In many regions, organic waste makes up the highest percentage of waste flow. It is attributed to a lack of awareness on how to make compost. This leads to environmental pollution and high costs of waste disposal. This article gets into the details on what is compositing and the ideal methods to utilise in the process.
What Is Compost?
Composting is a process of breaking down organic waste into stable substances. The controlled process helps in proper soil conditioning (BBC 2014). Microorganisms living in the soil are responsible for the breaking down of the waste into valuable natural fertiliser. Compositing is, therefore, the most effective way of recycling organic waste.
Notably, composting is the same as natural decomposition save for the fact that the former is enhanced and accelerated using a range of ingredients. The human effort, in this case, is to ensure that the microbial growth is optimised. You must, therefore, be aware of how to compost to achieve satisfactory results.
What Are The Different Types Of Composting?
There are several types of composting. They are:
Onsite composting. Here, individuals or residents conduct the activity in their backyard. Homeowners and firms can reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of to the landfills. As you get into details about how to make compost at home, you will realise that animal waste and large quantities of waste are unsuitable for the method.
Vermicomposting. This method involves placing red worms or field worms in bins containing organic matter. The bins can be customised to suit the waste matter in a residential or commercial setting.
Aerated windrow composting. In this case, the organic matter is formed into rows and aerated. The pile is turned periodically manually or mechanically. The height of the pile must be around 4 to 8 feet while the width should be 14 to 16 feet. The height and width are good enough to generate enough heat for composting.
Aerated static pile composting. The organic waste is mixed with one large pile as opposed to rows. The layers of building agents are added to the pile to aerate it accordingly. The piles may also be placed over numerous pipes that deliver the necessary air.
The types of composting can also be categorised as either:
Aerobic composting. In this case, air is introduced to help break down the waste materials quickly. Green matter must be added to the waste because it contains the nitrogen required for the process. Moisture may also be added, and the pile must be turned regularly.
Anaerobic composting. This process does not utilise air to break down the waste. Instead, the compost pile is allowed to decompose over time. The process is associated with the composting that takes place in landfills. It is unhealthy because it can lead to the production of methane gas, which is known to pollute the environment.
What Is Ericaceous Compost?
The word ericaceous refers to plants in the Ericaceae family. This is inclusive of rhododendron, azalea, pieris, and gardenia, among others. The plants are known to grow in acidic conditions. Ericaceous compost refers to the process of composting waste matter for growing plants that thrive in acidic conditions. Such plants are likely to turn yellow when grown in alkaline conditions. Dyer (2018) explains that the plants need a lot of iron and other nutrients that tend to be locked up in soils that have high pH. It becomes daunting for the plants to absorb them, which can lead to poor production of flowers and fruits. Death may also occur in some cases.
What Are The Benefits Of Composting?
Composting comes with a range of benefits, including:
Soil conditioning. Composting helps you to create rich humus and retain soil moisture in a garden or lawn. You are assured of better crops yield and healthy plants in this regard. BBC (2014) adds that the manure can be stored for a long time, ensuring that the farmer gets its benefits throughout the year or season.
It helps recycle kitchen and yard waste. Organic waste goes to the landfills once you throw it to the garbage can. The problem with this is that the matter takes a long time to decompose quickly. It explains why most of the landfills in the country are full. On the other hand, composting reduces the amount of waste that goes into the garbage cans.
It has environmental benefits. You can finally get rid of chemical fertilisers that pollute the environment through composting. When properly done, composting helps you to reduce odour in your community while at the same time doing away with vector issues. Weed seeds and pathogens are effectively eliminated from the environment.
It helps minimise on the cost of waste management. You will not have to spend a lot of money paying for waste disposal once you know how to make a compost heap in your backyard. The local authorities will also utilise fewer resources to treat waste.
How Do Compost Bins Work
Compost bins are utilised to make compost before it is used in the garden. The bins are specially designed to hasten the process of decomposition since the moisture is retained properly (BBC 2014). The right aeration is also achieved, which ensures that the activity of aerobic organisms is encouraged and hasted. It is worth noting that the same process may take place in a pile or heap of waste in a landfill. Even so, the bin helps to speed up the decomposition. You are also able to avoid odours, pests and insects in your backyard.
While some of the bins can be bought from a local store, others are homemade. Some of the materials that can be used to make the bins are:
- Cinder blocks
- Wire fencing
How To Compost
Given that there are many benefits of knowing how to build a compost bin, it is advisable that you engage in the activity. You can achieve this easily by following these steps:
1. Purchase or make a compost bin. You can find the bins from an online search or from the stores that specialise in agricultural supplies. Ensure that the size of the bin is good enough to contain your organic waste.
2. Determine the right place for your bin. As Better Homes and Gardens (2019) indicate, it is wise to find an accessible place for the bin so that you do not strain to carry the organic waste. However, the bin must not be placed near areas where your children and pet frequent. It must also be away from the eating areas.
3. Fill your bin. Here, you are required to start by making a thick layer of coarse materials such as mulch or twigs. It acts as drainage and helps eliminate sludge. You should then utilise the three layer system. You could start with kitchen scraps or garden clippings. Add dry leaves and paper to top the layer. Henceforth, you should sprinkle the waste with water. Further, you should sprinkle the soil or finished compost to reduce odours and get rich compost.
4. Maintain the compost. The essential thing in this step is to aerate the compost. It can be done weekly to ensure that the waste does not turn into methane. You could also place pipes through the heap to allow for aeration.
Note That a Composter Must Be Chosen Based On The Following Factors:
If you live in an urban setting, there is a chance that you may not have an outdoor setting. You can use a worm bin or put differently, engage in vermin composting. In a rural or suburban area, you can utilise an open compost pile.
The type of materials used depends on what is available in your area and the results that you desire. When gathering the materials, answer a question such as how much compost do I need? This way, you will only gather the necessary materials and thus avoid littering your backyard
Whether you wish to turn your compost manually or otherwise. In this case, you can use a compost tumbler so that you do not have to turn the waste manually.
What Are The Simplest Compositing Methods?
You do not have to struggle when starting your own composting. Utilise the simplest methods by following these steps:
Make a compost pile at a corner in your backyard. You can make a simple bin by using wood or any other material available in your home. It will make everything look tidy.
Start collecting things that can be placed in the bin or pile. You can find weeds from your backyard and food scraps from the kitchen. Take the material to the pile on a daily basis so that the pile can build up quickly.
When it comes to getting the rich and fertile compost for your garden, you must wait. It takes a while before the material completely decomposes. Add water and turn the waste so that the process can be efficient and effective.
Notably, you may not have to turn the compost if you thoroughly mix in sufficient amounts of coarse materials such as straw. The compost will develop faster and in the same way as it is the case when you are turning the waste. In any case, it has been noted that the levels of nitrogen may be high when you do not turn the compost.
Use the compost. It does not make sense to go through the process of understanding how a composting toilet works and then fail to test whether the compost works. Spread it in your garden and indoor plants in small amounts. You will soon realise that your home will burst with life and health as the compost provides the necessary nutrients for the plants or flowers. It is also advisable to start the process all over again so that you can have a constant supply of compost in your backyard.
Can I Use Ericaceous Compost On All Plants?
Ericaceous compost is ideal for growing plants that thrive in acidic conditions. You are encouraged to measure the pH in your garden to determine whether the soil is ideal for such plants. If not, you can use ericaceous compost to improve the soil conditions. It can be used for plants such as raspberries, parsley, blueberries, tomatoes and camellias. However, you cannot use the compost for all plants since some of them only grow in alkaline or lime conditions. It is therefore critical that you do proper research to determine the type of plants that grow well in acidic conditions.
What Do You Put In a Compost Bin?
One of the mistakes that people make is that they do not determine what can be composted. Getting the best results is, indeed, daunting without the necessary information. You must ask questions such as can you compost tea bags? You will get the answers through proper research.
Here are some of the materials that you can use:
- Eggs or crab shells
- Tea grounds
The materials used in a compost bin should be organic, which means that they must have the capacity to decay through natural processes (BBC 2014). For instance, tea bags may not be ideal if the materials used to make them cannot decompose.
What Should You Not Put In a Compost Bin?
You should avoid putting the following items on the compost bin:
- Toxic materials
- Processed food
- Pet poop
Certainly, learning how to make compost at home is beneficial for you, the environment, and the society in general. The best thing is that you can utilise the simplest of methods of composting to get incredible results. Even so, you must research aspects such as what can you put in the compost bin, what is peat free compost, and how long does compost take. You must also differentiate between different types of compost and determine when to use ericaceous compost.
BBC, 2014, Making compost. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/soil_makecompost1.shtml
on 24th June 2019.
Better Homes and Gardens, 2019, How to make compost. Available from https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/
on 25th June 2019
Dyer, M H 2018, What is ericaceous compost: Information and plants for acidic compost. Available from https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/basics/ericaceous-compost-info.htm
on 24th June 2019
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.