It is estimated that the average American produces around 5 pounds of trash on a daily basis. If you do the math, this is just shy of 2,000 pounds per year. While we cannot stop this from happening, we can at least turn the waste we produce into something useful.
I’m talking about compost.
Home composting is very eco-friendly and offers a nice, convenient way to manage your kitchen and garden waste.
But, composting is not very straightforward – there are a number of things to have in mind before and when doing it.
If you are a beginner, this guide on how to make compost is for you.
How to Make Compost for Beginners
These are the steps to follow to come up with effective compost.
1. Tell Your Family About It
Composting is so demanding that everyone that shares a home with you need to know about it in advance. This not only prevents people from throwing away your banana peels but also can help you get fresh, useful ideas about compositing. Moreover, you can get a few helping hands just by declaring to your family members that you plan to make compost soon.
2. Choose The Perfect Time To Make Compost
Once every member of the family has assured you that they are absolutely okay with you doing your thing, the next move is to settle on the perfect time to make compost. Luckily, you will not need to give this much thought since compost can be made any time of the year.
While that is the case, it has been proven that late summer to early winter should be your target.
3. Pick Your Spot
Before you get down to composting, make sure you settle on the perfect spot. Choosing the right place to make compost cannot be emphasized enough. Get it wrong and your compost will be far from what you expected.
So, what do you need to look out for to make sure your composting spot is the right one?
First, avoid the temptation of placing your heap on the slab and put it directly on the soil. This makes it easy and very much possible for the bin or heap to be accessed by insects, worms, and soil-dwelling microbes. Once they have access to your heap, these organisms will try to decompose everything, and this, in turn, yields better results.
Ideally, you should note that the compost heap should not be placed somewhere likely to experience a lot of changes in temperature. Instead, place it in a spot with partial shade. In such a place, your compost will not dry out during sunny days or become saturated when the weather gets wet.
Also, placing the compost heap in a partially shaded place helps micro-organisms thrive. It is worth noting that micro-organisms that decompose the heap prefer constant conditions.
Now, what if you do not have plenty of space in your garden? According to mashable.com, that is not a problem, as all you need is a small cardboard box. Once you have it, fill it with fruit and vegetable wastes until it is full.
After that, put it into the soil and then leave it there to decompose. You should make sure the waste is nicely buried to deter any rodents that may have other thoughts. Also, make sure the box does not have anything that is not biodegradable. This includes plastic tape and packaging stickers, among others.
4. Have Basic Supplies At Hand
If you plan to make compost in a place with not too much space then you already know that you need to have a small cardboard box. Cardboard boxes are very easy to acquire and, in most cases, you will not have to buy one. This not only provides you with a convenient way to reuse your cardboard box but also cardboard boxes are a source of carbon – one of the major ingredients plants need to grow.
Alternatively, you can go for a composting bin. You must note, though, that composting bins are not as easy to acquire as cardboard boxes. You will have to purchase one.
Another basic supply you will need is a kitchen pail to collect all the kitchen wastes.
5. Know What To Compost And What To Avoid
The common composting materials are divided into various categories. These are green, brown, lime, and accelerators & activators. Green includes fruit and vegetables, selected pet waste and bedding, grass clippings, uncooked kitchen waste, and soft, leafy plants.
Brown includes plant stems, straw, pruning and hedge trimmings, paper and card, leaves, and woodchip. You should note that pruning and hedge trimmings should be shredded. Paper and card should be shredded as well or simply torn before being placed into the compost bin.
The reason why you need both green and brown wastes is that the soft, green garden waste is rich in nitrogen, while the dry brown waste is rich in carbon. As mentioned earlier, your heap needs this for outstanding results.
You should not compost the following:
- Bones or meat
- Diseased plant material
- Weed roots and seeds
- Leftovers that are not primarily plant material
Also, note that tougher plant material, like stalks and branches, takes longer to break down. You may, therefore, choose to leave them out of your compost.
6. Understand the Different Types of Composting
There are 2 main types of composting – cold and hot.
Cold composting is much easier than hot composting. Here, all you need to do is to collect organic materials and other permitted kitchen wastes and then stack them in a bin or simply pile them up. These materials will decompose over time.
While hot composting is not as easy as cold composting, it takes a significantly shorter time to yield results. Normally, hot composting takes 1 – 3 months to be ready. Four ingredients are needed for hot composting to be a success. These are air, water, nitrogen, and carbon.
These ingredients speed up the decay by making micro-organisms have plenty to feed on.
The best time to carry out hot composting is in spring or fall. This is because, during this period, there is plenty of garden waste to turn into compost.
Relate: Best Compost Bin
7. Start Making Compost
Once everyone you live with is aware of your plans to compost and you have the right supplies for composting, it is time to get down to work.
Assuming you have all the materials for composting ready and you have already made a pile, the next move you may want to consider is to add water, especially if the pile is dry. This will help everything decompose much faster.
Also, make sure you add air to the heap, as this is necessary for compost to occur. But, how exactly do you do this?
Well, the easiest way is to turn the heap on a regular basis, which, to be precise, is after every one month. You can turn the heap using a shovel or pitchfork. This prevents the compost from becoming anaerobic with a slimy appearance. It also gives you an opportunity to assess the moisture level and add water if necessary.
Another thing you should note about this beginners’ guide on how to make compost is to get the balance of composting materials right. This is because micro-organisms and bacteria work great when the balance between green and brown composting materials is spot on.
With that said, the amount of soft green materials in your compost should be between 25 and 50-percent. These soft green materials are the food of micro-organisms. The rest should be woody brown materials such as dead leaves, paper, cardboard, wood chippings, etc.
Remember that if one group of materials dominate the other, you are likely to end up with compost that is very slimy and overly smelly. Also, remember to mix grass clippings or kitchen waste with brown woody material. This is because they compact and wet easily, thereby, preventing air from getting into the compost.
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It takes between 6 months and 2 years for compost to hit maturity. To know whether compost is ready for use, check the color, feel the texture, and try to smell it. The color should be dark brown and the texture should be crumbly soil-like in nature. The smell, on the other hand, should be similar to that of damp woodland.