It’s such a long time ago that I started composting at home, I can’t even remember when it was exactly.
At first, it was done in a very simple way: I dug holes in the garden and threw the kitchen waste and coffee drab in them. Later we bought special containers that moved with us to every new house and even emigrated with us.
Over time, we have become more and more precise with what we throw in the compost heap. At first, I used to throw all our kitchen waste, tea bags, and coffee filters on the pile, nowadays we absolutely don’t want everything in the compost anymore.
In this article, I will explain what you should and should not throw on the heap. What requirements should an organic compost heap meet? What system can you use? Which materials and tools do you need? In other words, how do you start organic composting at home?
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Table of contents
What is composting?
Simply said, composting is the process of decomposing organic materials into simpler elements. The result is a rich earth-like substance that improves the soil of your garden or potting soil. It’s marvelous to use in the kitchen garden to fertilize your crop.
The time it takes for the organic materials to fully compost, depends on the mixture, the climate, the size of the twigs and leaves, the presence of decomposing organisms, and the management of the pile. In general, it will take 2 to 6 months to have the best result.
One of the advantages of composting our organic waste is that this reduces, by 20-30%, the amount of garbage we throw into the dumpster. Another one is that we give back to the garden the nutrients that we have extracted with our harvest.
How to start composting at home?
If you have a garden, you can start immediately the same way I did years ago: dig a hole somewhere between the plants, throw in your waste, and scoop the soil back over it. Is your garden large then you can make a heap in a corner.
There are compost containers without a bottom for sale. Or you can make your own from planks or from mesh frames.
Composting is usually aerobic, which means that the air provides the energy for the composting process. This makes it very important that the compost bin is not completely closed. Our containers have a lid which we rarely use because of this.
Living in an apartment?
When you don’t have a garden it’s a bit more complicated, because composting and a compost bin need space. There are some alternatives.
- You can use a worm bucket (if you are not averse to worms);
- A complete and closed system is the Bokashi bucket. The system is different from the usual way of composting because it’s an anaerobic system based on fermentation (meaning that no outside air is involved). Because of this, you can throw many things in the bin that you’d better not put in the aerobic compost pile;
- If there are allotments or a community garden in your neighborhood you can ask whether it’s possible to bring your organic waste over there.
What are the steps in the composting process?
In optimal conditions, equal parts of garden waste, kitchen waste, and soil are mixed together. In addition, other things such as lime, horse or sheep manure, or compost accelerator can optionally be added.
During the composting process, the pile needs water. We have a bucket in the sink under the tap. Every time we rinse something, such as our hands, the excess water is collected in the bucket. When it is full, Tom throws the water on the pile.
In addition to water, air is also needed. From time to time it is necessary to turn the stack over so that the matter gets enough air.
If you only buy organic produce and do not use pesticides and herbicides in your kitchen garden, you have an excellent toxic-free mixture to condition the soil. We even buy our potting soil at the ecological store.
What goes into the compost heap?
- Biological scraps;
- Kitchen waste;
- Coffee drab;
- Vegetable oil;
- Unbleached paper and kraft;
- Chicken, goat, cow, and horse manure;
- Weeds that are not yet in bloom;
- Withered plants;
- Finely chopped prunings.
Build layers of green, brown waste, and soil, and put the layer of the soil always in last to avoid a bad smell and fruit flies.
What should you not put in compost?
- Cooked food;
- Non-biological scraps;
- Citrus peels. They digest slowly and are acidic, which hinders worm activity;
- Overblown weeds;
- Seeds. They will germinate in the compost bin or later in your garden;
- Sick plants;
- Meat and bones;
- Fish and fish bones;
- Pet feces and cat litter;
- The paper of tea bags and coffee filters. Usually, these contain glue with plastic particles;
- Stones, plastic, metal, glass;
- Bleached and/or printed paper;
- Branches that are too big.
Which materials do you need?
To begin composting you’ll need some tools and materials to get started. Many of these items are at the hardware or gardening store. Some you can make yourself. You can also buy home composting kits. These kits come with everything you need and provide a relatively smell-free composting experience.
- Compost bin or bottomless crate;
- Well-drained area in the garden.
Organic composting at home
It’s very easy to make your own compost. Try out what method pleases you most. For instance, at first, we had a bucket in the kitchen cupboard under the sink and emptied it every couple of days on the pile. But it smelled too much to our liking.
Now we have a plate on the sink and empty it as soon as there is too much on it. We should cover it immediately with soil but most of the time we take the fruit flies for granted. The pile is far enough from the house.
We have 2 containers. One gets filled layer by layer. Sometimes we get some horse manure from a neighbor, which goes in as well. Every now and then we stir through the bin. When it’s full, the last layer of soil is a bit more than usual and then we leave it alone for a couple of months. And continue in the other container.
Do you make your own compost? Tell us in the comment box below.