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Outdoor Composting Guide
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro gardener, you should know how vital composting is in farming or gardening. Also, learning the basics of home composting benefits your plants as well as your home. In this article, we will teach you all you need to know about composting and how to start composting at home.
What is Composting?
Composting is the natural process by which organic wastes are recycled into plant and soil fertilizers. In this process, the decomposition of wastes is accelerated, thanks to the environment that composting creates, where decomposing organisms can thrive. This process produces what is commonly called “black gold” or compost, nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and soil.
In addition, composting is incredibly easy and convenient as it can be done in your backyard or even indoors! Also, you should make sure that your compost is placed in the part of your house where the smell will not be a problem. Remember that we are working with garbage here.
What are the Benefits of Composting?
This process of transforming waste into valuable organic soil and plant enhancers has more benefits than you think. Composting is enormously healthy for the environment and helpful for people as well. It seems like a win-win situation, right?
Composting helps in:
1. Reducing methane emissions
Our wastes mostly go straight to landfills, which pile up in a mountain and eventually decay. When organic matter decomposes in the landfill, it goes through anaerobic decomposition. Through this process, organic matter is seized up by organisms that can survive non-free-flowing oxygen environments.
This results in the emission of biogas consisting of 50 percent carbon dioxide and 50 percent methane. While both are robust greenhouse gases, the latter is significantly better at trapping heat in the atmosphere. What does composting have to do with this?
Furthermore, decomposition through composting allows for aerobic decomposition, where the organisms responsible for breaking down organic matter require oxygen. This process prevents methane emissions; thus, helping the environment by a considerable amount and reducing your carbon footprint.
2. Reducing wastage
Because you can recycle a lot of your garbage through composting, you can significantly reduce wastage in your homes. More or less 28 percent of all your junk is composed of food wastes and garden wastes. This puts a substantial amount of load on the environment as these wastes only turn useless.
In addition, they don’t have to end up rotting in a landfill somewhere. You can simply pile them up in your composting bin, and you’re already saving the environment! Composting at home is both environmentally friendly and convenient for all.
3. Conserving water
Water scarcity has been an increasingly alarming problem all over the world. How can composting help with this issue? It turns out that organic matter boosts the ability of soil to retain water, as research has shown.
Adding a percentage increase of organic matter in soil can strengthen its water retention by approximately 20,000 gallons per single acre—this aids in the conservation of water and enriches the soil in your garden. Also, by performing the practice of composting, you and your garden can yield the benefits it can bring.
4. Contributing to soil and plant health
Composting at home can provide for the basic needs of your plants and crops, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Moreover, it can deliver necessary micronutrients like iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. The result of this is higher agricultural yields and healthier plants and crops.
Furthermore, one of the most significant benefits of composting is exhausting its substantial contribution to soil health. By providing nutrients to the soil, it enriches the soil bed, which improves productivity, resiliency, and water retention capacity in soil. In addition, rich soil reduces risks of erosion and helps in aid reforestation, habitat revitalization, and wetlands restoration.
What Materials do I need to Start Composting?
Not much, really! All that’s needed to start composting at home is a container where all your wastes will go. We have a few recommendations as to the type of composting bin that will work best for you.
This is the most basic type of container for your wastes, and beginners often turn to this when they first start composting. Compost bins are waste holders that are usually made out of plastic and stand upright.
Of course, you might choose to make your own bin. Look for food-grade materials or use clean lumber. Some people use a wire fence, encircled to create a round containment. And in fact, the open wire or lumber styles increase air flow, enabling the compost to break down more quickly. However, they also leave it more available to wildlife and bugs.
They are usually large, resulting in a longer decomposition process. The lack of oxygen supply in the bin causes slow anaerobic decomposition and breakdown of wastes. In addition, considering factors like waste volume and weather temperature, your compost should be ready in about two to three months, at least.
Adding a compost tumbler makes for a much more convenient option. This container stands upright on two legs, or use it with wheels so that you can move it around in your garden. Like compost bins, compost tumblers have a large capacity to store a good amount of compost at once.
NOTE: We added this Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter to our yard and find it helps tremendously. Although our main compost pile is far away from the house, we keep this one in our backyard. I find only one flaw- I wish it were larger. But then, that might make it less convenient.
Also, the key feature of a compost tumbler is its ability to be spun to toss the compost inside, allowing easy aeration. Decomposition of the organic matter becomes faster so that in about a few weeks, your compost should be ready. A disadvantage in this is that compared to a compost bin, a compost tumbler is a lot more expensive than a compost bin.
There is a wide variety of compost bags in the market to choose from, but the most commonly used are biodegradable bags. Usually, these bags will decay in about six months, along with the compost inside them. The good thing about compost bags is their portability, allowing easier aeration since they can be tossed around.
Often, compost bags come with a small capacity, so you can only make as small batches at once. However, this can be good for composting beginners looking to try the experience without much commitment. Compost bags are among the cheapest composting containers out there.
Kitchen Compost Bin
These bins are visibly smaller than the standard compost bins, and that’s because they belong in your kitchen. Kitchen compost bins are designed to be placed on the kitchen countertop, under the sink, or anywhere in the kitchen. They are convenient to have around in there because the kitchen is where you produce food wastes.
NOTE: We use this little compost bin in our kitchen. Like our tumbler bin, my only regret remains the size. But then we are a big family. The solution for this is simple- we just empty it more frequently. As for performance, it truly does not allow any odors to leave the bin. We’ve had it partially full for several days when not needing to use it and it’s easy to forget it’s there. Why the size issue then? Simply because some days we have a lot of compostable scraps, other days hardly any. It happens.
What I do love about this little carry bin is the cleanliness factor. While it contains some sour ingredients or even molds at times, we just dump it out and rinse it with the garden hose to remove any extras. The outside stays polished looking with just a clean wipe.
Kitchen compost bins are ideal for people with not many plants and crops to fertilize as they can store just an adequate amount of compost. But if you have a more extensive, busier garden, you can still use a kitchen compost bin where you can temporarily store food wastes. Later on, you can transfer them to a bigger compost container.
Also, there are much more options out there if these basic compost containers don’t suit your needs. You will find reviews for different kinds of compost bins here.
What goes inside the Composting Bin?
Now that you know why and what you need to learn about how to start composting at home, it’s time to introduce to you the basics of composting. What should you put in your composting bin, and what should you avoid? There are four fundamental ingredients in composting. These are the greens, the browns, and air and water.
The greens are responsible for giving your compost its nitrogen content, which helps in the growth and reproduction of the organism decomposers. More decomposers mean faster production of compost. Thus, ensure that your compost bin contains wastes that hold nitrogen.
You can find wastes rich in nitrogen in fresh organic materials, like food. Some of the specific food wastes you can put inside your composting bin include:
- Plant and tree leaves
- Grass clippings
- Fruit and vegetable waste
- Coffee grounds
Aside from nitrogen, your compost should have enough carbon content, and you can use the browns for this purpose. While nitrogen helps in microorganism reproduction, carbon serves as food for these microorganism decomposers. Carbon gives life to microorganisms in the duration of the decomposition process.
This can be sourced from brown plant materials that you can often find lying around on the ground. Some examples of browns you can add to your compost include:
- Tree branches
- Dead leaves
- Sawdust or wood shavings
- Hair and fur
Air and Water
These two things are necessary for the survival of the microorganisms in charge of decomposing the compost. Your compost must get just the right amount of moisture to fasten the breakdown process. If the compost is too dry, decomposition will be slow; if too wet, it will emit foul odors, and corrosion will be slowed.
Moisture has to do with the location of your compost bin, as well. The best thing to do is to position your container in a dry and shady place above the soil and within the vicinity of a water source.
Furthermore, the airflow in your compost will define the speed by which decomposition will take place. To ensure optimal aeration, you can move your compost around every once in a while. You should observe as well that the materials you will put in your bin are chopped into smaller pieces.
What should I not put in my composting bin?
Not all wastes can be recycled into valuable plant and soil fertilizers. It’s important to learn how to start composting at home the proper way. In fact, many foods can bring more harm than good to your crops, soil, and even health. Here are some of the wastes that you should never put in your compost bin:
1. Dairy and other animal products
These wastes will undoubtedly produce a foul odor in your compost and will draw pests like flies and rodents. Worse, animal products may carry pathogens that can bring harm to your health. However, when you learn how to start composting at home, you learn to recognize what to add and what to avoid.
2. Colored or glossy paper
The wastes might contain sources of chemicals, which are bad for human, animal, and plant health. Watch what you compost if the end result will be used in your garden areas.
3. Diseased or insect-ridden plants
There is a substantial possibility that plant diseases and insects might endure the decomposition and come back to plants. However, when you ensure that you manage your composting properly, the possibility of future disease and insects lessens.
Is Home Composting Easy?
Composting isn’t that difficult, is it? Now that you’re aware of the benefits of composting and have understood how it works, you can finally start composting your wastes. Save your money and stop buying chemical fertilizers that can affect your health in the long run.
It may take time and a bit of effort, but the results of composting never disappoint. In addition, remember to play around with the ratio of your browns and greens and the moisture level inside the bin. Is it difficult to how to start composting at home? Not really. In fact, with more practice, you will master the formula for the perfect compost for your plants and crops!