Compost is a great additive to any soil as it improves the texture, nutrient content, aeration as well as water retention capabilities of the soil. Besides being an eco friendly way to deal with organic waste, it also increases drought resistance as it causes the soil to release water slowly and protects the ground against erosion. Due to the presence of microorganisms, nutrients that the plant needs such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus will be produced naturally in balanced amounts.
Creating compost is also a great way to reduce garbage as it reduces the amount of organic waste that will fill up the landfills. These are the list of items that can be used as compost:
- Animal manure (not pet waste- please see below)
- Cardboard rolls, cereal boxes, brown paper bags
- Clean paper
- Paper towels
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Cotton and wool rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Crushed eggshells (but not eggs)
- Fireplace ashes
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grass clippings, yard trimmings
- Hair and fur
- Hay and straw
- Nut shells
- Seaweed (rinse off saltwater)
- Shredded newspaper
- Tea and tea bags
- Wood chips, sawdust, toothpicks, burnt matches
These items are not recommended:
- Meat, fish, egg or poultry scraps (odor problems and pests)
- Dairy products (odor problems and pests)
- Fats, grease, lard or oils (odor problems and pests)
- Coal or charcoal ash (contains substances harmful to plants)
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants (diseases or insects might spread)
- Pet wastes (dog or cat feces, cat litter, bird droppings) (might contain parasites or germs)
- Yard trimmings treated with pesticides (might kill composting organisms)
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs (substances harmful to plants)
- Milk yogurt or cheese (odor problem and might attract pests)
Steps for making compost:
1) Obtain a plastic bin with a cover that is at least 18 gallons in size. Having a second lid can help catch the nutritious liquid that seeps from the compost.
2) Add tiny holes all around the bin to allow air circulation in the bin. This will accelerate the decomposing process of the compost.
3) Fill the bin with compost material as stated in the list above.
4) Shake the contents of the bin every few days to aerate it. If the bin starts to smell, add shredded leaves or shredded newspaper to the mix to tone down the smell.
5) The compost can be harvested by running it through a sifter. Keep the solid materials that need more decomposition back into the bin.
There are 4 factors that help with decomposition, mainly moisture, oxygen content, temperature, and a good mix of ingredients. The perfect compost pile is damp without being wet, like a squeezed out sponge. It should also be well aerated, with plenty of the oxygen that aerobic bacteria need. The optimal compost bin should have drainage, airflow, insulation and a good mix of various ingredients. Keep the compost material damp but not too wet as water might wash away the nutrients in the compost pile. The compost pile also needs heat to decompose properly, so put it in a warm area.
A good compost pile consists of 75% of brown material and 25% of green material. Brown materials consist of dry, fiber-like materials like dried grass, leaves, and shredded newspaper. Green materials are juicy organic material such as fruit rinds and vegetable peels. If the compost is too wet, add more brown material. If it does not have a lot of green material, water may need to be added to the material.
Managed composting requires a lot of manual work, but generates faster compost as a result. It involves shredding all the material as it decomposes faster and shuffling the ingredients on a regular basis to encourage the decomposing process. Additionally, fibrous material can be added to encourage more heat to the compost bin, which will speed up the decomposition process.