If you own raised garden beds or garden as a hobby, then you should consider composting. Composting will enrich your soil with essential nutrients and prevent plant diseases and pests. Although beginners often avoid home composting due to the stench and hassle, these problems can be easily fixed. This article examines how to compost at home for beginners.
Benefits of Composting
Composting offers many benefits to gardeners from both personal and environmental standpoints, including enhancing soil structure, increasing airflow and water retention, and supporting essential bacteria. The rich organic matter found in compost encourages earthworms, which will help improve soil aeration. Below are some benefits of composting that you may be unaware of.
1. Reduces Waste
Food waste is a serious problem, with as much as 40% of the food supply being wasted. Instead of throwing food scraps, organic byproducts, and leftover vegetables into the trash, you can place it in the compost bin. By diverting away some of the waste, the amount of household trash is reduced, meaning you will not need to take it out as frequently. The amount of waste rotting in landfills will also be reduced. Organic matter rotting in landfills decomposes slower, leading to a waste of nutrient products.
2. Beneficial for the Environment
Composting helps combat climate change by cutting down the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Organic matter in landfills is the 3rd leading cause of methane emissions caused by human activity in the US. When you compost, you decrease the carbon and methane input of your community as well as forgo the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, which can have harmful effects for the environment. Composting stores carbon in the soil through a process called carbon sequestration, which reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
3. Saves Costs
Specialized soil for your plants may be costly, especially if they are rich in organic matter. By composting, you help save food and disposal costs. Many are unaware that trash transportation and storage is expensive. Institutions who have implemented composting programs have reported savings of $100,000 – 300,000 in yearly disposal costs.
4. Improves the Soil
Compost routinely improves the biological, chemical, and structural health of soils, leading to healthy plant growth. As the material breaks down, it supports the local ecosystem by creating an environment that mimics the natural landscape of a forest. Fields that use compost have been shown to have higher yields than those without.
How do you Compost?
To start composting, you will need some basic supplies, including a pail for collecting food scraps, a composting bin, and a spot in your backyard. Some people chose to use a worm composter to help accelerate the decomposition process. We recommend Vego Garden’s worm composter, which makes it easy for you to reduce household waste and create your own soil for gardening. The worm composter can hold roughly 8 gallons of food waste and is buried 11 inches deep, leaving 6 inches exposed for easy access and air circulation.
Our product utilizes the power of vermicomposting, or worm composting, to break down waste into rich organic matter without the time and hassle of traditional composting systems. It is made from an injection mold of durable, polypropylene plastic meant for use in an outdoor environment. The small holes in the exposed 6 inches of the composter reduce odor and improve ventilation, which encourages odorless microbes to help decompose the soil. The result is an efficient, odorless process that creates nitrogen-rich compost that contains numerous beneficial nutrients and microorganisms.
Hot Composting: Hot composting is a faster, more managed composting process. The volume ratio should be 2 parts carbon and 1 part nitrogen. The moisture should be similar to that of a wrung-out sponge and the temperature kept at 130 – 155°F.
Cold Composting: Cold composting is a passive method that requires minimal effort but can take one or two years before the compost can be used. Just place your materials in a pile and wait for it to break down naturally. Keep in mind that there may be lingering harmful microbes and have a wetter, smellier composition.
1. Choose your Container
You can use a worm composter or purchase a sealed composting bin with a door for adding organic matter. You can also get a tumbler with a handle that you can spin to speed up the composting process. Tumblers are suited for those with limited space, such as urban gardeners.
2. Choose your Location
You should position your bin or container in a location that is well-drained with partial shade, making sure to avoid too much sun or too little. It should be in a convenient location that is easily accessible.
3. Pile Material and Add Layers
There are several ways to compost. The size of the compost pile is generally no smaller than 3 ft high and wide and no larger than 5 ft. Compost ingredients are mainly carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens). The ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C/N) is 30:1. Excess nitrogen can cause bad odors, while too much carbon can cause the compost to dry out and make it harder to break down.
To compost, alternate between browns and greens. Start with heavier materials first, such as logs, dead leaves, twigs and branches, about 4 – 6 inches thick. Next, add green material, such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, or kitchen waste, also 4 – 6 inches thick. If you have raised garden beds, consider trying out the hugelkultur process, which can help you save money while filling garden beds.
Shouldn’t be Composted
Meat, fish, or bones
Dairy products or eggs
Leftovers not primarily plant material
Plants or wood treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizer
Weed seeds and roots
Can be Composted
Coffee grounds and filters
Grass clippings, hay, or straw
Sawdust, paper, and cardboard
4. Monitor your Compost Pile
You should turn your compost pile using a pitchfork or shovel every month to speed up the composting process by improving aeration and heating the soil up. It is important that you maintain the moisture of your compost pile. Add water or wet materials if it becomes too dry, and add brown material if it becomes too wet.
5. Harvest your Compost
Once your compost stops producing heat and has passed through the stages of composting, you can use it in your garden beds or containers. Signs that it is ready to use include a dark brown color, an earthy smell, and lack of recognizable scraps. The time required is usually one month to a year, depending on the size of materials and the degree of management. After harvesting, you can use it as mulch, add it to potting soil, mix into garden beds, or distribute it on lawns.
How to Fix Common Problems
1. Smells bad
When composting at home, a common problem is undesirable odors, which is usually caused by too much nitrogen content. To remedy, add in brown material, such as dried leaves or straw. If the problem continues, you may want to try out a different composting method, such as a worm bin, which is generally odorless.
2. Pile doesn’t heat up
If the pile is too dry, it may have trouble heating up. Make sure your compost pile is the minimum size, which is 3 x 3 ft, and 5 x 5 ft in winter. Replenish the nitrogen content or water it. Use coarse materials or turn it to aerate it.
3. Attracts rodents and other wildlife
Many beginners hesitate composting due to the fear of attracting unwanted pests to their yard. To reduce this possibility, keep your compost covered and follow the correct steps to ensure proper aeration and temperature. Refrain from adding meat, eggs, or dairy products to the pile.