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Composting… it’s that dirty little invisible secret of a successful garden. You may not be able to see it, but if a garden is thriving, you can bet there’s good compost fueling its growth. Without a good compost, your flowers, herbs, and vegetables will struggle to survive.
Compost is not the same as soil although they both look almost the same- compost is usually a little darker and finer than soil. Compost is essentially nutrient-rich soil that is sprinkled over the soil to as fertilizer to help your plants grow healthier. It is darker and finer and is a substance that you sprinkle on the soil as fertilizer to grow stronger and healthier plants.
Composting at home is environment friendly. It is an easy and practical way to reduce your waste.
So what exactly is composting at home really the only option available to home gardeners?
What Is Composting At Home?
Composting at home involves recycling kitchen waste, leaves, lawn trimming, yard waste, leaves, lawn trimming, and other such natural material into a fertilizer for your plants. It is essentially the process of transforming waste matter into something useful. This type of all-natural, home-made fertilizer is called compost.
Before you start composting at home, there are several important decisions that you will need to make. What materials will you use for green waste and brown food? Will you be using a compost bin or a heap? Where will you locate your compost pile? Are you going to use hot composting or cold composting?
Your answers to these questions will ultimate determine what types of materials you will compost and what equipment you need to buy.
But first, let’s talk about why compost at home? It is one of the ‘dirtier’ aspects of gardening and you can buy readymade compost. Is it really worth it?
Composting at Home – Is it Worth the Time & Trouble?
When you start composting at home, you will be taking organic matter (green waste) and rotating and mixing it with brown food. This causes the entire pile to decompose into humus after a period of weeks or months. It is this decomposition process that creates nutrient-rich matter than can be used to fertilize the soil for gardening.
It may not be the most pleasant aspect of gardening, but there are several benefits associated with composting at home.
Promotes sustainable living – Instead of wasting organic matter that routinely gets thrown out, you will be recycling all food waste to create nutrient-rich compost that is so good for your plants. It is one way to practice sustainable living.
Improves water retention in sandy soil – Compost also balances soil that is very dry and sandy. This type of soil doesn’t retain water so when you water your plants, the water just flows all the way to the bottom and flows away. Your plants do not get the water they need, resulting in them getting dehydrated. Mixing compost in such soil reduces the sandiness and improves water retention.
Increases porosity in clay-like soil – Soil that is thick and dense like clay can be very difficult to work with. In addition, dense the clay-like composition of the soil makes it difficult for water to drain off. This will could cause water-logging in the soil, which could destroy your seedlings. Mixing compost into this type of soil will make it less dense, improving its water draining capability and also making it easier to work with.
Creates an optimum environment for plants to thrive – Compost acts as an all-natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer, which plants crave for. The compost also makes the soil nice and warm which is very conducive for the plants to grow happily. Compost also creates healthier plants by discouraging diseases that kill plants.
Stabilizes pH balance of the soil – Since compost is all-natural, the pH balance of your soil will be stable and healthy.
Reduces unwanted weeds organically – Compost works like weed killer but it is all-natural, unlike pesticides that are sold in stores. It prevents weeds from sprouting and thriving. By using compost you’ll deter weed growth without adding any more pollutants into the earth. Think of it as the best of both worlds.
Hampers soil erosion – Compost material can be used to hamper soil erosion, especially in areas where there is heavy rain. The compost has binding capabilities that ensure the soil stays in place and doesn’t result in drop-offs. In many wetland areas, people have successfully used compost to revitalize the soil and caused the plant life to become strong and healthy.
These are just some of the major benefits of composting at home. Yes, it will take some time and effort to set-up a compost bin but that initial investment will reap rewards many times over in the future.
Types of Composting at Home
1 – Aerobic Composting
Aerobic composting involves using organic material that contains naturally occurring microbes. By adding some water, food scraps and air, you will be able to leverage off the existing fungi and bacteria that will do all the work for you and create compost that your plants will thrive on.
The organic waste decays and breaks down and gets transformed into compost while being digested by these microbes. Without them, there will be no decomposition.
One thing to keep in mind with this type of composting is that the microbes need an adequate supply of moisture, food and oxygen to thrive and multiply. As you keep adding in food and other organic waste regularly to the mix it will eventually bury the compost below, cutting off the oxygen supply to the microbes. Without sufficient air, the compost will start to stink.
If the compost pile is located close to your home, that foul odor may get into your home. To avoid this unpleasant situation, you must rotate or turn out the compost regularly to aerate it. This will allow air to get into the compost and to the microbes. As long as the microbes get their supply of oxygen and keep growing and thriving, the compost won’t stink.
Alternatively, you could add slightly bulky wood chips in the mix to create air pockets which will cause better air circulation on the compost.
2 – Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting is a type of composting that uses earthworms to create the mulch. With this method, you will be using red earthworms to convert your leftover table scraps into compost. You can obtain the red worms from your local pet store or at a fishing supplies store. Do note that these worms are not the same as the worms crawling in your backyard.
Only use paper, yard waste and food scraps when using vermicomposting as your method of choice. Chopping up the organic material into smaller pieces before adding them to the composter will speed up the composting process.
Now that you know the benefits of composting and the types of composting out there, you will need to decide for yourself if you’d like to give composting at home a try. It may not sound terribly appealing but there is something quite satisfying about transforming your spoil into soil.
Basic Composting Equipment and What Each One Does
The process of composting of home is not all that difficult. You do need to know the basics through and of course, you will need some basic composting equipment.
You could either purchase these or make them yourself if you love tinkering around.
Getting a compost bin is important if you’re composting food. This will prevent rodents and other pests from raiding your compost.
Some people may prefer to just leave the compost in a pile or heap outside. This may be okay if you have a large backyard and you can keep the compost heap at a reasonable distance from your home.
The downside of having an open compost heap is that it exposes the compost to the mercy of the elements, which can create all kinds of problems. Wind may blow your heap and scatter the pile. Too much rain and the pile will get soaked. You will have much more monitoring to do.
With a compost bin, you won’t have to deal with these issues. There are several different types and sizes of compost bins available. The type and size that’s right for you will depend on how much you intend to compost at home and whether you want to keep the bin indoors or outdoors.
Compost tumblers are also known as Tumbling Composters. They work like compost bins but are designed differently.
Compost tumblers look like large drums mounted on a frame. The drum can be rotated to churn the contents inside. These Tumbling Composters are fuss-free and simple to use, making composting at home even easier. Some are designed with a handle on the drum so you just turn the handle to rotate the drum.
To compost in a tumbler, every time you add in your food waste, you spin the drum to mix the fresh waste with the partially decomposed waste. The spinning action helps to aerate the compost, giving the microbes the oxygen they need to decompose the organic content in the tumbler.
A garden shredder helps to shred or rip raked leaves into smaller pieces. If you are composting leaves, using a garden shredder will help to speed up the process considerably.
Yes, you can shred the leaves yourself or you could just put them in as-is. However, the first option can be unnecessarily tedious and the second option will delay the process. A garden shredder will help to shred the leaves and create a mulch-like consistency that is ideal for composting.
A compost spreader looks like a lawnmower. It helps you spread the compost around your lawn or garden evenly.
Compost spreaders are designed with a perforated metal wheel into which you add your ready compost. After putting in the amount of compost you need, you seal the wheel and push the compost spreader around the garden or yard. The compost falls out evenly through the perforations in the wheel so the entire area gets evenly covered with nutrient-rich compost.
Using a compost spreader can save you a whole lot of time as opposed to spreading it manually.
A compost accelerator is an additive that you add to the mix. It will increase microbial activity and promote the growth of bacteria, which will in turn speed up the composting process. It is crucial to have a healthy growth of microorganisms in order for the compost to turn out well and using a compost accelerator can really help.
Compost containers are little metal containers that come in various sizes. These are ideal for storing the food scraps that you’ll be using for composting.
Compost containers are usually kept in the kitchen so they are handy for throwing away your food scraps. You don’t want to leave those scraps in your kitchen for too long. Of course, it depends on how much food waste you generate. Every other day or so, you take the compost container out to the compost bin in the yard and add the contents to the compost mix. These scraps will turn to compost.
A compost container is a useful piece of equipment to keep things neat, organized, and hygienic in the kitchen.
This is not technically composting equipment but it is an important requirement if this is your first experience with composting. Correct knowledge is crucial when composting at home. It will save you time, effort, and disappointment.
One last tip – start small. Don’t go looking for the largest sized composting equipment that’s available. Start with small or medium sized composting bins and other equipment and make sure to follow your guide. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can then to progress to creating larger batches. It may not seem like it at first but as you see the waste changing into something useful, it can be very rewarding.
Seasonal Considerations and the Ideal Composting Food to Use
Ideally, you should start your composting during the spring and summer months. This is because heat is a crucial factor in the composting process. The heat accelerates the decomposition and it will transform the waste matter into humus much faster. While the composting process does generate its own heat, warm weather definitely helps with the process.
If you start your composting in late autumn or the beginning of winter, the compost pile will go dormant during the winter months. It will only re-start the process once the spring thaws the waste matter and the warm weather begins. This will be time wasted if you need the composting to be done soon.
All hope is not lost if you live in a place with milder climates and harsh winters. You can still start composting at home but you will need to make sure that your compost bin is insulated to retain the heat. You can do this by digging a hole in the ground. The hole needs to be big and deep enough for at least 6 inches of the compost bin to be underground.
Fill the hole with natural insulating material such as straw and ensure that it is packed tightly around the base and sides so that the compost bin fits snugly in the hole and is insulated from the cold.
Despite your best efforts at insulating the bin, it is inevitable for the composting process to still be slower. Decomposition slows down when there is insufficient heat but with insulating the bin you will still be able to continue recycling your kitchen scraps and if all goes well, you should have compost all ready to use in your garden by the beginning of spring.
While it is best to start your compost during the spring and summer months, it’s also a good idea to start collecting leaves for your new compost bin during the spring and fall months. These are the best times to find dead leaves and other brown material for your compost bin
It would be a good idea to put your leaves through a chipper or shredder so that they are chopped up into smaller pieces. This will speed up the decomposition process.
So, What Is The Ideal Food to Add Into Your Compost Bin?
Using the right food in your compost bin will keep your compost healthy and functioning as it should. The most commonly used material would be organic kitchen scraps. These could be fruit or vegetable scraps. Never use meat, bones or fish in your compost.
The kitchen scraps are known as “green food” and are essential to the composting process because they add nitrogen to the compost. When saving up your food scraps for the compost heap or bin, you’ll want to store them in an airtight container so that insects and other pests are not attracted into your household.
The airtight container will also cut down on unpleasant odors pervading your home. Once you’re free to turn over your compost pile, you can add these collected scraps to the mix and stir the entire mix well.
These are some of the common ingredients used in compost:
• Vegetable peels and seeds
• Fruit peels, cores, and seeds
• Teabags or loose tea leaves
• Crushed eggshells – do not add left-over eggs cooked or raw
• Coffee grounds – you can compost the paper filter too
Besides green food, you’ll also need to add a thick layer of brown food over the green waste. This will prevent flies and other insects from being attracted to the compost pile. Brown food can be dry leaves, sawdust, wood chips, yard waste, small twigs, or other natural carbon-producing agents).
As long as you stick to these options, your compost will be healthy and problem-free. Give it some time to completely turn to humus before using it in your garden. It may take a few months to a year, but it will be worth the wait, and your plants will thank you for it… silently.
4 Important Considerations When Composting Food Waste
Making compost out of food is one of the best ways of recycling waste into something useful. Imagine that! Instead of throwing your food scraps out with the trash, you’ll be creating compost that can be used as fertilizer. Some enterprising folk may even sell their compost and make money.
Recycling food waste also reduces trash collection fees. There are people who have special arrangements with restaurants to help them remove all their food waste at no cost so that they can use this waste to make compost. The restaurant is glad to cut down on trash collection costs too. It’s a win-win situation.
Composting food on a small or large scale is pretty much the same thing. The fundamentals apply across the board and as long as you stick to the basics, your composting process will be successful.
In this article, we’ll look at a few food composting tips that you would do well to follow. You may wish to jot them down for easy reference.
Handle food waste properly
You can’t be lackadaisical when it comes to handling food waste. Unlike dead leaves and wood chips, food waste will start to smell. If you’re trying to get others to follow in your footsteps and compost their food, the smell alone will deter them. There are also health issues and pests, if you do not compost your food carefully.
Have some idea of how much you plan to compost
Bite what you can chew. While composting food is straightforward, the more food you’re composting, the more space you’ll need. Your composting bins will need to be bigger and the process will need to be monitored more closely. Small errors are magnified when the scale of composting is large.
If you do not have any experience with food composting, start off small and learn as you go along. Ideally, start with composting the food waste in your household. Once you’re experienced, you can take on bigger projects.
Use the right composting bin
It’s crucial to use a composting bin when handling food waste. You can’t have a compost heap or pile out in the open if you’re using food scraps. You’ll end up getting rodents, pets or passing animals scavenging in your compost.
You’ll need a bin big enough to handle your food waste and it must be secured so that rodents or pets can’t make their way into it.
Who are you creating compost for?
If you only plan to create compost for yourself, then you’ll know how much you need. If you’re creating compost to sell to greenhouses or related business that have a need for compost, you must make sure that you have people who wish to buy your compost.
Some companies will have specific requirements regarding the compost. Make sure you know what they are so that you can create compost that they’ll readily buy. You do not want to be in a situation where you have an ample supply but no demand.
All the other usual rules such as making sure there is enough heat and aerating the compost applies. The four points mentioned above are to ensure that you’re prepared for the undertaking.
Poor planning usually leads to shoddy results or unfavorable situations. With careful consideration, your food composting will yield good, nutrient rich compost that you can use and even sell to make a tidy profit for yourself. They don’t simply call compost “black gold” for nothing.