Composting is the process whereby organic waste biodegrades naturally into nutrient-rich soil for gardening. There are both anaerobic and aerobic composting; the former does not utilise any oxygen while the latter requires oxygen for composting.
If the idea of composting invokes images of a stinking pile of garbage slowly decaying in your yard, fret not! There is a proper way of composting and it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. So, rather than throwing away your kitchen scraps, why not try composting them at home? Here’s how you can do just that:
To ensure good air circulation in your compost bin, drill small holes on the lid, the bottom, and the sides. The bin should be placed in an airy area without direct sunlight.
It’s important to ensure that your compost bin allows for air to circulate freely as the micro-organisms would require oxygen to decompose the waste. If there’s insufficient air, gases like methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be produced, causing unpleasant smells.
You’ll need a good mix of browns such as dried leaves, cardboard egg cartons, and newspaper and greens like fruits, vegetables, kitchen waste, and coffee grounds.
Add extra newspaper or dried leaves towards the bottom of your bin so that it can absorb any extra moisture from your wet greens. Browns are carbon-rich while greens are nitrogen-rich, and the micro-organisms use them both as food. To prevent maggots from appearing, try to make sure your bin is made up of three parts dry browns, and one part wet greens.
Then you’ll need an accelerator. This is responsible for kick starting and quickening the breakdown of the organic matter in your compost bin. An example is buttermilk or manure. You can also shred the waste in order to quicken the process.
A good aerobic composting pile should be moist, but not excessively wet. If too much kitchen waste is added, it may begin to smell as the result of anaerobic bacterial action.
Compost, when added to soil, increases its productivity by retaining soil moisture, improving soil structure, and enriching it with essential nutrients. This promotes the growth of healthy plants. Moreover, it reduces the use of pesticides and fertilisers, many of which can be harmful to the environment.
Because your pile needs aeration, you’ll need to turn the pile once in a while. Other than that, it doesn’t require much attention.
Aerobic composting prevents landfills from rapidly reaching their capacity. It also keeps organic waste, which often contain a lot of water, from being transported as well. Not transporting these wastes conserves fuel and energy. Because these organic materials don’t end up in landfills, it reduces the emission of methane into the environment. The overwhelming amount of methane gas in our atmosphere is a known contributor to global warming.
That’s it! Your compost is ready for use!
Depending on the materials you used, you’ll start to see that the result is a dark and crumbly mixture, with an earthy, soil-like odor to it after about 40 days (and especially if you contributed to your pile daily). Use it to grow your own produce and you’ll quickly get into the habit of composting.
Composting can help the environment in more ways than one, such as reducing water pollution. Fertilisers can be a major cause of water pollution, but when they are mixed with the compost in your soil, the compost binds to the fertiliser and prevents seepage and contamination of groundwater.
Written by Anna Fernandez