Organic waste is a large part of the total waste that we generate every day, contributing large volumes of waste to our landfills. Unfortunately, not only does this contribute to our growing global waste problem, but when our old banana peels and apple cores decay in landfills, they produce greenhouse gases like methane, which contribute to climate change .
Instead of throwing our organic waste away, a much better use for such waste is to compost it and turn it into rich nutrition for the soil in our gardens and landscapes. This is simply following the example of nature, recycling nutrients to renew the soil and support productive plant growth.
Through natural ecological processes, organic materials will break down over time without any effort on your part, so composting itself does not require any special skills. You really only need a place (such as a compost bin or in a pile) and sufficient time to allow your organic waste to break down.
Armed with a few tips, you can direct this process to become more efficient and occur at a faster rate.
How to start a kitchen compost: your 101 guide to effective composting
1. Getting the ideal ratio of browns and greens
The most ideal compost pile contains a ratio of 30 “brown” materials to every 1 “green” material .
“Brown” materials are carbon-rich, and consist of materials such as dried leaves, newspaper, straw or woodchips.
“Green” materials are nitrogen-rich and consist of materials such as grass clippings (with no chemicals applied) or fruit and vegetable scraps. The smaller the materials are that you put in your compost pile, the more quickly they will break down into compost.
While it isn’t absolutely necessary to get this ratio correct to have things break down, getting close to this ratio will greatly assist the composting process. The bottom line here is that you want to add many more brown materials than green materials.
Too much brown, however, and your compost pile will take a very long time to break down, and if you have too much green material, your pile will smell bad and won’t “heat up” enough (the microorganisms and other critters that break down the organic matter won’t be active enough to create a hot environment where ideal decomposition takes place).
Saving your leaves in the fall or newspapers will provide a good source of brown materials for when you need to add them to your compost pile.
2. Adding water to the mix
Add water to your compost pile periodically. You only need enough water to keep things moist, similar to a wrung out sponge. This will help to keep the decomposition process active.
3. Aerating your compost pile
Turn and mix your compost pile every week or so to aerate it. A pitchfork works well for this, and a tumbler or spinner compost bin makes this process easy to do.
4. Avoiding pests and patogens
Do not add fats, oils, or meats to your compost pile! These things will attract animals and other pests that you do not want to attract to your compost pile.
Do not add pet waste to your compost pile. Not only will this create an undesirable odor, but it will spread pathogens that you do not want to have in your garden.
5. Enhancing the composting process
You can facilitate the composting process by adding a compost starter or some soil from your garden, but these are not necessary.
6. Producing your own compost
Depending on how active your compost pile is, how much it is turned, and the moisture level, you can get compost generally within a few months to a year.
That’s it! You too can create rich compost for your garden or landscape, no biology degree required. It’s easy, and even children can help, giving them a better understanding of how nature works within their own backyards.
We also reduce our waste and our ecological footprint by composting. As more and more people compost their organic waste, we can really have a large positive impact.
How to make and use a compost bin at home?
Although composting can easily be done in piles, many people prefer to keep their compost in a compost bin to keep things much more organized and neat, which may be a concern for many homeowners and communities.
Compost bins of many different shapes and sizes are available on the market for purchase, but purchasing one of those bins in order to compost your waste at home is not necessary. If you are resourceful, and perhaps a little creative, you can make a compost bin out of materials that you may already have at home, or you can easily source them for little to no money from places like Craigslist or FreeCycle.org.
The following are some of the easiest compost bins that you can make at home:
- Wire mesh compost bin
Simply roll some wire mesh into a cylinder, add some wooden stakes for support, and tie everything together with string or wire.
- Wooden pallet planks + wire mesh bin
a. Find two wooden pallets. One is used to support the bottom, and the other is taken apart into separate slats.
b. Nail the slats together to create a four-sided square frame.
c. Cover the outside of the frame with wire mesh to create four supportive walls and fasten them to the wooden square frame at the top of the bin.
d. One or more additional pieces of wire mesh can be rolled into a cylinder to create “chimneys” than can help to aerate the compost pile.
- Pallet compost bin
a. Connect four wooden pallets together to make the sides and use a fifth pallet to form the base of the bin.
b. To allow for easy access to the finished compost at the bottom of the bin, the front panel pallet can be cut to ⅓-½ the original size at the bottom.
c. Latches can be attached to allow for the creation of a swing door.
- Plastic crate composter
Plastic crates that have been used for bread or milk at the supermarket can be used as compost bins that allow excellent airflow.
Create a larger bin structure by putting several crates together and fastening them using materials such as wire or twine. You can use cloth, mesh or landscape fabric to help keep the compost inside the bin.
- Garbage bin composter
Dark colored garbage bins work the best to help capture heat from the sunlight, and metal cans can be used to keep out animals that might go after your compost bin contents. To allow for proper air flow, drill holes on every side and in the lid.
If you get a locking lid on a cylinder can, you can roll your “bin” around to tumble and mix the composting contents. Bungee cords can be used to secure non-locking lids. Placing the can on top of some blocks can allow for airflow beneath your bin.
Food-grade barrels with screw-top lids also work great for making bins using this method.
- Storage bin composter
This compost bin can be easily made from an inexpensive plastic storage bin. You can even use a slightly damaged bin that has a small crack or a hole in it as long as it will hold compost sufficiently.
To make this bin, you only need to drill many holes in all sides of the plastic storage bin, including the bottom for drainage purposes, as well as the lid for air circulation.
This is a compost bin that can be transported quite easily around your yard and will easily fit within limited spaces.
How to make compost from your DIY composting bin successfully?
Successful bin composting does not require a lot of technical or ecological knowledge, only a few basic tips.
There are typically two types of compost bins: stationary and rotating. In both cases, you should periodically turn your compost to aerate it and mix the decomposing materials. By turning the rotating bins or rotating your cylinder homemade bin with a fastened lid, you can help to speed up the composting process .
Ideal compost piles contain a mixture of both “brown” materials (carbon-rich materials such as dry leaves, newspaper and cardboard) and “green” materials (nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings and fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen). These two types of materials should be mixed together and turned about once per week to help facilitate the decomposition process .
Adding a little bit of water to your pile and mixing the compost helps to speed up the decomposition process, but you only need to add enough water to moisten the contents . Do not drench the pile!
Once you have filled up your compost bin over one season, you can start adding organic materials to a second bin to allow the first one to completely decompose before using the compost.
5 Tips how to use compost effectively in your garden
Compost is considered to be the optimal type of natural fertilizer for a garden. Compost does a great job keeping all nutrients available for a healthy plant growth for a very long time.
It stays in the upper earth layer, where the roots can use it for nutrition as needed. At the same time, compost supports microflora and microorganism concentrations that revitalize the soil and increasing its biological activity throughout the planting season.
In order for the compost to give you the best results, you must know the proper way to use it.
Here are 5 tips to help you apply compost most efficiently:
#1 Compost placement
Compost should not be placed into the soil deeper than about 8 to 10 centimeters (4 -5 inches). It should be high enough for the air to come through. Most of the roots exist at this level and the microflora is the most active.
Compost can’t be left on the surface, where it will dry out and lose its biological activity. It shouldn’t be placed too deep, where there is not enough air which is crucial for the activity of the microflora.
Crude (not fully ripened) compost should be applied to the soil in the autumn or early spring, but not later than one month before planting. This way it will have time to reach the perfect ripe condition before its qualities become needed.
If you are planting fruit trees, compost application is recommended in the autumn.
The right compost dosage is very hard to pinpoint. The good part is that it is impossible to overdo. The more you apply, the better. All depends on the soil type and the plants’ needs.
An experienced gardener can tell how much compost the plant needs just by looking at it. If the upper layer of clay soil swells up after rain and falls apart during dry periods or if it’s light or red brown, it is lacking compost.
Compost must be applied on a yearly basis. If you delay the process or skip it, the soil will soon become much less fertile, which will be obvious to the eye
Ripened compost is considered to be a very valuable fertilizer. It is a “ready to use” food for plants. That’s why it is applied in the spring period, right before the planting process.
The compost should be inserted into special planting pits or seed furrows. Placing compost into furrows is especially recommended when planting potatoes.
#5 Nutrient solution
Compost can be used to create a bio-revitalizing solution. The compost is mixed with water at the 1:3. The mix is left for 24 to 48 hours. Afterward, the solution must be diluted with water until it becomes light brown and ready to use!
When you start using compost to cultivate your plants, you will immediately see the difference. Such plants will be much more resistant to diseases and pests. Compost will allow you to avoid toxic chemicals.