Last updated on November 20th, 2023 at 12:00 pm
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Did you know that compost is considered as “The Gardener’s Gold?” Not only does composting keep our soil healthy, but it also offers a bunch of advantages. So, let’s find out more!
Composting is a natural method of breaking down any organic materials into the soil. Any waste materials that are known to be once alive can be a good addition to the compost pile, such as fruits, vegetables, paper towels, garden pruning, and more.
By having a compost pile exactly in your backyard, you are not only returning the essential nutrients into the soil but also you are effectively reducing your waste at home. Once the organic materials are decayed, they will transform into soil’s new, natural source of nutrients. So, the next time you will chop your green salad, remind yourself why you need to practice organic composting.
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Things to Consider Before Making Compost
For sure, if you are a first-timer in composting, you are curious about where you can place your compost pile or bin. Not only that, but you might be also undecided about the size it would be.
Before making compost, consider the following things:
- The amount of space available in your backyard for composting
- The available materials you can use to make a compost bin or compost pile
- The purpose of making a compost
- The time and effort you need to spend in starting a compost
- The effective, convenient ways to keep your compost well-maintained
Reflect on the factors above to prevent facing a problem before and after making your compost. This will also help you ensure that the size of your compost bin is suitable for the available space in your garden.
How to Start A Compost Bin
In starting your compost bin, you will need a container that is suitable for your composting needs. You can buy composting bins or use at least 3 x 3 ft wooden containers. Then, find a shady area to place your bin.
After setting up a composting bin in your backyard, add your compost materials. Make sure to maintain a balance between brown and green waste. Brown waste involves straw, branches, wood chips, and other yard waste, while green waste is more of fruit and vegetable peels, grass clippings, and other food or kitchen waste. For a perfect compost, keep a 50-50 mix of brown and green waste.
Take note that compost can be smelly. If you have noticed that the smell is already out of control, you can add more brown waste materials to your mixture. You can do it by digging a small hole in your pile, where you put the additional brown materials. Next is to stir it thoroughly. That way, it can effectively combine with your existing mixture. You can tell that your compost is ready once you have noticed that it already turned into a dark, thick, and moist soil.
What Are the Necessary Micro-Organisms When Composting?
Microbes are responsible for decomposing your compost waste materials. These organisms help in turning your materials into rich humus, which is a good foundation of great growing soils. By supplying these single-cell organisms with their favorite materials and conditions, they will reward you with healthy soils for your plants’ needs.
Composting microbes come in two general classes – aerobes and anaerobes. Aerobes are microbes that work when oxygen is present in the air, while anaerobes are those that work when it is not. Depending on the composting type you will be making, the kind of microbes you need to encourage will also vary.
You need to encourage aerobes if you are into composting piles, tumblers, or heaps. These microbes will populate the composting materials and require oxygen to live. They consume the organic matter in your pile and other green waste. After consuming the organic matter, they will change it chemically. Then, the digestion process gives off heat, carbon dioxide, as well as water in the process.
Sealed-Container Anaerobic Composting
If you have a sealed composting system, then you need to encourage the anaerobic microbes. Once you have filled up your plastic bag with yard waste and table scraps and then, set it under the sun, the anaerobic microbes will break down those materials. These microbes need both organic materials and water to give off energy, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Hydrogen sulfide offers a smell similar to rotten eggs, while methane refers to the potent greenhouse house. Compared to the aerobic process, the anaerobic composting is slower and produces a smelly pile.
What Goes When Making A Compost
Did you know that making compost is similar to fermenting beer? In composting, you will also need bacteria, warmth, air, and moisture. Once these things are combined, the breakdown of compost waste materials takes place.
Be aware that your compost heap can be as hot as 170˚F. Once you have noticed that it starts to heat up, it means that microbes are working hard to break down the organic materials. Your compost begins to heat up 2 days after you have started composting. It is essential for you to turn the pile every 2 or 3 days so that air will completely circulate as well as speed up the process of decomposing the organic materials.
For an alternative solution, you can wedge a steel pipe or PVC that is riddled with holes and place it in the center of your compost so that enough amount of air can get through. It is a nice idea to cover your compost to protect it against rain. Take note that water can lead to fermentation of the decomposing materials. As a result, these materials will stink, so you need to be extra careful.
When your compost bin or pile cools down, it means that the composting is complete. But it may also mean that the anaerobic organisms have taken over the composting, so it is necessary for you to thoroughly stir the mixture so that the oxygen will keep on circulating to encourage those aerobic microbes to start working again.
If you wish to have an easier to manage and neater composting, make your pile or bin smaller. The organic materials will also decompose more quickly compared to the larger options.
Materials That Are Not Suitable For Making A Compost
Not all materials are ideal for making compost. There are several materials that do not simply decompose, including metal, glass, Styrofoam, and plastic. These materials will remain whole while other materials are ready.
Materials that are not suitable for making a compost might spread diseases as well as harmful pathogens. These materials include disposable diapers and cat litter. Besides, these materials also encourage rodents and insects to rummage in the compost due to its nasty smell. Things like greasy items, dairy products, animal bones, and fish and scraps attract those unwanted visitors in your heap.
When Is the Best Time to Your Compost?
As mentioned, your compost is ready when you see that the organic materials have turned into dark soil. You may also notice that you cannot recognize the original characteristics of the materials anymore. On the other hand, there are also some instances that you will eggshell, odd bark, or twig in it.
When you choose to start your composting in early summer or late spring, you can be sure that there is faster composting time for at least 12 weeks. If you start during the fall season and you are into composting in a large pile, then the materials will become slow-rotting. Apart from that, if you fail to mix your compost bin or pile often, chances are it will take you a year or even two years to make your compost ready.
Effective Ways to Use Compost
After creating a compost bin or pile, and you have patiently waited to make the organic materials ready after several months, you can then use the finished product in different ways.
You can use the compost in different spots in your garden or backyard, including around trees, in flowerbeds, or even in potted plants. Besides, you can use it as mulch in shrubby places in your yard or over your flowerbeds.
Nonetheless, compost is effective in helping plants get all the necessary nutrients that can make them grow faster and healthier. It also helps the plants to fend off diseases or pests. When you use compost, you will also notice that the grass looks stronger and greener.
Why Composting at Home Makes Sense
As you start composting at home, you can contribute to diverting millions of tons of organic waste from landfills. You can also reduce the greenhouse gases from hitting our atmosphere.
Lowers Carbon Footprint
With composting, the methane emissions coming from landfills can be reduced. This greenhouse gas will enter our atmosphere when food in the landfills is being decomposed without appropriate airflow. So, if you start composting at home, you can help to reduce the carbon footprint since your food waste will not be added to the pile anymore.
Retails the Moisture of the Soil
If you love gardening, you think of the best ways to have healthy soils necessary to plant growth. By composting, you are actually nourishing your water and promoting proper absorption of water. That way, your plants will have a consistent, enough sources of nutrients and moisture. With a solid layer of compost, you can reduce the need for watering as well as prevent weeds from growing.
Since composting at home can reduce the overall trash output, it means that the number of trash pickups also decreases. There will be lesser trips to the dump sites along with hauling of waster in smaller volumes, which will result in less burned fossil fuels by garbage trucks.
No More Chemicals
Do you always use dump chemical or synthetic fertilizers onto your garden? If yes, you need to think twice now. These chemicals can penetrate our local streams by runoffs and can lead to algal blooms in the oceans or oxygen dead zones. Alternatively, you can use compost. In fact, compost contains balanced amounts of essential nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. No need for you to use chemicals in keeping your soil healthy.
If you have started composting at home, then you might notice that you have already saved a significant amount of money. Instead of purchasing chemical fertilizers for your garden, you can use your compost to keep your plants healthy and strong. Composting at home also means less watering which can lower your monthly water bills. Not only that, occasional track pickups can reduce your overall waste fees.
Tips for A Rewarding Composting at Home
Interestingly, it will only take you a few minutes to set up a composting pile, but its benefits are long-term. Although you need to wait a couple of months to make your compost ready, all the benefits are worth the wait.
To ensure that you will have a rewarding, successful composting, you can take advantage of the following tips.
- Use the proper formula in composting. There must be carbon, water, oxygen, and nitrogen. Take note that when your composting lacks oxygen, it can lead to greenhouse gas production.
- Keep your compost pile moist. Your compost requires water when they are dry. Without water, it would be hard for the microbes to break down the organic materials. So, it is best for you to keep your heap moist all the time, but not wet.
- Take note that your composting requires the pile to be alive. Meaning, you need to supply it with the correct amount of moisture and food.
- If your compost smells nasty, make sure to add brown materials. If you cannot see that your organic matter is breaking down or your pile does not get hot, you can add more green waste.
- When choosing the right spot to place your compost pile or bin, see to it that there is adequate space. You can start with at least 3 ft x 3 ft. Heat is an ideal thing for composting, so place your pile to the area where it can receive a sufficient amount of sunlight.
- Keep in mind that your compost pile has the potential for odors. It would be perfect for you to place your heap away from a playset, deck, pool, and close to your neighbors.
- Make sure that your pile is getting the right amount of moisture. If it is too dry, the organic matter will stay and look that way, while if it is too wet, your pile will get clumpy and is difficult to turn. Besides, a nasty odor may also occur. The best thing you can do is to turn your heap more frequently so it will not get too dry or too wet.
- Remember, weeds contain seeds, and your pile may not get hot enough to destroy these seeds. Although weeds can be a green material throughout the growing season, adding them can make the finished compost as the weed plants’ source.
- If you add diseased plants to your compost pile, it might not get hot enough in killing most diseases. So, it would be better to exclude them for your pile altogether.
- If you wish to add more than 10 to 20% of pine needles to your pile, then you have to neutralize them using a lime or wood ash. To balance these materials, you can use an inexpensive pH test kit. That way, you can test the pH level of your pile during the composting process.
- When you prefer using only the green materials form your kitchen and the yard waste, you find no problem with unwanted insects in your compost pile. However, if insects cause a problem, you can simply cover your pile with a shallow later of hay or seasoned leaves.
- If your plants appear burned where your compost is being used, it means that it is not yet ready, and there is also excess nitrogen. To resolve the issue, you can replace your plant bed soil, or you can add brown materials like straw or leaves so that the excess nitrogen in the soil can be used up.
- Computer paper and newspapers are perfect carbon sources, but make sure to shred them for the best results.
- Materials that can lower (oak leaves or pine needles) or raise (wood ash) the pH level of your compost must be used sparingly.
- Do not panic once you see that your compost pile looks like disappearing. That is because, throughout the composting process, there will be more than 50% of the volume reduction.
With composting, you have the best chance to produce a beneficial source of healthy right exactly in your own yard. That way, you can provide your plants with the necessary moisture and nutrients without extra fees. Not only that, you can save from frequent garbage pickups, watering, and the use of synthetic fertilizers. Most importantly, you can protect our environment from tons of waste materials.
We hope you enjoy these composting for beginners’ tips and Happy Composting!
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