Nature recycles all organic matter through a process called composting, which is beneficial to both nature and us. Let’s explore what composting is, its benefits, and how to do it.
What is composting?
Composting is a natural process through which decomposed organic materials are recycled into a dark rich soil, referred as compost. The finished product has a dark brown color and an odor similar to the smell of a forest floor.
What are the benefits of composting?
Composting is good for both nature and us. Let us take a look at the numerous benefits of composting:
- It helps you grow healthier plants – Soil cannot be healthy if it lacks in organic matter. To grow, plants need a soil that is healthy and full of nutrients. Adding organic matter to soil is the most effective way to make it healthy and to ensure that seeds sown in it grow to their full potential. The organic matter that compost contains allows soil to retain water and nutrients better. This, in turn, ensures that plants grown in it are rich in nutrients. The ultimate beneficiaries of composting, in fact, are not the plants, but us. Eating healthy and nutrient-rich plants augurs well for our own health.
- It saves money – Composting is also good for your pocket, as it negates the need of ‘ready’ manure or soil conditioners. In addition, adding compost to soil significantly reduces the use of pesticides. This is because healthy plants are able to fight off pests more efficiently.
- It reduces the amount of waste send to landfills considerably – Food waste and yard waste make up for 30% of total waste in landfills. Your decision to compost reduces the amount of waste that is send to landfills – all while increasing the quality of topsoil.
Understanding the limitations of a home composting system
All organic material can be composted, but it is best to let experts handle certain organic materials. Let us take a look at the things you should and should not recycle in a home composting system.
What you should compost
– Greens (these materials are rich in nitrogen) – Examples of green material includes the following:
- Grass clippings
- Manure (for example: horse, cow, pig, rabbit, or chicken)
- Food waste (for example: egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, vegetable peels, outer skins of citrus fruits)
– Browns (these materials are rich in carbon) – Example of brown material includes the following:
- Corn stalks
- Shredded newspaper
- Chopped brush
What you should not compost
- Fatty food items – You should avoid putting cheese, meat, or other fatty food items in your home composting system as rodents, flies, raccoons, and other pests are attracted to them.
- Dog and cat feces – Animal feces have the potential to spread diseases and should be avoided
How to do composting
Composting can be done indoors as well as outdoors. For this purpose, you may use a commercial composter or build your own composter. The science and methods involved in both are the same and a home-made composter, if built properly, works just as well as any commercial composter.
Using a commercial composter
Commercial composters usually have stackable levels, and users need to fill the waste material in the top level. They also contain a nozzle that allows you to drain water or any liquid. You can store a composter in your home or outdoors.
Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to use a commercial composter:
- Cover the bottom of the top tray with shredded paper that has been soaked in water – Microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria, recycle the organic material collected in a composter. They need two things to survive and work: moisture and good air circulation. Commercial composters have air vents for air circulation, so it is not a problem. You can ensure that material in the pile is moist by covering the bottom of the top tray with shredded paper that has been soaked in water. The moisture content should neither be too much or too less. In both conditions, the process of composting slows down. The nozzle attached to the composter allows you to drain excess water. If the material appears too dry, sprinkle a little water over it. To learn how to check if the level of moisture is optimum, check out the last section of this article.
- Throw in the green material first – Throw in the green material such as cooked rice, tea leaves, ground coffee, pasta, or bread in the composter, followed by brown material such as dry leaves, dry paper, twigs, and corn stalks. The ratio of green material to brown material should be 1:3.
- Mix the material once every week using a garden fork – You need to mix the content once or twice every week. For this purpose, you may use a garden fork or a shovel.
Useful tips for composting indoors:
- Add worms to speed up the process of composting. For each square foot of space in the composter, add approximately 1 pound of red worms. Put the worms in before the material.
- If an unpleasant odor is emanating from the composter, add non-glossy, dry paper on top of the material.
Making your own compost bin from a trash can
Things you need:
- A trash can
- A drilling tool
- 2 bungee cords if the trash can have a flap-like lid. Such lids open up easily, especially when you roll the compost bin to mix its contents, causing the material to spill
- A tumbler to roll the compost bin (optional)
- Using a drill machine, drill holes all around the trash can to ensure proper air circulation. Drill a few holes in the bottom of the trash can as well to allow excess water to pass through.
- Using the 2 bungee cords, secure the lid of the bin.
To mix the content of your compost bin, you can use a garden fork or roll it over.
How to check if the moisture content in the compost material is optimal
To judge the moisture content of the material, take a handful of compost and squeeze it hard. If one or two drops of liquid are produced by squeezing, the moisture content is optimal. If more than a few drops of water are produced, stir the material thoroughly to boost air circulation or add drier material such as sawdust, straw, or leaves to the compost pile to reduce the water content in it. On the other hand, if the material is too dry, sprinkle some water over it and mix the contents well.