How To Compost at Home (2020 Guide)
You might be wondering what the point in composting much of your organic matter is, surely it’ll decompose when I throw it in the bin anyway?
Unfortunately this isn’t true, that’s down to the conditions inside landfill. Landfill is an anaerobic environment in other words it’s oxygen deprived, as a result the microorganisms normally responsible for breaking organic matter down and allowing the nutrients to return to earth can’t do their magic.
In fact, the mechanism by which material breaks down in landfill results in a lot of methane being produced which is a greenhouse gas and leads to global warming.
Clearly then composting is the way to go, but don’t be mistaken in thinking you can just chuck all your organic waste in a pile or bin and your job is done. The microorganisms involved in composting are fussy and require a bit of love and care if they are to do their job and produce that awesome compost!
You may also think that because you don’t have a garden so composting is off the table for you. That’s not the case, you can offer your organic waste up for curbside composting or compost yourself and use the compost for house plants or offer it up to neighbours and local gardens.
In this post we’ll include a guide for composting in a garden space and indoors, so without further ado let's get stuck into the guide.
There are a few keys to successful composting in your garden. Namely, getting the environmental conditions right and composting the right materials in the right proportions to make sure you produce some A grade compost!
Select a space large enough to store 6 months to 2 years of organic waste as this is how long it typically takes for compost to mature. You can build your own compost heap or buy a ready made compost bin.
Once you have your bin/heap space ready you need to make sure the following environmental conditions are met:
- Make sure the compost isn’t exposed to extremes of light or temperature, a shaded area works best.
- Allow for some drainage at the bottom of your compost. If your heap is on a hard surface or your bin is sealed stick some soil at the bottom to act as drainage.
- Make sure your bin is shielded from rain, will retain some warmth and lets in air.
The conditions above will ensure your microorganisms are happy and produce top compost.
But it’s not just the conditions that matter, microorganisms are also fussy eaters so for best results follow the tips below:
- Compost with 25-50% soft green materials this includes - leafy plant clippings and grass clippings, kitchen vegetable and fruit waste and manure.
- For the remainder of your composting materials use brown materials which includes - paper, wood chippings, branches, paper and cardboard.
Striking this balance is important as it is crucial for producing decent compost and avoiding a smelly slimy mess.
Finally give your compost heap a turn every month or so to keep it aerated and ensure you’re getting a good supply of oxygen and in 6 months to a year you should have dark brown powdery compost that has the smell of woodland - the good stuff!
Composting indoors is obviously may not seem as easy or appealing as when you have a garden but there are plenty of options out there, lets take a look at the best:
Worm composting is one of the most popular methods of composting at home. It makes use of composting worms (that like to live in decaying organic matter unlike earth worms) and a worm bin with 2 layers - the upper layer where the composting takes place and a lower collecting area.
It’s important to maintain certain conditions to keep your worms happy and make sure they compost efficiently, these are:
- Warm moist conditions ideally around room temperature to keep your worms most active.
- The worms prefer neutral pH and well ventilated conditions to live in.
To get started with your worm composter add a layer roughly 8cm deep of compost, then add your worms on top followed by another 8cm layer of organic kitchen waste. Feed your worms little but often and make sure your kitchen scraps are cut up to allow it to be eaten faster, if you notice that your kitchen scraps are still there after a few days stop feeding your worms to allow them time to work through the top layers of compost.
Bokashi composting is the simplest of composting techniques and differs from traditional composting in that dairy and meat scraps can be included for composting too.
That’s because composting occurs in an anaerobic environment and uses different bacteria, the outcome is a waste that can be used directly as compost or added to aerobic compost and a “compost tea” full of nutrients that can be used to water indoor plants.
To get started purchase a commercial bokashi bin, make sure the bran is included as this is what you will need for the Bokashi to perform it’s magic. The process itself is dead simple - lightly coat your kitchen waste with the bran included then press into the bottom of the bin and coat once again with a light coating of the bran.
Seal the bin and repeat the process until the bin is full. Once full seal the bin up and draw off the liquid daily (the liquid can be used as a fertiliser itself or even used to keep drains and pipes free of slime!).
The most important tip to ensuring success with Bokashi composting is to keep the compost well compacted and the bin stored airtight. Unlike other composting techniques Bokashi is anaerobic so requires an oxygen free enviornment to avoid decay.
FYI: The reason the anaerobic conditions in a Bokashi are preferable to landfill is down to the microorganisms included in the bran mixture.
So there you have it, there’s a composting option for everyone. Composting is an important part of the solution to food waste and ensures important nutrients aren’t going to waste, if you follow these simple steps above you can have your own home composting system in no time and have your own organic compost at home.
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We posed some questions to Patricia to get her valuable insight on all things zero-waste.
Check out the interview below: