What is Composting?
Composting is a great, cheap alternative to buying fertilizers and soil for your garden. It is rich in organic material, which creates exceptionally healthy soil, improving root development, and providing food for microorganisms. It takes scraps and natural waste, putting these rich materials right back into the earth in a sustainable fashion. Composting is fantastic for the planet, as it diverts a large amount of household waste from going to a landfill.
How does it work?
There are two types of composting- hot and cold. Hot composting requires nitrogen, carbon, air, and water to create compost material within a few months. Cold composting, on the other hand, is simpler, as it requires decomposable materials, which sit in the bin and naturally break down over a year.
What materials are best to use in a compost bin?
- Fruit and vegetable peels and cores
- Leftover/unattractive vegetables and fruits
- Coffee grounds and tea leaves
- Newspaper/office papers- shredded
- Garden trimmings and leaves
- Dead plants
- Dried herbs
- Dryer lint
- Torn cardboard boxes and brown paper bags
What should you avoid in a compost bin?
- Cooking oil
- Diseased plants
- Printed or coated paper/paper products
- Dairy products and meat scraps
- Inorganic materials (plastic, acrylic, polyester)
- Rice, bread, pasta (this can be debated, but often leads to unwanted pests)
Note- It is essential to have a mixture of "greens" and "browns" in your compost bin. Green materials are rich in nitrogen, which provides necessary raw materials for making enzymes. Brown materials are carbon-rich, which allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish organisms within the compost material. Many composters recommend a mixture of one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. It is also important to keep the compost damp, but not over watered as that could ruin the decomposition process.
What do you need to build a (hot) compost bin?
There are many compost bins available for purchase online; however, they can be expensive, and you can make a great one out of household materials instead for a lesser cost. Enclosed compost bins are beneficial for smaller-scale composting in your backyard.
First, you need a heavy-duty garbage can or bin.
You will need to drill aeration holes around the sides and on the top and bottom of your bin. It is helpful to prop the container up on bricks or put sticks in first to allow airflow through the bottom of the bin.
Next, you must assemble your base. Add shredded newspaper or dry leaves about a third of the way up from the bottom of the bin. After the browns are added, there should be a layer of green material (grass, green leaves), filling another third of the bin. After the base layers, dirt comes next, topping off the green layer.
Finally, add your food scraps and mix them into the dirt! Spray the top of the mixture with a small amount of warm water; then it is ready to begin the composting process. It is also beneficial to layer greens and browns when adding them to the compost bin, almost like a sandwich!
It is also essential to turn your compost bin every two weeks or so to promote airflow. This can be done by simply rolling the container on its side a few times to mix the materials. This oxygen flow is necessary for the process of breaking down materials to create the composted mixture. It would be best to mix in any new materials added to the bin, as opposed to letting them sit on the top layer.
Watch as your compost turns into rich, fertile soil before you know it! It's that easy, and great for the planet!