In an environmental sense, our food and organic wastes are riches which the soil can benefit from. It is through a natural process called “composting” wherein we recycle and decompose these organic wastes by adding these to the soil instead of getting them sent to landfill. Contrary to popular beliefs, getting started composting at home is not too complicated to do.
In this post, we will go over everything you need to know about composting. We will also teach you exactly how to start composting at home.
Why You Should Compost at Home
There are plenty of good environmental reasons why you should start to compost at home. Some of the main reasons include:
A Healthier Environment
Long-term usage of compost can help to restore forests, wetlands and even poor soil. This will help you do your part to remediate water and air pollution all over the world.
Compost is a natural solution to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers to lawns and garden beds. The finished compost is rich humus, containing nutrients like carbon and nitrogen. Plants need these nutrients for growth and photosynthesis, introducing beneficial microbes to the soil. Furthermore, compost gives assistance to aerating the soil, breaking down organic materials for plants to use when to the soil. Basically, it acts like a conditioner to help the soil retain its moisture—as well as remediating contaminated soils due to harmful substances released by the hazardous waste. Lastly, the proper use of compost often results in higher yields of crops. That’s a win-win for the environment and your vegetable garden.
Recycling of Organic Waste
Composting will decrease the amount of trash at home, even the need for trash bags themselves. This will also prevent getting too much organic waste from being sent to landfills. Eventually, you will realize the little difference you can make to our environment. You will also notice the cleanliness at home.
Reduces Landfill Waste
Some landfills are already fully filled to the brim with waste, while others are quickly filling up. This may result in these landfills to hold their operation temporarily or even close down for good due to the waste management that’s wildly beyond control. In America, we are simply making too much garbage to handle. Composting at home will dramatically help the landfills to gain their control of waste management again and regulate the wastes that are continuously sent to them. Moreover, this will cut the rate of methane emissions caused by a huge decaying pile of organic waste in a landfill.
Home Composting Basics
Basically, composting requires these three basic ingredients to be able to begin with:
“Browns” – These are the carbon-rich materials which may include napkins, paper plates, newspaper, wood chips, yard debris, dead leaves, branches and twigs.
“Greens” – These are the nitrogen-rich materials which may include food waste, coffee grounds and filters, vegetables, fruits, egg shells, manures and grass.
Water – Having just the right amount of water will help to break down the brown and green materials when composting.
Air – Having a normal flow of air / oxygen into your compost pile or bin will help to maintain correct aerobic conditions.
NOTE: Make sure that your compost pile of brown and green materials has an equal amount while arranging them in alternate layers. During the process, the brown materials will produce carbon, whereas the green materials will produce nitrogen for your compost. Lastly, the water will produce moisture to decompose these organic materials whilst allowing a good flow of oxygen throughout.
How to Compost at Home
Composting at home is quite easy. You just have to be really careful to avoid making too much of a mess, and be ready to deal with some funky smells every once in a while.
- Choose a dry, shady location in your backyard near a water source.
- Collect brown and green materials in chopped or shredded pieces.
- Place your organic materials on the ground, allowing bugs, worms and other living microorganisms to help in the composting process.
- Build your compost pile or bin while arranging the brown and green materials in alternate layers. Make sure that the large materials are chopped or shredded into smaller pieces, so that they will not clump together and will not slow the composting process.
- Moisten your compost pile by sprinkling it with a considerable amount of water from time to time.
- Add some green manure, such as buckwheat, clover or grass clippings, to help speed up the composting process.
- Cover your compost pile with wood, plastic or anything to help retain moisture and heat. This will also help to prevent your compost pile from being over-watered from the rain.
- Stir or turn your pile with a pitchfork or shovel every few weeks to aerate the pile, allowing oxygen to flow in. Only do this if the heat temperature reaches between 130° F to 150° F.
- Once the heat dissipates and the natural forms of the organic materials are dry and no longer recognizable, the composting process is finished.
- Mix about 4 to 6 inches of the finished compost to your flower beds or soil.
If you do not have a backyard or at least enough space, you can do composting indoors. You just have to collect your organic materials in a large, sturdy trash bin. Afterwards, just follow each and every step above as to composting the organic materials indoors.
- If your compost pile or bin is not heating up, you should add more greens or a large amount of browns and greens.
- If it is too dry, you should add greens or water.
- If it is too wet, you should either add more browns or decrease the greens.
- If it gives off foul odors, you should add more browns.
- If you notice pests are sneaking around, you should add more browns and do not expose food in your compost pile.
Types of Composting
Cold composting is the easiest and simplest form of composting organic materials. You just have to collect a pile of organic materials in your yard or bin. In the span of 6 to 12 months, these organic materials will decompose and will turn to rich compost that you can use in your backyard Vegetable Garden or even your lawn’s soil.
Hot Composting is a method in which your compost pile will be finished in a much shorter period of time—as bugs and other living microorganisms will help to speed up the process of composting. Unlike cold composting, hot composting requires special equipment, including your time and diligence. Ideally, you will collect a pile of organic materials and put them inside a large bin, making sure it is away from any structure and direct exposure from the wind and rain. You will need to arrange your brown and green materials in an equal amount in an alternate layer and then add just the right amount of water. If the pile is built correctly, it should take at least 24 to 36 hours to begin heating up. It is finished if you notice that the heat has dissipated and the natural form of the materials is unrecognizable.
Trench Composting is another style of composting, wherein your compost pile is buried directly into the soil. It will give assistance to the growth of plants nearby, developing their roots. Furthermore, trench composting does not create any mess or gives off foul odors since the organic wastes are buried underground. Earthworms and other living microorganisms are your trusty companions in trench composting as they help in the process. However, trench composting is only for single application of composting materials or small amounts of organic waste. This is particularly useful for people producing very little food waste.
Vermicomposting, also known as ‘worm composting’, is a method of indoor composting if you only have a limited space in your backyard. You can certainly do vermicomposting in your own garage space, basement or even under the sink. You will need a worm composter that can be made of either wood or plastic with punching holes on the side and the bottom part, allowing good ventilation and drainage.
When setting up the worm composter, you need to raise it a little higher off the ground to flow out any excess water effectively. You will then add a worm bedding and soil—the common materials for the worm bedding are straw, dry leaves, shredded paper or cardboard. When feeding the worms, you just bury the food waste under the bedding. You will do the feeding at least once a week. The ideal food can be fruits and vegetables scraps, as well as bread and grain products.
What You Can Compost
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Grass and plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Wood chips
- Cotton and Wool Rags
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
- Yard trimmings
What You Cannot and Should Not Compost
In contrast, there are also materials that you should never put in your compost pile. Doing so will potentially hurt you and isn’t good for the environment.
- Black walnut tree (leaves or twigs) – It will release harmful substances that can kill plants.
- Coal or charcoal ash – It might contain harmful substances to plants.
- Dairy products (such as butter, milk, cheese or yogurt) and eggs – It will create some bad odor problems that may attract pests.
- Diseased or insect-infested plants – They may survive during composting and inhabit other plants in your lawn.
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils – It will create some bad odor problems that may attract pests
- Meat and fish scraps – It will create some bad odor problems that may attract pests
- Pet wastes (such as dog or cat feces, soiled litter box) – It might contain harmful bacteria, viruses or germs to humans.
- Yard trimmings with chemical pesticides – It might eliminate beneficial composting organisms
NOTE: You should consult with your local composting officers or some recycling coordinators if these organic materials are accepted to be dropped off in some community composting program in your area. Lots of municipalities are starting composting initiatives these days.
Some Final Thoughts on Composting at Home
As you can see, composting largely promotes a healthier world for us to live in. Once you’ve learned how to compost at home, you will see how simple it is. You just have to build your compost pile right to do it effectively. As a result, your compost will not make a mess and give off foul odors. You will maintain cleanliness at home and your trash bins, as well as helping the environment.