You might think that going green and living clean is only related to how much recycling you do or how much you decrease your contribution to the landfill. However, this planet requires more from us as we produce about 1,600 pounds of trash every year. This statistic only represents the residential trash – which is highly alarming.
What is Composting?
Though using recyclable materials and fewer plastics is the right way to go, composting is the king of all the recycling. It’s the most efficient process that turns your household trash into a nutrient-rich soil that you can harvest on!
Composting is a natural process that converts favorable organic material into a highly effective soil for your plants. You can pile up the trash that favors composting and convert it into nutrient-dense soil.
Benefits of Composting
We usually do not do most of the things without weighing its pros and cons. So, it is quite natural if you seek why you should be composting in the first place and how does it benefit you or the environment. Well, let us start by providing you with some answers.
- Composting further minimizes your contribution to the landfills choking the marine life and sucking the life out of our planet.
- By composting, you can save quite a few bucks on the store-bought additives to make your garden soil more fertile.
- Mostly our food scraps go into the bin where they rot like anything. The same is the case with this trash in the landfills. Composting the food scraps and other organic matter helps turn their rotting into something beneficial.
- In addition to filling up the landfills like crazy, composting is an effective method to reduce your carbon footprint as it decreases the transportation of the trash.
- By composting naturally and not going for synthetic chemicals to enrich your soil, you are doing your plants a favor. Compost is laden with important nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
- Combining compost and your garden soil increases the water and nutrient-retaining capability of the soil.
How to Begin Composting
If you are convinced and have decided to go on with composting, then hurray! You acted responsibly. Now, starting on a composting project might seem a little daunting. But once you have all the information you need, you will be thinking differently.
Building the Compost Heap
For composting, you need to gather all the organic matter in one place – commonly called a composting heap. This heap or bin is advised to be built in an open area that you can easily reach as you need to dump things regularly in it and watch it. Also, if it is somewhere afar from your place, then you might be discouraged from using it.
Always make sure that you use a lid on the compost bin or heap. The more it is covered, the easier the process will be. Also, water is an essential requirement for composting. So, build your compost heap or bin where there is a water source. Also, composting requires sunlight. Therefore, you should be keeping sunlight, water, lid, and ease of reach in mind when deciding to build a compost bin.
List of Things You Can Compost
It is easier to jump on to the bandwagon of composting when you hear or read about it. However, a thorough reading of the guides, and important points on the topic is also essential. Once you have decided to build your compost bin or heap, it is time to know what you can use in composting.
- Crushed eggshells
- Grass clippings
- Coffee or tea grounds (you can also use used teabags)
- Fruits and vegetable scraps
- Fruits and vegetable peelings
- Bits and pieces of paper
- Dead leaves
- Nuts and shells
- Wood chippings
- Garden pruning
Things You Should Not Be Composting
- Contrary to the common belief, you cannot use human feces in composting
- Anything plastic
- Dairy products
- Cooked foods
- Diseased plants or leaves
These and a lot of other things that are not organic matter pose a risk to the quality of the compost and your health as they do not get broken down by healthy microorganisms. Instead, they invite the wrong type of organisms, such as pests.
Steps To Get Started On Your Compost
Set a Vegetation Pile
Gather enough organic matter that you can easily use to start with your composting. It is crucial to mix dry brown items with wet green ones. A ratio of 2:1 is advised to be perfect for starting. Green materials include grass or food scraps. These items release nitrogen.
It is important to keep letting air into the heap till the very bottom. If you feel that your heap is too wet, add some brown items such as wood chippings or dried leaves; otherwise, add green items if it goes dry.
Keep Supplying Water To it
Your compost heap should always be moist, just like a damp sponge. Therefore, it is important to keep watering it. However, be wary of the amount of water you add as you do not want your heap to be logged with water. It is also advised that you check the temperature of the heap. A warm compost heap decomposes quickly.
Turn That Pile
Use a pitchfork to turn your compost heap periodically. The whole compost heap – from top to bottom – should be moist. This helps oxygen circulation, which is important for composting. Whenever you feel that the top or the bottom of the heap is drying, turn the pile and add some water to it.
Your Compost is Ready
Once you reach a point where your heap is not emitting heat and has gone dry, crumbly, and dark brown, it means your soil is ready. Add the compost to the flowerbeds or pots before planting and see the magic bloom!
Factors Affecting the Duration of Composting
- The placement of your compost heap or bin.
- The material and size of your bin.
- The surface area of the materials you use.
- The varieties of organic matter you put in the heap.
- The regulation of water and air in the compost heap.
- The number of times you watch your pile closely and turn it.
Ways to Use the Compost
- You can use your compost as a mulch.
- Use in your flowerbeds.
- Compost is best for potting a soil mix.
- Compost is an effective fertilizer for shrubs and trees.
- Compost can be used to plant potatoes easily in a container.
- Use compost for enhancing the water retention capacity of your soil.
Some Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes When Composting
Use a Chipper or Shredder
If you intend to use a large number of green materials for composting, use a chipper or a shredder to make fine pieces of them as they decompose faster.
Cover it properly
If your compost heap starts to smell, make sure that it is properly covered. Secondly, after adding food scraps (green items) to the pile, always put a fresh pile of leaves or grass on it and turn.
The Proportion of Carbon and Nitrogen
Your compost should comprise of a certain proportion of carbon and nitrogen-rich materials. Dried leaves, paper, or cardboards are rich sources of carbon. They should make up about 75% of the pile; while, grass clippings, veggies scraps, and coffee grounds are nitrogen-rich items and should make up about 25% of the pile.
Don’t Forget to Turn The Pile
Oxygen is vital to the microorganisms that work to decompose the pile. Thus, turning the pile to maintain a supply of oxygen from top to bottom is extremely necessary.
Composting is not just for the physical betterment of the environment and our surroundings. It is also soothing for the soul and your mind – knowing that you are contributing less and less towards damaging nature. Using your household trash to turn into something so rich and usable is also very rewarding mentally. We should take care of not only the non-biodegradable trash but also the biodegradable ones to ensure that we are acting as responsibly as we can.