Benefits to Composting :
- Soil Conditioner - Seasoned soil needs to be rejuvenated to maintain vitality. Compost, when amended directly into top soil, adds essential organic matter and boosts available nutrients. Besides providing a boost in soil fertility, compost also increases soil aeration, moisture retention and resistance to compaction.
- Natural Fertilizer - Compost is more than just a soil amendment. For heavy feeding plants and vegetables, fertilizing with homemade compost teas will be more than sufficient. These homemade liquid nutrient solutions are easy to prepare and eliminate the need for costly commercial fertilizers.
- Renewal of Topsoil - Every time a new batch of compost is worked into the ground, the earth becomes a little more foliage friendly. By adding compost to your garden soil, you're adding to the available organic matter, and thus building an excellent base for future plant growth.
- Pollution Control - Millions of pounds of leaves, kitchen scraps and otherwise wasteful organics end up in landfills every year. When organic matter meets its fate in landfills, the anaerobic processes take foot and break down the materials inefficiently, thus creating large amounts of methane gas. When organic materials are composted properly, the oxygen rich processes break down the materials more efficiently and produce very little, if any methane.
- Reduction in Soil Pollution - A healthy and thriving compost supports essential bacteria good at breaking down harmful pesticides and toxins. Compost is efficient at breaking down most pesticides into harmless compounds and also binding heavy metals into insoluble forms.
How to Start Composting :
When it comes down to the actual process of composting, there are endless methods that can be utilized. Since I garden with containers on my apartment porch, a small scale compost system is all I need. In fact, a small scale composting system is really all that most households will need for their organic wastes. Below you'll find instructions for how to successfully maintain a healthy and odorless indoor compost.
Materials Needed -
- Large container (No less than 25 gallon capacity)
- Kitchen Scraps
- Leaves or shredded paper
- Potting Soil
Basic Composting Process -
- Layer the bottom of your container with a few inches of leaves or shredded paper.
- To the layer of shredded paper, add finely chopped kitchen scraps until you have a week's worth of accumulation.
- Add a couple handfuls of soil to the paper/scrap mixture and mix well. I find that adding soil helps establish beneficial bacteria colonies faster.
- Complete the process on a weekly basis until your container is full. (Shouldn't take longer than a month)
- Once the container has reached half capacity, mix the compost daily.
- Depending on how fast you're adding organic matter to your compost, you may have ready to use compost within a month's time.
Keys for Success -
- Working large batches creates compost faster. Sure you can add scraps to your compost daily, but adding a weeks accumulation will create more energy and compost heat. Food all at once breaks down faster than small additions.
- Avoid odors by maintaining correct balances. A stinky compost is directly tied to having too much nitrogen (kitchen scraps) present in the system. To solve the problem, add more shredded paper or leaves. A healthy compost should maintain levels of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
- Maintain correct moisture levels. When compost is squeezed, the mixture should not drip off any excess water, but also not crumble when released. The compost will stay put in clumps if the moisture level is just right. An overly wet compost can also become smelly due to anaerobic conditions.
- Turn Daily. Once your container is half full with materials for composting, turning the mixture daily will ensure that the compost is properly heating and breaking down organic materials. Turning daily also replenishes oxygen and helps speed the overall composting time.
I realize that there's still plenty more that could be said about composting, but for now, we'll just stick with the basics. Maybe, just maybe, I've convinced you to have a look into home composting and the benefits that you, the environment and your garden can all enjoy.