Home Composting Of Organic Waste

Organic waste composting is a method of fertilizing your home garden without the use of harsh chemical fertilizers. Compost is an environmentally safe soil conditioner.

With very little effort, you can turn your kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic waste into rich, fertile, and earth-friendly compost. Some store-bought fertilizers contain chemicals that can leave pesticide or herbicide residues on your plants. But when you use compost, you create a rich fertile substance that will not only help this year's garden to flourish, but will also ensure the fertility of soil in the future.

The first thing you must do when you decide to start a compost pile is choose how you would like to contain it. There are several ways to do this. One way is to simply pile the contents on the ground, and cover them with a tarp. However, if you prefer a more contained method, there are several easy-to-build compost bins that you can construct yourself. The first, and probably the smallest, is the sunken garbage can method. This is convenient if space is limited. First, punch holes in the bottom of a standard-size garbage can for drainage, and then fill it with alternating layers of material. Cover the top of the garbage can with screening; this will keep out insects or scavengers. A perforated drainpipe in the center will provide aeration. A slightly larger bin is a screened compost bin, which is easily disassembled for turning compost. Simply fasten two L-shaped sections of lightweight lumber together with hook-and-eye closures, and cover the sides with chicken wire. To use, simply unhook, remove sides, and turn your compost. The compost will remain standing while the sides are detached. The wire mesh cylinder is one of the easiest compost bins to make. All you will need is a heavy gauge wire mesh, and several wooden stakes. Stakes are driven into the ground to support a cylinder made from the wire mesh. This bin can handle any type of compost. There are other bins available commercially as well. Pick whichever one accommodates the amount of space you have available and also how much money you want to spend.

After you have an appropriate container for your compost, you are ready to gather ingredients and get your pile started. Things you can use are grass clippings, which are high in nitrogen (and which will speed up the decomposing process) and break down quickly; leaves, which are rich in carbon and absorb excess moisture; and kitchen scraps, but avoid meat and dairy products, as they will rot and attract vermin. You can also use garden debris, straw, manure, wood ashes, eggshells, human and pet hair, seaweed, newspaper (avoid colored ink), pine needles, etc.

There are also several things that you want to avoid including in your compost. These are the main things you should never use:

Anything plastic: Plastic items will not break down.

Colored paper: Colored paper may contain toxic inks or other non-biodegradable components.

Diseased plants: You may burn these and use their ashes.

Used cat litter: Cat waste contains pathogens that can be harmful to pregnant women and children. Dog and human waste should also be avoided.

Anything else that may contain pesticide or herbicide residues should not be used.

Once you have all the necessary components, you are ready to build your compost pile. It is best to keep your pile at no more than 4' high. Anything more will be too heavy, therefore packing itself down and interfering with the natural biological action. A lower pile will lose too much heat. You want to build your pile in layers with the bottom layer consisting of a dry, coarse material such as sawdust or straw. This will absorb excess moisture and allow air to circulate through the bottom of the pile. On top of this, add a 3-6 inch layer of organic material, such as grass clipping or garden debris. This layer will supply the nitrogen needed for your compost to break down. Your next layer should be of topsoil or old compost. Repeat this layering process until your pile reaches about 4' high.

The amount of moisture in your compost pile is very important. It should be just barely damp. If it is too wet, it will mildew, mold, and/or rot. But if it is too dry, the breakdown process will slow down or stop completely. Therefore, it is essential to monitor your pile. If it is rainy or very damp outside, cover it with a tarp. If the weather is very dry, water it periodically. The pile must be turned at least once a week so that it will decay uniformly.

Another important factor is temperature. In order for your compost to decompose properly, the temperature must remain between 113 and 158 degrees. In order to check the temperature of your compost pile, you can insert a kitchen thermometer. Or, if you do not have one available, insert a metal rod into the center of your compost pile. If the rod comes out very warm to the touch, then your temperature is good.

A warm temperature means that your compost pile is producing the necessary heat generating microorganisms that will decompose the organic material in your compost. There are three signs that will help you to know if your compost is working. The first is steam. Steam is a sign that there are healthy microorganisms hard at work decomposing and creating compost. The next factor is the smell; if your compost smells rotten, it is not getting enough air and is getting too much nitrogen and moisture. Turn the pile and add dry material to balance it out. And finally, there is size. To heat up and decompose properly, the pile must be at least one cubic yard.

Compost generally takes about 6-8 weeks to decompose fully, but it could take up to a year. Just remember, the hotter your pile is, the faster your compost will be ready. When your compost is ready, it will be the color of dark, rich soil, and give off a sweet, earthy smell. Now it is ready to be spread on flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, lawns, or anywhere else you need a nutrient-rich, earth-friendly fertilizer.


© High Speed Ventures 2011