What is Composting and How To Start at Home?
What is composting? Outsiders call it gathering “trash” but gardeners into the zero-waste lifestyle know the true treasure that compost really is. After all, it’s also called “black gold” because it can enrich your garden using a mix of different biodegradable substances such as banana peels, leaves, kitchen scraps, dried twigs, and garden waste. Using these items promotes reducing your waste while you enjoy your garden.
Eager to dig into all things composting? Read on to learn why you should try composting and how you can do the process at home.
What is Composting and How Does It Work?
Composting combines organic substances and microorganisms, the latter of which hasten the decomposition process. Its end product is a natural fertilizer that will make your plants healthy. This can be your sustainable way of not only avoiding less environment-friendly fertilizers, but also minimizing your waste at home.
Why You Should Start Composting
Organic fertilizer is initially made of waste materials you already have lying around. In particular, the food waste from your daily meal preparation won’t have to end up in a landfill. Other waste you can include in your compost are paper wastes like cardboard boxes as well as garden wastes like grass clippings.
Improves Soil Quality
Compost mixed with soil strengthens it, making the soil less prone to erosion and helping you create a healthier growing environment for your foliage.
According to the soil scientist Berman D. Hudson in his study Soil Organic Matter and Available Water Capacity, composting can also save water. The organic matter present in the compost allows the soil to retain more of the liquid. This in turn means that gardeners don’t need to use as much water for their plants.
How To Start a Composting Pile
Indoor vs Outdoor Composting
Now that you know what composting is and why you should you do it, the next step is to know where you’re going to set up your compost. There are typically two areas where you can cultivate your black gold: indoors or outdoors. The difference lies not only in the location but also in the type of container and method you will use for your compost.
Outdoor composting necessitates a dedicated area for your compost bins but you can have wider space to use bigger containers since you don’t need to worry too much about the smell sneaking into your bedroom. This way, you can store higher amounts of compost.
Meanwhile, indoor compost bins are right under your family’s noses which means airtight containers might be the best compost bins so the odor can be trapped inside. However, there are also different composting methods that are odorless and suitable indoors.
Composting Green vs Brown
One of the fundamental parts of making your own compost is distinguishing between greens and browns, especially because the carbon-nitrogen ratio is essential to your project’s success.
According to the Cornell Waste Management Institute, greens are the source of nutrients and nitrogen in your compost. These items are part of your compost that are most likely colored green and have a wet texture, adding moisture to your mixture. Examples of greens include grass clippings, garden soil, and kitchen waste like tea bags, coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps. Greens don’t include oily food waste, meats, and dairy products.
On the other hand, browns are carbon-rich materials that are usually dry such as sawdust, wood chips, shredded paper, and straw. These materials add a structure to your compost and allow it to absorb liquids. They also stop the bin from getting too hot.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Home Composting
If all the details above have convinced you to start composting, there’s only one step left— making your compost.
- Gather your browns and greens by setting aside specific containers for your compostable waste. For example, you can have a designated bin for food scraps in the kitchen. Cutting or chopping up your waste will help speed up its decomposition.
- Start your compost pile with browns at the bottom to soak up the moisture that will eventually run down. Then, alternate between placing greens and browns on the pile. Make sure your materials are in the ideal ratio (1:1) for effective composting. It is also safer to have more browns than to have more greens.
- Regulate the moisture in your compost bin. If there’s too much liquid, add some browns or if the opposite is the case, throw in some greens.
- Mix the pile with a tool of your choice, be it a shovel or pitchfork. This action lets the oxygen flow, hastening the decomposing process.
How to Maintain Your Compost
You might think all you have to do now is sit back and relax. Not yet! Since you make waste on a daily basis, you also have to maintain the ratio of the carbon and the nitrogen you add to your compost. To make sure you still have the appropriate ratio, check that your compost isn’t too hot or smelly. This means that you need more carbon in your compost.
Every time you place new organic substances on top of your pile, make sure to mix it to promote decomposition. Even if you choose not to add anything to your compost, you have to come back to mix it once a week to aerate the pile and speed up the process.
Compost Complete: Harvesting Your Compost
How do you know when it’s time to harvest your black gold? Once you notice that the mixture doesn’t heat up after you mix it— that’s when you know it’s prime time to harvest your compost. You’ll notice that the loose, soil-like compost has a deep brown color and you cannot distinguish the kitchen scraps anymore.
How long does the composting process last? The time varies but anywhere from 2 weeks to more than a year depending on the method of composting you use. After harvesting, let your pile sit for at least 4 weeks to cure. You also have the option of using a sift to separate any kitchen scraps that need more time to decompose. You can simply chuck them back in the compost pile while the finer end product is set aside to cure.
The Bottom Line
The long wait is over, you can now use your compost! Include it on your soil beds as mulch or fertilizer to nourish your garden. Composting can be a fulfilling task for your green thumb, especially when you remember that it reduces your waste at home. You’ll never need destructive artificial fertilizers again.
From Garden to Table and Table to Garden
We have what you need to start growing your own food indoors or outdoors, as well as turning your food scraps into your own organic fertilizer.