Updated: Sep 6
Composting is an environmentally friendly practice and one of every garden’s necessities. It is a resourceful way to manage waste (kitchen waste, fallen leaves, paper bags, etc) and ensure that nothing useful finds its way to a landfill.
On the plus side, you get organic soil nourishment your plants need - at no charge.
What exactly is composting?
Composting is a process that turns decayed organic materials (fruit peels, leftover food, sawdust, broken stems, eggshells, and leaves) to soil.
Microorganisms degrade these organic materials to create a rich soil called humus that adds nutrients to grow splendid, healthy plants. It also has the added environmentally-friendly importance of reducing or totally eliminating food waste.
Usually, composting is done with elaborate rigs but home composting allows gardeners to create their soil food on a smaller scale - indoors or outdoors.
Composting is not a really difficult process, although it does require a firm commitment. With the right know-how, it’s a very straightforward process.
Here, you’ll get useful tips on everything you need to know on how to set up a home compost system.
Before we dive in, the different types of composting loosely fall into these 3 categories.:
1. Aerobic composting
Aerobic composting uses oxygen from the air to break down the organic material. With this method, the compost material needs to be turned over to expose them evenly to open-air every few days.
● Works great outdoors
● Breaks down more complicated organic matter like bones
● Produces nutrient-rich fertilizer
● The smell can be quite strong
● It needs constant maintenance
● Aerobic compost temperatures run hot, so you need to add lots of green matter
2. Anaerobic composting
This type of composting method does not need air exposure to break down the materials. For anaerobic setups, the materials have to be sorted carefully. For example, meat, fish, bones and eggs cannot go into this setup. However, eggshells, tea leaves, vegetables, etc work best for anaerobic composting.
Find out other kitchen waste you can add to your anaerobic setup in this article (link).
● Works great for smaller indoor compost setups - and can be as small as a mason jar
● Minimal smell, because you can add a lid
● Requires very little maintenance
● Due to the lack of oxygen exposure, non-beneficial bacteria can thrive and affect the plants
● The final results of this method are often inconsistent
Vermicomposting produces the best and most consistent composting results, and it’s easy!
Vermicomposting involves introducing worms into the composting material, which then break them down
● Vermicomposting follows the natural way of breaking down organic materials
● The results are very nutrient-rich
● The same set of worms can produce multiple compost batches
● You need the space and the resources necessary to get the best worms
● The composting environment must be conducive for them to live.
● You need a strong stomach to handle worms!
Where to set up your compost bin:
An outdoor compost setup is perfect for your backyard on an empty spot in your garden. A compost bin or a sizeable hole in the ground is all you need to begin the process. When you are planning an outdoor compost system, it is important to choose a shaded location with access to water. Too much sunlight can stall the composting process and we do not want that, but a little heat from the sun sure does speed up the process.
If you live in a small apartment, you probably don’t have a backyard or sizeable garden space. A little flexibility and creativity is required to undertake a composting project. Consider anaerobic/vermicomposting, or a tabletop composter. A single bin or tumbler style bin will be perfect as well.
What to add to your compost bin:
Both nitrogen-based ‘green’ and carbon-based ‘brown’ materials are essential for the perfect compost. To start the breakdown process and maintain it, it should be a ratio of green to brown at about 1:2.
Examples of nitrogen ‘green’ materials include:
● Vegetable scraps
● Bread products
● Fruit peels
● Fresh grass cuttings
● Coffee grounds.
Examples of carbon ‘brown’ materials include:
● Shredded mail paper
● Dead leaves, branches
● Peat moss
● Wood ash
● Newspaper and
● Cardboard products
What should not be added to a compost pile?
On the no-compost lust are any materials that introduce foreign materials into the mix. This includes synthetic components (nylon, polyester, plastic), dairy products, treated wood, or plant clippings that contain pesticides/ herbicides.
Depending on the type of setup, you should also filter for meat and meat-based protein material (like spoiled eggs, fecal matter) that could contaminate your compost.
How long does compost material take to break down?
With all the different materials added to the pile, the rate of decomposition might be a bit tricky.
● If you want a speedy composting process, chop larger materials into smaller pieces.
● In an aerobic setup, leaves and grass clippings should be sprinkled into the bin with the other materials or dug into the center of the pile and mixed.
● Avoid adding materials in thick layers, they will congeal and reduce aeration which slows the composting process.
The basic steps for composting are
Common compost problems and solutions
● Fetid compost: This is most likely because proper air circulation is cut off, or the compost pile contains too much moisture. To rectify this, add dry, coarse materials and turn the pile.
● Stalled compost: This means your compost pike is no longer decomposing. It may be that your compost has dried out. To reverse this, add more ‘green’ materials, and water and turn the pile over.
● Slimy texture; There might be too much moisture in your pile, add dry ‘brown’ material, turn the pile, and limit or stop watering your compost for a while.
Composting results are so great you’ll get addicted to creating your own compost every time. Your plants (especially the monsteras) will love the added nutrients without inorganic chemicals, and you can encourage green living in your own home.
As soon as you begin to reap the rewards of composting, you’d never want to stop and that’s exactly our aim!
What’s been your experience with composting at home?