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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:

1. Get a compost bin and choose your location

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.

2. Start composting

 

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.

3. Continue to add materials until your bin is full

 

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.

4. Leave it alone

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.

5. Use your compost

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

There are few things better than plucking a fresh juicy red tomato from your window for a salad or sandwich. After all, you are eating the fruits of your labour and that can be incredibly satisfying.

Besides herbs, such as mint and coriander, there are some vegetables that can be a great asset to your mini-garden as well. If you plan to venture into deeper waters, perhaps your next garden project could involve growing tomatoes.

The humble tomato, which is native to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador, is a lot more difficult to grow than mint. The rewards, however, are just as amazing. If you feel inspired to add some tomato plants to your garden, keep these tips handy!

 

1. To-may-to, To-mah-to

 

There are dozens of varieties of tomatoes, and all of them have slightly different characteristics and need different conditions for optimal growth. In sunny Singapore where the temperatures can be excruciatingly warm, you would find that it may be easier to manage tomatoes that are more tolerant of the tropical climate. Examples of these varieties include: Arkansas Traveler Heirloom Tomato, Black Cherry Tomato, Creole Tomato and Florida 91 Tomato. This is just the tip of the iceberg – some quick research will give you a mind-boggling amount of varieties to choose from.

 

2. Give Them Space

It is no surprise that Singapore has land constraints, so it is rare that you’d have a plot of land to work with. But if you do, then just plant them about a metre apart. However, you live in an HDB or an apartment, things can get slightly trickier. You would need big containers or pots to contain your tomato plant. Ideally, each plant (unless it is a small tomato variety) should be planted in its own individual container that is at least a square foot.

 

3. Use Good Soil

 

Use good quality potting soil that is rich in organic matter and keep the pH slightly acidic at 6.2 to 6.8. It is extremely important that you fertilize the plants. Otherwise the beautiful fruits that you envision may not even appear. Mix some slow release fertilizer into the soil and water with a diluted liquid fertilizer every week or every other week.

 

4. Consistent Watering

As with fertilizer, tomatoes in the tropics need lots and lots of water. However, you need to be consistent in the amount of water you give to the plant, especially if you are growing your plants in a container. That means that if you water a specific amount, do not change that amount or skip days. If you do, your tomatoes may burst or crack. This is crucial especially when your tomatoes get bigger. Make sure that there is good drainage because with our humid climate, it is very easy for tomato plants to get fungal infections.

 

5. Growth in the Sun

 

 

Tomatoes need lots of sun so make sure you put your plant by a window or a part of your veranda that receives lots of sunlight. However, do keep an eye on the temperature. Most tomato varieties do not grow well when the temperature climbs above 32 degrees Celsius.

With these top tips for successfully growing tomato plants and harvesting tomatoes, we hope your garden flourishes with the tasty tomatoes. If you plant them today, maybe in the next 10-11 weeks you might be using actual home-grown tomatoes in your recipes!

Written by Annmaria Patteri

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