If you are looking for ways to utilize the waste in your home or find ways to feed your garden with nutrient-enriched food additives, composting is the way to go. It makes an excellent hobby for kids and adults while helping the environment.
In this guide, you will find the different ways to compost, the benefits of composting, understand what composting is, and the ways to compost. Think of it as compost 101.
What is Composting?
Compost is considered black gold because it enriches the soil and makes your garden more productive. Composting is taking naturally decomposing matter and recycling it into a dark rich productive soil amendment to improve texture and fertility.
It involves using a balance of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water.
Benefits of Composting
There are many benefits to composting. This includes:
- Energizing the soil
- Helping soil retain moisture
- Reduce the volume of trash
- Helps vegetables improve flavor and nutrition
- Protects plants and vegetables from diseases
- Offers an alternative to chemical fertilizers
- Helps in reducing landfill waste, which reduces harmful methane gas to help decrease the rate of global pollutants
Composting Myths Debunked
If you are unfamiliar with composting, you will read a bunch of composting telling you there’s a right and wrong way to do it. However, we will debunk these myths for you in this section.
- Composting attracts pests and flies- Not all composts will attract rodents, if you use an enclosed composter and stick to vegetable scraps and yard waste, you can avoid attracting pests.
- You should add eggshells to the compost- Some gardeners use eggshells to add fluff to the soil. There isn’t anything wrong with this, except they don’t compose and it doesn’t add any value. To decompose, the soil would need to be highly acidic and the eggshells would need to be finely crushed to a powder-like consistency.
- You shouldn’t add citrus peels to compost- Citrus peels are considered green material for compost and they bring in phosphorus, nitrogen, and calcium. The citrus peels do decompose slower but they do decompose.
- Compost smells- Composts that have an odor are either too wet or have too much nitrogen. Some techniques and methods can be utilized to prevent bad smelling compost.
- It’s too complicated- Composting is not difficult, it’s about understanding the basics of how everything breaks down and works in this natural process.
- It has to be set up outdoors- You can use different methods that will allow you to do composting indoors, such as vermicomposting.
Hot vs Cold Compost Methods
The biggest difference between hot compost and cold compost is the amount of attention you need to give the compost maintaining the carbon and nitrogen ratio, and how long it takes to produce compost to use in your garden.
Cold compost methods take longer for organic waste to decompose. When you use a hot compost method, it speeds up the time that your compost will be finished and usable.
With hot methods of composting, layering is important. Alternate the layers of browns and greens with equal amounts of thickness on each layer. Add water to the layers as you build your compost pile. The finishing layer should be a layer of browns.
Methods of Composting
Direct trench composting- This type of composting involves burying the organic waste directly into the soil of your garden by digging a hole about 18-24″ deep. This method of composting allows you to use meats, grains, dairy, and cooked foods, as long as you bury them to deter rodents.
This method is perfect for heavy-feeding crops like tomatoes, squash, corn, or cabbage. This method can be used at any time of the year and it helps to build up soil’s nutrients.
Vermicomposting- This is a cold compost method. You store the worm bins in air temperatures between 50-80 degrees F. If the area is too hot, it will kill the worms. This is the most common and preferred method for composting. Worms grow and multiply and convert your kitchen scraps into compost.
Setting up your worm bin is a simple method. You fill half the bin with moistened bedding material, sprinkle coffee grounds on top, place the worms on top of the bedding and coffee grounds, and cover the bin. Wait a week and slowly begin to add the kitchen scraps to the bin. Worms need time to eat the kitchen scraps and that doesn’t begin until the scraps start to decay.
The type of bin that you would need for this would be shallow stacked bins with a screening at the bottom of the bins.
Open Air Composting- This is where you have a bin upturned and there are aeration holes on the sides. Worm-friendly food can only be used with this method of composting. This method involves mixing, spreading, monitoring, and turning of the compost pile.
Tumbler Composting- This is a form of hot composting that involves using an enclosed structure, which makes it easier to turn your compost pile. The constant turning of the compost pile allows it to heat up faster which speeds up the rate of composting.
This method involves having the right ratio of browns/greens or carbon /nitrogen. You have to keep an eye on the tumbler and make adjustments as needed. For example, if there is a bad odor coming from the tumbler, or it looks too soggy, then you should try adding more browns to the compost pile.
Batch composting- Batch composting is different from the other methods of composting. Batch composting involves using separate bins to save your raw material and allow it to build up. Once you have enough materials, then you mix it in one big batch, by making alternating layers of brown and green.
When discussing ingredients for compost you will hear or read a lot about green and brown material as well as carbon and nitrogen. Here is a breakdown of the common ingredients that you will find in compost:
Dry ingredients(carbon) are considered brown ingredients such as :
- Autumn leaves
- Wood chips
- Shredded paper
- Dry grass clippings
Wet ingredients(nitrogen) are considered green ingredients such as:
- Animal manure
- Fruit and vegetable waste
- Fresh grass clippings
- Coffee grounds
Composting bin used
Most bins used for the various methods of composting include the following:
- Wooden bins with removable plastic front
- Barrel-shaped tumblers
- Garbage cans
- Wire bins
Utilizing the waste found in your garden and kitchen is an excellent way to create soil amendment to give your garden the extra nutrient boost needed. Remember there isn’t a wrong or right way to compost, There are many ways to compost and various composting bin that can be used.
it’s about knowing how to troubleshoot any issues that may arise. This guide should have provided you with enough information to start composting as a hobby to do with the kids, and gradually work your way up to becoming a seasoned gardener in the area of composting.
Just keep in mind, when it comes to composting, you can always find ways to improve your skills- it just takes practice. After all, practice makes perfect.