It is every gardener’s mantra that nothing in nature should ever be wasted. From dead plants to rotting fruits and even vegetable peels, these natural elements are haven for excellent compost to grow a thriving garden. Learning how to make compost at home is a worthwhile project to take. Home composts allow homeowners to zero in on leftovers and wastes to produce fertile soil for their hearty gardens and landscapes.
But why is it better to learn this on your own and what specific guidelines can be done to make the project a success?
Why Compost At Home
One of the wonders in growing a fertile garden is to use compost, or decomposed organic items produced by break down of garbage and/or biodegradable trash by natural bacteria in soil. Many expert gardeners, in fact, lauded the use of compost not just in their gardens but also in landscape amendment. Aside from composting is for free with only kitchen or backyard waste and clippings being used, it also save money from buying fertile soil to mix into your land. Soil mixed with compost from natural produce waste allow more productive growth in vegetables, herbs, and other garden plants. It does not only improve your garden’s soil structure, it also improves its overall texture and aeration capabilities.
Of course, adding compost is so much cleverer than buying and adding fertilizer. Growing an organic herb, vegetable or rose garden the natural way will ultimately give that distinct feeling of goodness and serenity knowing that nothing touches your haven but all things that nature can offer without the risks.
Before going into the details of how to prepare compost at home let’s take a look at different types of compost.
Different Types of Composting
There are two types of composting: cold and hot. Cold composting is the process of simply collecting yard waste or organic waste materials from your kitchen like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells, etc and then gathering them in a pile or bin. Over some time these would decompose to form compost.
Hot composting, on the other hand, is a much faster process for making compost at home. With this process, you’ll get compost in one to three months if the weather is warm. There are four main ingredients that are required for the fast formation of hot compost: nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items form the feeding materials of the microorganisms, which speed up the process of decay. During spring season or fall when garden waste becomes aplenty, you can mix one big batch of compost and then start a second one while the first starts decomposing.
There is another type of composting process that you should be aware of Vermicompost. Vermicompost is the process of making compost where worms eat the food scraps and release their castings, which are rich in nitrogen. However, you can’t just use any old worms. For vermicompost, redworms also called “red wigglers” are used which can be purchased online or from a garden supplier.
What Can You Use To Make Compost At Home?
You can start with items from your refrigerator that you have not used or unlikely to use. Keeping a container in your kitchen, like this white ceramic compost bucket below which can be purchased from Amazon, is one of the easiest ways to start collecting composting materials.
This 3.3 liter i.e .75-gallon ceramic countertop composter comes with a vented lid that has a charcoal filter that absorbs odors, thus keeping your kitchen smelling fresh. You can collect up to 3 quarts of food scraps right in your kitchen with this countertop composter. To clean, simply rinse it with warm water. This comes with 2 additional charcoal filter.
If you don’t want to buy one, make your own indoor or outdoor homemade compost bin. Start by collecting these materials to start off your compost pile right: Fruit scraps and peels, Vegetable scraps and peels like cucumber peels, coffee grounds, dry leaves, finely chopped wood and bark chips, shredded newspaper.
Note: It is better to not add onions and garlic scraps or peels to your homemade compost pile as they are known to repel earthworms, which are a vital part of your garden. Also for beginners, it is better to avoid eggshells as they do not break down as much. It’s likely that you will have those little eggshell pieces in your compost when you pull it out.
What Materials To Avoid in Home Composting
There are certain items, if used in compost is likely to generate bad smell and attract pests and other animals. So it is best to avoid these items for a compost pile: Anything that contains meat, oil, fat, or grease, dog or cat poops, dairy products
So, how do you get started with your home compost project? While each and everyone has a different level of commitment, the following guidelines will suffice in kickstarting a productive and worthwhile home-composting project.
- Location, Location. Select the perfect site for your compost bin. You may want to keep it out of your neighbors’ sensitive olfactories by finding a spot with adequate airflow as well as easy access to water. Consider also an area where enough shade is present during summer or warmer condition and adequate protection during winter.
- Compost Bin. Some gardening experts can do very well by making compost straight to their garden plots. Others also have the patience to make their own composters using recycled non-compost savvy materials in their own home. For beginners, however, it is highly recommended to invest in a good rotating bin for ease and protection from lurking scavengers in your yard.
- Compost Items Selection. Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t always mean they go straight to the compost bin. As already discussed above – you can’t add meat or animal products. So are coal ash, weeds, pet droppings or litter, cooked food, dairy products, plate scrapings, glass, glossy paper, metal, and other synthetic materials. You may, however, add egg shells, vegetable peels and scraps, newspaper, lawn clippings, leaves, vegan animal manure, tea bags, cardboard, coffee ground and filters, and grass or fruit scraps.
If you love coffee and having it every day, the coffee accumulates the coffee grounds in your compost pile. If you use unbleached filters, you can put them in the pile too. Also if you make herbal tea from herbs in your garden, after you make the tea, you can put those used herbs in your compost pile as well.
Composting is basically about the microbial decomposition of your compost pile. So you can dig up a three by three-foot space on the ground to put all your compost pile ground. There are also different types of compost makers that you can use like black plastic which helps in retaining the heat. Remember that, heat is a vital thing for composting which helps the microbes to break down the organic matter
Combine your green or wet items with your brown or dry items and put all of them in your composting space. The only thing you need to think about regarding composting is having the right proportion of wet and dry items.
Start with the dry items and add the wet and layer it up. When you next time check your compost pile if it seems a little too wet and you smell anything add drier composting items On the other hand. if it seems dry you may want to add more we items or you may even put some water in it to make it moist.
Unlike the popular belief that it smells bad, actually, it should smell like good soil as it’s being made. Note: if you have some twigs along with dry leaves in your compost pile, the twigs will not decompose, so don’t put twigs or remove them. The dry leaves will actually decompose quickly.
- Monitoring System. You can’t just dump everything into your compost bin and expect it to thrive on its own. It is essential to set up a sound monitoring system touching on these 4 aspects– aeration, temperature, moisture and carbon-nitrogen ratio. Compost must be hot or warm to the touch, at around 140-deg to 160-deg F. So, check regularly by sticking a hand into the pile’s center or get a compost thermometer. If it’s turning cold, turn it over. Adding the right amount of water will also keep moisture just right. It must be moist but not soaking wet. A pitchfork must also come handy in turning your pile regularly. A compost aerator also is quite handy. Keep in mind that efficient decomposition can only take place with enough oxygen present. When it comes carbon-nitrogen ratio (approximately 25-30:1), this rule of thumb must be remembered– all things brown are considered richer in terms of carbon content than greenish organic waste.
Is you are not using a ceramic compost bin, as discussed before, you can use an earthenware pot for collecting all your composting items. You will have to empty it after every few days but it’s a good way to just easily put it in a countertop and then you can take it out to the compost pile.
If you’re starting your compost pile out, one of the best ways to get all those microbes is to use some compost starter like this one here which contains bacterial culture. Just add one of these packets into one gallon water, allow it to dissolve and then pour it in your compost pile.
You will start noticing the change in a week. Each of this dissolvable packet can treat 9 cubic feet of compost and covert them to hummus quickly.
For a beginner, taking the help of a compost starter is recommended. There are several compost starter brands available online like the one above. Just ensure that you get an organic compost starter that is full of microbes that are ready to go. If it has some alfalfa and kelp meal in there as well that’s an additional bonus.
Add the compost starter by mixing it in water and add to your compost pile. You can do this several times every year or every month. After a few months in the compost bin, you’ll have this great compost which kind of looks like crumbled chocolate cake. Spread it on your flowerbeds and in your pots and with just these kitchen scraps and a little bit of time and the right microbes you’ll have the happiest garden you can have.
- Best Composting Time. There really is no best composting time. You can do composting all year round without any hitch. However, adequate care must be done when composting in the winter. When the temperature starts freezing, so does the decomposition of elements in your bin. A sprinkle of dried leaves in between your kitchen scraps will help cook your compost better. Have it covered, too, to ensure protection from torrential downpour or from snow. When the sun’s up, make sure to expose your compost bin to speed up the decomposition process.
Get Your Compost Gear On
Given the right equipment and the passion to turn your gardening hobby into a more noteworthy one, knowing how to make compost at home can be done without a cinch. Be reminded though that it’s going to be a slow painstaking process. Compost can take at least 9 to 12 months to be “fully cooked”. Nevertheless, the effort is quite laudable as you will not only be giving joy to your garden but also true to form in your being an Earth lover by reducing curbside waste.