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Composting at Home

Oct 22,2021 | Cassandra Low

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30% of what we throw away. Instead of throwing away these materials that take up space and release harmful greenhouse gases, why not turn them into compost? 

Credit: INSIDER 

Making compost is not difficult, we have practically everything we need around us. Here are some basic ingredients required

  • Browns - such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
  • Greens - such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
  • Water - Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.

However, do take note of some items that we should not compost:

  • Coal or charcoal ash
    • Reason: Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
    • Reason: Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    • Reason: Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
    • Reason: Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
    • Reason: Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
    • Reason: Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    • Reason: Might kill beneficial composting organisms
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    • Reason: Releases substances that might be harmful to plants

Benefits of Composting

  • Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
Credits: CleanTechLoops 

6 easy steps to composting 

1. Choose Your Type of Backyard Compost Bin

You can use either an open pile or a compost bin. Bins have the advantage of being neat, keeping animals out and preserving heat. Such bins can be purchased from a variety of garden and home stores, or you can even build your own compost bin if you have an empty space in your garden.The size and type of bin you purchase or build will depend on how much compostable material you generate.

2. Choose Your Composter Location

You should choose a location which is flat, well-drained and has enough exposure to sunlight. Bear in mind that if the compost gets too cold this will slow down the composting process.

3. Alternate the layers 

Start with a layer of coarse materials (like twigs) to allow for drainage and aeration. Aeration is the process by which air is circulated through, mixed with or dissolved in a liquid or substance. Cover this layer with leaves then alternate between layers of greens materials (nitrogen-rich material) and browns (carbon-rich material).

Credits: Houseopedia


4. Add kitchen and yard waste to mix the compost

Start collecting your kitchen compostables if you haven’t already done so! Add these waste into your compost. Whenever you add food scraps or yard waste, be sure to top it with a layer of browns. If you do not add browns, your compost will be wet and break down more slowly. Be sure to collect a healthy mix of greens and browns. The right balance will prevent unwanted odors and ensure a healthy finished product. To ensure proper aeration, do not pack the layers in. The number of layers will depend on your amount of scraps, but you should aim to keep layers to two inches.

 5. Maintain your compost bin 

To get quicken the process of composting, ensure the following conditions are met:

  • When you add fresh material, be sure to mix it in with the lower layers.
  • Materials should be as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Add dry materials or water (whichever is needed) to reach this moisture level.
  • Mix or turn the compost once a week to help the breakdown process and eliminate odour.

6. Harvest your compost 

Let nature do the work. Depending on the size of your compost pile and how well you've maintained it, compost can take anywhere from four weeks to a full year to fully decompose. Finished compost will be dark, crumbly and smell like earth. 

The finished compost will end up at the top of the bin or compost pile. Remove all the finished compost from the bin, leaving unfinished materials in the bin to continue decomposing. Be sure the decomposition process is complete before you use your compost; otherwise, microbes in the compost could take nitrogen from the soil and harm plant growth.

After harvesting your compost, it's finally ready for you to use them! You can use your compost as top dressing for flower beds and at the base of trees and shrubs or even mix the compost in with garden and flower bed soil. Composts can also be used as a soil conditioner when planting or transplanting trees, flowers and shrubs by filling the hole with half compost and half soil.

Composting is not only a great way to help reduce food waste and keep the planet cleaner, but it's a way to better understand where your food comes from and where it goes!