Today I bring you the 10 simple steps for composting at home.
Are food waste, vegetable and fruit peels the major trash that leaves your home each day?
Do you or your neighbors constantly sweep away the dried leaves from the trees, only to throw them in the dustbin or even burn them?
Do you believe in organic produce?
Does a fresh vegetable garden in your terrace or balcony excite you?
Then it’s time to learn how to make compost at home.
The floods in Chennai made us appreciate the urgent need for waste management. Along with the water, garbage entered homes and filth surrounded us for a week, as a penalty for our indifference towards reducing trash. So it’s time to get on board the zero trash lifestyle.
To learn how, read our post on reducing trash at home. As I have mentioned there, composting is one of the most popular methods to reduce trash.
What is compost and why is it called black gold?
Compost is nature’s perfect solution to recycle our food waste and to add back nutrients to the soil, helping us avoid harmful synthetic fertilizers.
- Its decayed organic matter, added as a natural fertilizer and conditioner to soil.
- It is dark in color and smells earthy
- It adds beneficial microorganisms to the soil
- It can improve the structure and texture of any soil in such a way that the soil can retain the nutrients, moisture and air better
- It suppresses diseases and harmful pests that can infect plants
Benefits of composting:
Compost has innumerable benefits. They are as follows.
- Composting helps the planet
It has been estimated that a quarter of all the waste in the world’s landfills could have been composted. How nice it would be to make rich soil from this stuff instead?
- Composting takes just five minutes every day
How much time you want to be involved with your compost is up to you. But you can spend as less as five minutes a day and your compost bin will do the rest of the job for you.
- Key ingredient for organic gardening
Organic gardening is one of the ‘in’ things these days. When you start organic gardening, you need compost or vermicompost. Here is a chance to make your own compost easily and be assured of its quality.
- Reduces global warming
Anaerobic decomposition occurring at dump yards (landfills) result in the production of lots of methane gas. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that contributes towards global warming. By doing aerobic composting at home, carbon dioxide is produced instead of methane, which is a much milder green house gas.
- Unmatched happiness
The happiness that you get out of composting is a lot. Even if you don’t plan to have a garden, gift the compost to your gardener friends, throw the finished compost in a park or a nearby garden or even sell it for a small cost.
What can be composted?
Composting involves of mixing of GREEN and BROWN materials in approximately equal volume. Green materials are the ones which are high in nitrogen and brown materials are the ones that are rich in carbon.
Alright, let’s simplify things.
Green materials to compost:
- Vegetable and fruit peels, kitchen scraps
- Tea dust, tea bags, coffee grounds
- Crushed egg shells
- Freshly cut grass
- Plant trimmings
Green materials to compost with caution:
- Manure from herbivorous animals (Rich in nutrients, but can smell until the manure gets completely broken down. Put them deep within the compost pile.)
- Nails and hair (Takes longer time to compost)
- Dairy (Turns smelly, attracting insects and critters)
- Meat (Same issue as the dairy)
- Cooked food (Attracts rodents)
- Citrus (Relatively small amounts are fine, but too much can lead to acidic compost, making the soil acidic)
- Urine (It’s your personal choice. But urine is an excellent compost accelerator)
Do not compost:
- Oil or fatty foods (They don’t compost easily)
- Seeds of weeds and diseased plants (This way you don’t encourage weeds or diseases)
- Coconut shells (They take forever to compost, trust me, I have tried!)
- Very salty foods (Harmful for plant growth)
- Anything that is not organic or may contain harmful chemicals (eg: Plastic )
- Human feces or feces from carnivorous pets (May contain dangerous bacteria)
- Walnuts (They contain a compound harmful to certain plants)
Brown materials to compost:
- Dried leaves
- Used tissue papers without oil or poop, cardboard egg boxes, corrugated cardboard
- Nut shells, corn cobs
- Saw dust, pieces of wood (Ensure that the wood is not chemically treated)
- Newspapers (use sparingly because the ink used for printing might be toxic)
Do not compost:
- Saw dust from treated wood
- Glossy paper or paper with too much print
How to start composting?
There are basically three types of composting-
- Aerobic Composting
- Anaerobic Composting
Today, let’s talk about aerobic composting as it is the most basic beginner level composting we can do at home.
In simple terms, aerobic composting is decomposition of organic matter in the presence of air or oxygen.
The basic components of aerobic composting are
- Organic matter
- Presence of air
- Right level of moisture (neither too soggy nor too dry)
- Required microorganisms (They are just around you, you don’t have to go in search of them)
Start composting with 10 easy steps:
Are you convinced that composting is simple and responsible? Let’s start off and make your own compost by starting a compost pile from scratch.
#1. Choose a location for your compost bin
Ideally, it can be in your balcony or terrace and there are ways to do composting right under your kitchen sink, but that’s for another post.
#2. Choose a compost bin
You can find kambhas on dailydump or just choose any big plastic box with lid. Drill small holes all over the plastic box with an electric drill or a heated knife. Don’t forget to drill holes in the bottom to drain away excess liquid.
#3. Handling the leechate
As your composting begins, a small amount of liquid will get drained off your compost bin occasionally. This nutritious liquid is called leechate. It can be diluted well and used for watering plants. If required, place a tray under the compost bin to collect the leechate.
#4. Choose a kitchen bin (optional)
Place a closed bin in your kitchen where it is very convenient for you to throw kitchen scraps. Keep it closed to avoid insects. You can optionally drill some small holes into it for air supply. Empty them into the actual compost bin as per your convenience.
#5. Collect the kitchen scraps
Start collecting vegetable peels, fruit peels, tea leaves/ tea bags/ coffee grounds, crushed egg shells in your kitchen bin. To begin, let’s not include dairy, meat, bones, oil, cooked food and foods that contain salt.
#6. Put some newspapers in the bottom, followed by a generous layer of soil
You can use any soil. This is just to introduce microorganisms useful for composting.
#7. Follow this up with a layer of dried leaves
You need to use leaves that naturally fall from trees, do not dry them manually.
#8. Adding waste to your compost bin
Put your kitchen scraps and cover this again with equal volume of dried leaves or any brown material. Close the lid.
#9. Turning the contents
Every alternate day or so, when you add materials to the compost bin, stir in the existing compost contents thoroughly. This speeds up composting.
#10. Maintaining the bin
Stop adding waste when the bin is almost full. Do not overstuff. You can use another bin and repeat from step 1 if your bin is almost full. Keep turning the contents once a week. If the pile is too soggy, add more brown material. If it is too dry, sprinkle some water.
If you follow these steps, in a few months, the volume of the contents will reduce to half the original volume and black, crumbly, sweet smelling compost will be ready for use.
You can use this as manure for your garden or give it to a gardening friend. Above all you are doing your share to keep the environment green and reduce trash. Be proud!!
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In this article, I have presented a basic method of aerobic composting. In reality, there are lots of methods available for composting. There are gadgets for our posh go-greeners, who are not too keen on dirtying their hands but these methods, are for the zero cost, DIY kinds.
In the coming days, we will learn just everything you will need to know about composting. Don’t forget to ask me all your doubts on composting. Until then, let’s dream of a cleaner planet together. Happy dreaming!