Sustainability 101

How to Make Compost at Home

Composting is the practice of decomposing organic matter to gain valuable fertilizer. All natural materials, such as plants and food, decompose. Composting hastens this process by creating the right conditions for it to occur. It involves providing the perfect environment for decomposing agents including organisms such as earthworms and bacteria to conduct their work. The result of this is compost, which is rich in nutrients and can greatly benefit your garden. To help in this process, the following article explains how to make compost at home.





Composting Benefits

Before we get into the details of making compost, let’s first turn our focus to the many benefits it delivers. This section provides all the inspiration you need on how to make your own compost.

 


Compost Enhances Soil Structure And Texture

Having the ideal soil in your garden is rare. Generally, it’ll likely be too hard, sandy, heavy, or damp. Adding compost to your soil will improve its water-holding capability, fertility, and texture. As such, it can become lighter and fluffier, making it a much healthier home for your plants.

 

Compost Is Rich In Nutrients

Much like your plants, your soil needs to be maintained and looked after. As plants grow in your soil, they gradually deplete it of its nutrients. Because of this, it needs to be regularly replenished. Nutrient-rich compost is the perfect way of achieving this.

 


Compost Encourages The Growth And Activity Of Beneficial Organisms

Compost is full of organisms that make nutrients more consumable for your plants. The microorganisms it contains also help guard against a range of botanical pathogens.
Larger organisms, such as earthworms, love tunneling through compost. This creates passageways that help water and air get to your plants’ roots.

 

 

Compost Is Extremely User Friendly

Commercial fertilizers need to be applied at specific times and in specific amounts. Conversely, you literally can’t go wrong with compost. It can be placed in your garden at any time, and you can’t add too much. Additionally, compost helps to balance soil pH levels and improve fertility. This makes it a much easier product to use in keeping your garden healthy.

 

 

Composting Helps Reduce Household Waste

Composting isn’t just good for your garden; it’s also good for the planet. Landfills don't have the right conditions for rapid decomposition. So when organic matter is dumped there, it rots. This creates harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. So, by composting, you’re keeping both your plants and the environment healthier.


Composting Ingredients




Essential Ingredients For Composting

So, how do you make compost? For starters, you will need three key ingredients: “browns”, “greens”, and water.

  


Browns

Browns are items that are rich in carbon or carbohydrates, and they help give soil a light and fluffy body. As the name suggests, these materials tend to be (or into turn) a brown colour. Browns consist of things like twigs and tree bark, straw, and dead leaves.

  


Greens

Greens on the other hand are protein or nitrogen-rich materials. They cause compost to heat up, by encouraging microorganisms to rapidly multiply. In addition to this, they also provide the raw materials for the production of enzymes. Green materials include vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and plant trimmings.

  

 

Water

There also needs to be the right balance of water for your browns and greens. This is important, as moisture is required for the organic matter to decompose.





What To Compost

All compostable matter is either carbon/carbohydrate-based (browns) or protein/nitrogen-based (greens). To succeed in your composting, you’ll need to maintain the right balance of these two ingredients.

Crucially, you’ll need to ensure that your compost pile has much more carbon than nitrogen. Generally speaking, you can do this by maintaining a ratio of one part green to two parts brown materials. The density of brown matter helps oxygen to gain access to the organisms living there. This keeps them nourished. Excess nitrogen prevents this from happening, slowing down the decomposition process.

Nitrogen rich matter tends to produce odors as it decomposes when exposed to open air. To avoid this, cover your greens with carbon-rich browns. These materials tend to produce a more pleasant and fresh smell, as they become compost.





What Not To Compost

While learning how to make a compost pile, it’s also important to be aware of what not to include. Much of your organic household waste is compostable, but there are a number of materials that aren’t. This includes:

  • Meat, bones, or fish scraps, as they are likely to attract pests and rodents. That being said, there are composters available specifically for these materials.
  • Perennial weeds or diseased plants. Composting them risks spreading disease or unwanted weed seeds throughout your garden.
  • Pet manure. This should not be used in compost that is intended for food crops. It can spread dangerous parasites if not composted properly.

Certain fruit skins, such as banana peels and orange rinds. Often these have harmful pesticides on them.

Additionally, sawdust should only be added to your compost pile cautiously. It needs to be distributed very thinly, so that it doesn’t clump, and mustn’t contain any contaminants such as oil.


Composting recipe




Compost Recipes

A key aspect of learning how to create compost is establishing the right recipe for your pile. Read on for some ideas to help you get started.


Recipe One

One part kitchen scraps
Three parts shredded leaves
Distribute the ingredients in three-inch layers up to three or four feet. Add water as needed.


Recipe Two
Three parts dry leaves and used paper products
One part vegetable waste and fruit scraps
Distribute the ingredients in three-inch layers up to three or four feet. Add water as needed.


Recipe Three
Two parts fresh grass cuttings
Two parts straw
One part healthy soil
Distribute ingredients in four-inch layers. Add water as needed.


Recipe Four
Two parts dead leaves
One part fresh grass cuttings
One part food leftovers
Distribute ingredients in four-inch layers. Add water as needed.





Composter Types: How To Choose A Composting Bin

There is a wide range of composting bins available. Picking the one that’s right for you depends on where your home is. You'll also need to consider whether you’d prefer to turn your compost manually.

If you have a substantial outdoor area then the larger bins might be the best option. This includes the no-turn bin and enclosed compost bin models.
Below, we explain the different outdoor options, before addressing indoor composting in the following section.

 


No-Turn Compost Bins

No-turn bins allow you to compost without having to keep the pile aerated by turning it. This is achieved by including coarse materials, such as straw, when making the pile. Your compost should then develop as quickly as compost that is turned frequently. Good no-turn composting bins will allow you to harvest fresh compost from the bottom of the pile. Make sure to keep adding fresh ingredients to the top.

 

 

DIY Compost Bins

The cheapest way of composting outside is to make the bin yourself. You can do this using a large rubbish container. To do this, drill aeration holes in 6-inch intervals down the length of the bin. Then fill it with one of the recipes detailed above. Aerate the compost pile by regularly stirring it. This will help to hasten the composting process.

 

 

Basic Enclosed Compost Bins

If you don’t have access to a bin to make your own, then you can buy a basic enclosed compost bin. They are designed to keep the top and sides sealed, with only the bottom opening.

Having a closed design like this is effective in keeping out pests. Basic enclosed compost bins are very affordable, but don’t allow for easy turning of the pile. This means that it can take a few months to produce quality compost.

 


Tumbler Compost Bins
Tumbler compost bins are much more efficient than the basic enclosed models. While similarly sealed, tumbler bins have mechanisms built in for turning the pile. This includes design features like interior paddles that move the pile around and let air into the pile. By aerating the internal contents, tumbler bins help to produce compost much faster.

 


Food Waste Digesters

Materials such as meat and fat are not appropriate for the above methods. They not only attract pests, but also produce unpleasant smells as they decompose.
Food waste digesters are designed specifically for this purpose. They use heat and high levels of microbial activity to affect rapid decomposition. There are many different models available, such as the green cone and hotbin.


Indoor compost

 


Indoor Composting Methods

Don’t worry if you live somewhere that isn’t amenable to outside composting. There are two very efficient indoor methods: aerobic composting and vermicomposting.


Aerobic Composting

With aerobic composting, microorganisms from garden soil decompose the organic matter. This is similar to outdoor enclosed bins, but on a smaller scale. Less than 19 liters in volume is optimal to avoid nasty odors.

Indoor aerobic bins have mechanisms (for example, air holes running along the side of the bin) to aid airflow, which facilitates the composting process.



Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a method that uses worms to decompose natural waste materials. This results in compost that is rich in nutrients like nitrogen and potassium. Red wigglers are widely seen as being the best choice of worm for this process. Worm bins are inexpensive, although building your own is relatively easy too. Just make sure you pick appropriate materials. For example, avoid using cedar, as it has antimicrobial properties.


Sprout



How To Compost: Step-By-Step

As this article makes clear, there are many ways to approach composting. Here are simple step-by-step guides to help you get started. They cover both outdoor and indoor composting.



Outside Composting

Step One: Mix Your Green and Brown Ingredients
First of all, you’ll need to accumulate enough green and brown material to make a pile around three or four feet high. Use one of the recipes stated earlier as a guide for rationing the two materials.

If your pile begins to look too wet, and starts to smell, then add more brown matter and aerate it. If it begins to look excessively dry and brown, add some water and green material.

Step Two: Hydrate Your Pile
Next, give your pile ample hydration. Carefully water the pile so that it remains consistently moist, but never waterlogged. Excess water can drown the organisms that are necessary for the decomposition process. This will result in the pile rotting, rather than composting.

Step Three: Aerate Your Pile
It’s also important to ensure that your pile gets sufficient oxygen by stirring or turning it. How you approach this will depend on the composter you’re using – some will be designed to allow you to do this. This is best attempted when the center of the pile feels warm. Stirring the compost hastens the composting process and prevents odours from developing.

Step Four: Nourish Your Garden
Once your pile cools down, becomes brown, and gains a dry and flaky consistency, it’s ready to be added to your garden. Add around five inches of compost to your garden beds before you start planting to get the best results.



Indoor Composting

Step One: Mix Your Green and Brown Ingredients
For indoor composters, you’ll want to fill your bin to about three quarters full. Use one of the recipes outlined earlier. Thereafter, place a layer of garden soil on top.

Step Two: Feed Your Compost Pile
For aerobic composting, bury your organic waste materials in the soil layer each day. If you’re vermicomposting, place one pound of worms in the soil for every 3.5 pounds of waste you produce, every week. This is because worms will eat around half their weight’s worth of material every day. So simply bury the waste in the soil layer with the worms.

Step Three: Nourish Your Garden
Once your compost is dry, cool, and crumbly, it’s ready for use. Take it out of your composter, and sprinkle on your garden beds.





Now You Know How To Make Compost!

Armed with all this information, you should now have a better idea of how to make compost. Not only will this help you grow healthy plants, but it’ll reduce your waste output too.

Get started on your first compost pile and be sure let us know how it goes.

 

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