is made easy with a Compost Tumbler. However, material in a Tumbler can dry out, and you need to make sure it is sufficiently moist for the composting process to proceed effectively.
The presence of ants can indicate that the compost is too dry. If this is the case, mix in wetter materials or lightly water the mixture.
If you are new to composting, you may just need to be patient.
Composting is a biological process that does take time and slows down in cold weather. It will also be slower if the compost is too dry, or the contents are all rather tough. Try adjusting the moisture level and mixing in grass clippings and other materials that are quick to rot. Chopping up your organic waste before depositing it into your composter will also speed up the process (by exposing more surface area to microbes).
Yes, if ‘Greens’ ( grass clippings and vegetable scraps) and fine ‘Browns’ (shredded leaves and dry herbaceous plants) are composted in a Tumbler that is kept moist, turned regularly and kept in a sunny position
To make compost quickly in a traditional garden compost bin you will need to fill it completely in one go using a good mixture of green and brown materials (chopped up or shredded if chunky). You will notice that the contents of the bin will begin to get hot in a few days (this is a good thing!) Once they have cooled down, mix the heap well with a pitchfork or compost aerator. This keeps the pile uniform in consistency and helps introduce oxygen to the microbes. Keep on mixing every few days until the heap has turned into usable compost.
It is also important to note that external temperatures play an important part in the rate at which organic waste can decompose into compost. This is the reason why composting is faster in summer than in winter.
A large quantity of leaves at once could throw the composter’s carbon/nitrogen composition out of balance. Instead you can add them, wet, into black plastic sacks (or into a simple wire mesh container) and leave them to rot for a year. They will eventually turn into ‘leaf mould’, which is a good soil conditioner and potting compost ingredient. Two-year-old leaf mould makes good sowing compost on its own.
If there is a rodent infestation locally contact your local authority to deal with the problem. If possible site the bin way from fences, bushes and woodpiles and ensure it has a secure, tight-fitting lid. Compost Tumblers offer the added deterrent of being off the ground and fully enclosed.
Slugs are a useful part of the composting process and will stay feeding in the bin. When you finally spread the finished compost any slug eggs that might be present are likely to dry out before they can hatch. A compost bin will also harbour other creatures that eat slugs – so keep composting!
Annual weeds are fine to compost. If they have gone to seed they will still compost well, though you are likely to get seedling weeds growing in the compost when you apply it to the garden. These can easily be hoed off, or you can dig the compost into the soil to reduce germination.
Persistent perennial weeds that spread easily are best kept separate. Put them in a black plastic sack with some grass clippings and leave them in the sun to rot for up to six months. Once all signs of the roots have disappeared, add the sludge to your composter.
Alternatively take them to your local green waste collection site. Large-scale commercial compost heaps heat up to high temperatures that kill them off.
Yes, as long as you take the usual hygiene precautions. Keep any cuts covered, wear gloves when handling compost and wash hands well afterwards.
Yes. It will compost when mixed with other ingredients.
Tough and chunky items will compost much more quickly if chopped or shredded. A power shredder is great if you have a lot of woody cuttings and evergreen hedge clippings to deal with. Small home shredders are often not powerful enough to be efficient.
It is probably more cost efficient to hire a shredder now and again, or to share a larger shredder with neighbours and friends.
Fresh clippings (whole or shredded) can be used for mulch on pathways or under mature trees. For other uses they should ideally be at least partially composted before use. Given that they usually come in large quantities we recommend keeping them in a separate compost heap.
While many diseases can only survive on living plants, other diseases can continue to prosper in the soil without any viable host. If in any doubt it is a good idea to err on the side of caution and not add the diseased plant to your compost mix.
A Bokashi bin is designed to collect kitchen scraps and initiate the breakdown of organic material.
A compost bin or tumbler is primarily used to convert kitchen and garden waste into usable compost.
If you live in a flat and don’t have a garden, a Bokashi bucket would be adequate, provided you have access to land where you can bury the fermented scraps. Wormeries can also be used for converting many kitchen scraps (not meat, fish and dairy products) into useful organic products and liquid fertiliser.
We find that the best set-up (room and garden permitting) involves using both a Bokashi system in conjunction with an outdoor bin.
Bokashi bins can accommodate all organic kitchen scraps (including meat, fish and dairy products). The addition of Bokashi microbes begins the process of fermentation anaerobically (without oxygen) and minimizes any unpleasant odours. Emptying is only necessary once the unit is filled and has been left sealed to ferment for around three weeks.
The kitchen caddy on the other hand has to be emptied regularly into a Green Johanna, Green Cone, or Compost Tumbler, where the breakdown process will take place aerobically.