You might be dumping your garbage regularly in the dustbin allotted by your apartment or colony. In India, local governments send trash trucks or similar vehicles for collecting garbage regularly.
The usual practice is to separate the organic waste from the inorganic one. It means that plastic, metal, fiber and other kinds of litter that do not decompose easily need to be separated from the remains of fruits, vegetables, food and other items that are decomposable.
However, do you know that organic waste materials can be converted into compost that can be utilized for your garden and plants? Compost is organic matter that can be added as a fertilizer to flowering plants, trees and veggies.
You can dig a hole big enough to accommodate your regular garbage and make it a point to throw only organic waste into it. However, it is better to use a DIY compost bin that enables you to move, churn and provide enough space and air to the compost pile.
Plastic, metal, fabrics or any other material that will not decompose will hinder the compost-making procedure. Therefore, avoid adding these to your compost pile. Once you have accumulated enough garbage in it, cover it with dry leaves, soil, etc. Bacteria, fungi, microbes and other microorganisms will speed up the process of decomposition, and you may get high-quality compost within a few months.
A high-quality compost consists of trace elements, humus, humic acid and other nutrients that enrich your soil by enhancing its biological, physical and chemical properties. The capacity of soil to hold water is also increased. Soil that contains compost inhibits the growth of harmful pests and organisms.
Simple process to make compost
Making compost is one of the simplest processes as it does not involve the use of any fancy equipment and tools. Also, you don’t need a large space to make compost, as you can find a small place in your backyard to start the process. Even nature has its way of turning fallen leaves, fruits and other degrading matter to compost, but that mostly takes place in areas like forests where there is minimum human intervention.
As a hobbyist gardener, you need to gather basic information regarding the appropriate proportion of carbon and nitrogen required to fasten the process. It is important because microbes need both carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) to thrive. Therefore, you need to include the right amount of the ingredients that contain these gases to maintain the perfect C/N ratio. Ideally, the perfect C/N ratio should be 25:1, which means that your organic dump must contain 25 parts of C for each part of N.
Different organic materials have different C/N ratios. For instance, vegetable scraps have a C/N ratio in the range of 15 to 20:1, whereas the C/N ratio of grass blades ranges from 15 to 25:1. Therefore, you have to select the perfect blend of organic waste to reach the ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio.
When you hit the appropriate ratio, microbes work furiously to consume nitrogen and carbon, and in the process, they generate heat that further helps organic matter to decompose. The hotter your garbage heap is, the better compost you will get at the end.
While it is absolutely necessary to hit the right C/N ratio, it is not everything when it comes to making compost. The right ratio will help the heap to decompose faster, but even if you are not able to bring in the right combination of organic waste, your dump will eventually break down and decompose to form compost.
You can research more on the Internet to find the right balance of organic materials that will help you reach closer to the ideal C/N ratio. Also, the temperature between 113 and 158 degree Fahrenheit is enough to create high-quality compost.
Air and water are the other ingredients that you should focus on while making compost. Air is essential because it contains oxygen that microorganisms thrive on. The same goes for water as well because microbes cannot live without moisture.
Ideally, the moisture range of your pile should be between 45 and 65 percent. The dump should not be too watery or too dry, else you will miss the target by a mile!
Green waste materials are considered to be rich in nitrogen whereas brown waste is rich in carbon. Therefore, the C/N ratio is sometimes referred to as the brown to green ratio. Some of the common examples of brown and green waste materials are listed in the table below:
Clipped grass blades
Plant shoots and stems
You should also get an idea about the things that you would be using from inside and outside your house to make compost. While it is possible to find most things inside, you may have to venture outside to collect some things like tree bark, manure, etc.
Things that one should avoid adding to the compost heap
While you should be aware of the organic waste materials that work best for compost, you should also be aware of the materials that you should avoid adding to the heap. These materials can interfere with the decomposition process and may reduce your compost’s final quality and texture. As a beginner, you should avoid incorporating these things in the compost heap:
Outside things to avoid:
- Seeds (plant or weed seeds) that may sprout in the compost in the future
- Remains of plants and crops that are diseased
- Waste of animals (especially the carnivores)
- Grass and crops that have been treated with chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers as you don’t want to add any synthetic materials to your garbage dump
Inside things to avoid:
- Meat, dairy items, bones, etc., as they might contain diseased pathogens and may attract critter and odor in your compost pile
Many experienced compost makers prefer adding wood ash to their compost pile. Wood ash is added as it contains calcium, boron, potassium and other trace elements. However, adding too much wood ash is not recommended as it is alkaline. It may increase the pH levels of the compost that might not be good for the soil. Ideally, you should just sprinkle the ash around the compost after every few weeks.
Inoculants or activators
As decomposition of the organic waste might need a few to several months, you would also be tempted to add certain products that can accelerate the decomposition process. These products are known as inoculants or activators.
Synthetic activators like urea, ammonium, phosphate, etc., that are rich in nitrogen can be added. However, would you like to add synthetic activators to your compost that consists of natural ingredients? If the answer is no, you can add natural activators like urine, blood meal (dried), manure, etc., to accelerate the process.
Should I add newspapers, pamphlets, bills, account statements, etc., to the compost pile?
Many compost makers are confused about whether they should be adding paper, bills, brochures, bank statements, etc., to a compost pile. The most common routine is to shred the paper and cardboard with the help of a shredder and then to add them to the heap. However, paper and materials printed with ink that is made from heavy metals should be avoided at all costs. Only materials that are printed with water or plant-based ink should be added to the compost pile.
How does compost assist plant growth?
The best part of compost is humus, the dark, organic matter infused with nutrients. Humus breaks down the soil into smaller particles allowing free movement of water and air through it. It enables the roots of a plant to access nutrients, water and air without any obstruction.
Soil rich in humus can hold water for a longer time and also minimizes the risk of soil erosion. Moreover, humus comprises compounds that control the toxins that hinder the process of nutrient absorption by plants.
Some of the key benefits of compost are highlighted below:
- Provides a much better environment for roots by making the soil porous and by improving its structure
- Minimizes run-off and erosion, which ultimately improve soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients for a longer time
- Provides organic matter to soil
- Promotes rapid growth of roots
- It helps plants to absorb the nutrients in a better way
- Makes soil fertile
- Inhibits the growth of pathogens that consume nutrients of the soil
- Minimize gas emissions in greenhouses
If you follow all these tips, you can master the process of home composting without any issues. For more strategies and tips related to composting, keep reading our blogs and articles.