Organising a collective compost in the garden

Composting is a key part of ecological gardening, a way to greatly improve the structure and the richness of the soil, thus improving the cultures. However it is not always easy to make one’s own compost and sharing this task collectively can be a real help to beginners, producing a better quality compost, as well as being an opportunity to work together and socialise. 

Objectives

Objectives of the Good practice:

  • To produce collectively compost
  • To secure a local source of high quality amendment for the gardeners
  • To promote ecological gardening
  • Indirectly to raise awareness of environment, ecology, waste disposal

Objectives of the leader who implements this practice with the public:

  • Contribute to the knowledge of beneficiaries
  • make gardening more effective
  • contribute to waste reduction
  • contribute to the collective life of the garden, opportunity for socialisation

Possible educational objectives:

  • project: collective organization, planning, internal communication, …
  • Knowledge: compost, composting, invertebrates, alimentary chains, organic cycle of life (carbon cycle), recycling policy, separated sorting of rubbish…
  • Skills: composting, using compost in gardening
  • Behavior: citizenship and respect of environment

Materials

For the activity (depending on activity implemented) suggestion:

Compost bin (can be “homemade”)

Guideline about what to put inside the compost and how

Timetable to share the responsibilities for taking care of the compost

Tools to turn over the compost if needed

Implementation

Preliminary steps:

  1. Consultation with all the gardeners who will be involved in the project: the setup of a collective compost is like all collective projects: it requires willingness on behalf of potential participants, and that they receive a good level of information about the project to enter it and be able to maintain their participation in the long term. The process should start by the person or group of people initiating the project organizing a meeting of all the concerned gardeners, and making sure everybody knows what compost is, what the compost process is, and what it requires. You may be able to find help for organizing an information event from different sources: the local waste collection services, they usually support composting and have documentation; sustainable development education organizations, governmental energy agencies, or other ecological organizations. After this you can decide collectively to set up the compost and establish a small group of people to lead the project.
  2. Find a suitable area to set up the compost: The compost bins should have easy access for all the gardeners, and in a good exposure corresponding to your climate: not too dry, nor too wet, sheltered from the main winds, not in the sun if you are in a warm climate…

Implementation :

  1. Define with all participants the “ rules” of the compost: who will be in charge of what and when (putting the rubbish in the bin): probably all, but who will check if there are no mistakes, how will you organise the collection of the compost produced?  And which kind of waste do you allow: with or without pesticides? Only vegetal waste? Will you allow waste from cooked food and bread (that can bring in mice etc).
  2. Build or buy the compost bins. Having 2 or 3 different bins allow a rotation of the bin to be filled and maturation of the compost in the two other bins. You should first see how much waste you collect over a test period, so that you can adapt the size and number of you bins.
  3. Start.
  4. Organise a convivial moment around making the compost, for turning over the heap, or collecting and sieving the final product.
  5. Do not forget to organise a time for evaluation so that all the participants can give their feed back about the process and you can adjust your organisation if necessary.

To go further

You can probably find a training course nearby about composting that could help you further. Once you manage to produce compost why not try to involve the people living around the garden, and thus collect more, produce more of the precious stuff for your culture, and contribute to the reduction of waste for the better profit of your vegetables and the planet?

Evaluation

  • Participation : number of gardeners participating, frequency of the participation, good following of the process defined, quantity of organic waste put in the compost.
  • Quality of the compost produced.
  • Use by the gardeners of the compost produce.

Tips

The collective composting projects in the gardens can take different forms. Two example:

  • The composting station of Croq Jardin in La Roque d’Antheron collects waste from professional near the garden (restaurants, shops, etc) => see video.
  • The collective composting station of Le Jardin des cerises in Digne Les Bains collects organic waste from a social housing district => see pdf document and website.