Home Composting

- by Sandhya Naidu

Home compost © Sandhya Naidu


Food materials are purchased by every household. Some waste is always generated in each household after usage of food materials mainly after using vegetable, fruits and eggs.

Disposable parts of fruits and vegetable like roots, leaves, peel and unusable waste food are generated in every home, these are called collectively referred to as Home Organic Waste (HOW).

Studies have shown that households produce nearly hundred thousands of tons per day of organic waste. The severity of the challenge is increasing day by day given the trends of rapid urbanization, rapid economic and population growth, which in turn is creating environmental concerns, and waste experts worldwide are aiming to develop more sustainable methods.

In waste management, there have been researches and additional efforts towards converting waste into valuable resources. One way this can be solved at the source is home composting.

WHAT IS COMPOST?

Compost is the product of organic decomposition process of organic waste materials and in home composting scenario, vegetable waste like roots, leaves, peels and, seed and waste part of fruits and food waste is used. Composting is the process by which microorganisms break down complex organic matter, such as your household kitchen waste into simple and useful nutrients for the soil.


The decomposed substance is the fine "humus", which is odorless, dark brown, friable product like soil and it consists of all nutrients of the decomposed materials that have been used for compost production. This product can be used as organic manure.

WHY HOME COMPOSTING?

  • Helps recycle organic waste.
  • Converts organic waste into valuable resource for home gardening plants.
  • Acts as a soil conditioner, fertilize and natural pesticide.
  • Adds to humus in the soil.
  • Improves the health of the soils, making for healthier plants and plant products
  • Reduces daily generated wastes in the city at the source which in turn reduces volume of municipal waste and waste going to landfills and incinerators.
  • Reduces the energy spent on waste collection and disposal
  • Contributes towards sustainable living.

PREPARING HOME COMPOST

When we search online for “how to compost” the internet shows numerous methods where some recommend purchasing tumblers, drums and special compost bins available in market. I share here a simple method which works well while using resources available at home. Once we understand the main objective of home composting, we can select our own equipment and practice home composting by experimenting with your kitchen waste to suit the local climate, type of waste and its volume.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

  • Used pot with a bottom hole (ceramic, clay or plastic - I have used plastic here).
  • Soil (evenly graded soil from your garden or from nursery or any old soil).
  • Lid to close compost container (thick cardboard, old plastic sheets or metal plates can be used - I used thick cardboard).
  • Kitchen waste (vegetable and fruit waste).
  • A dish to keep under the container if composting is indoors.
  • Along with these, you would need sufficient air, water, carbon (brown waste like shredded paper of any sort - toilet papers, newspapers etc) and nitrogen(green waste)

METHOD

Step 1: Take any used pot with holes at the bottom for drainage and aeration.

Pic 1 © Sandhya Naidu


Pic 2 © Sandhya Naidu



Step 2: Put a layer of husk material (like cork) that decomposes slowly at the bottom, to prevent too much moisture coming out of the pot and then cover with a layer of soil approximately 5cm thick (shown in Pic 1).
Step 3: Place the kitchen waste over this soil. (shown in Pic 2).

Pic 3 © Sandhya Naidu


Pic 4 © Sandhya Naidu



Step 4: Cover the waste with soil layer as shown in Pic 3.
Step 5: Collect again, all kitchen wastes onto another layer as shown in Pic 4 adding vegetable waste, soil layer, eggshells and orange peel.

Pic 5 © Sandhya Naidu


Pic 6 © Sandhya Naidu



Step 6: Repeat by completely covering with another layer of soil which will ensure there are minimal flies and smell as shown in Pic 5.
Step 7: As you layer the waste and soil alternately, stir the contents once or twice a week to ensure proper aeration.
Step 8: Close the container with a metal or cardboard lid to control the moisture in the pot when it is exposed to sun or outer climate as shown in Pic 6.

Once the pot is full, repeat with second pot and third pot without touching first port for 6-8 weeks. After 6-8 weeks, based on climatic conditions and temperature, first pot content is properly composted.
In temperate climates, the composting may delay to 3 months due to varying low temperature and cold climate.

Keep a dish under the composting pot to collect the excess moisture that will be released - this can be used as a fertilizer. People with larger garden space can dig a hole instead of pot and do the same process, but keeping the compost pit covered is a good idea to keep away pests and flies.

Compost is best used by applying as a top layer around plants. In Finland, my compost takes around 2 months and I use it by applying a two inch layer on the soil bed of plants. The compost can be applied directly on a garden bed or within the pot.

WHAT DOES COMPOSTING REQUIRE?

Pic 7 © Sandhya Naidu



Air: Once or twice a week we need to stir the compost for air circulation, since the composting method is aerobic i.e., it requires air. Lack of oxygen can lead to unpleasant smells. A mix of soft and hard materials in the waste will enable better air circulation.

Water: Maintaining the right moisture content is very important. If the composting mixture is too wet, it becomes smelly and prone to fungus, so add more browns like shredded paper or cardboard to absorb the excess moisture, which will also help to create air circulation.

Heat and Carbon dioxide: The compost itself will generate heat irrespective of indoors or outdoors. But outdoors give better results, due to the presence of natural heat to help decompose matter faster.

Microorganism: Microbes activity is very important for decomposing the waste and to increase we should be maintain optimal temperature, moisture and air for faster decomposing. In Finland, its activity is lesser due to temperate climate, and will be faster during summer.

IDEAL COMPOST CHARACTERISTICS

  1. Smells similar to that of soil.
  2. Crumbly, without lumps. If it is lumpy, sieve the compost, and use the fine residue as a starter into the new compost pot as a starter mixture.
  3. Neither too most, not too dry and without fungus or moss.

WHAT TO COMPOST

For good compost, follow the 1:3 Rule. For every one part of green material that you add to your compost, top with three parts of brown material.

Green materials: These are generally the wet and live matter which decompose quickly and give the required moisture to the compost. They provide nitrogen and moisture for compost.

  • Vegetable and fruit peels
  • Rotten Vegetable and Fruit Scraps (uncooked)
  • Tea Leaves
  • Crushed Egg Shells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Crushed Egg Shells
  • Flowers
  • Grasses and Plant waste

Brown materials: These provide the carbon required for the microbes to multiply. Less carbon would make the compost smelly.

  • Dried leaves
  • Non-Glossy Shredded Paper
  • Pizza boxes
  • Used Kitchen Paper ,Toilet Paper cardboard rolls
  • Cardboard

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST

  • Cooked foods
  • Metal including cans and foil paper and wrappers
  • Plastic and Non-Biodegradable Waste
  • Meat

BONUS! HOMEMADE SOIL NUTRIENT AND PESTICIDE SOLUTION

Pic 8 © Sandhya Naidu



Ingredients:
Peels of banana, orange and garlic.

Method:

  1. Cut the banana peel into small pieces.
  2. Dry the orange peels for a day or two.
  3. Soak these along with the garlic peels separately, for 3 days.
  4. Mix 50 ml concentrated banana peel solution, 30 ml orange peel solution and 20 ml garlic solution to 1 liter water.
  5. Pour the prepared solution to plants to enrich soil nutrients, protect from flies and pests.

Nutrient value:
Banana solution contains mainly potassium, phosphorus and other plant nutrients like calcium and magnesium. Potassium increases plant strength and build up resistance to pest and disease, while phosphorus is essential for good root and shoot growth, and pollination.

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