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The Ultimate Guide to Composting: What to Compost, Advantages, and How to Make Compost

Composting is a simple and effective way to recycle organic waste and turn it into nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and soil.

Aarushi Chadha
Organic waste can be processed in various ways, including industrial-scale composting facilities, community composting systems, and anaerobic digesters.

Composting is a simple and effective way to recycle organic waste and turn it into nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and soil. Composting can be done at home, and this guide provides an overview of what can be composted, how to compost, and the advantages of composting. From reducing the need for chemical fertilizers to improving water retention, composting offers a range of benefits for gardening, horticulture, and agriculture.

What is composting?

Composting is a natural method of recycling organic materials like food scraps and leaves, into nutrient-rich fertilizers that can enhance soil and plants. All organic matter will eventually decompose, but composting accelerates the process by providing an optimal environment for bacteria, fungi, and other decomposers to break it down. The resulting compost, often resembling fertile soil, is highly valued by farmers as "black gold" due to its rich nutrients and benefits for gardening, horticulture, and agriculture.

Organic waste can be processed in various ways, including industrial-scale composting facilities, community composting systems, and anaerobic digesters. This guide focuses on home composting, an excellent way to divert organic waste from the waste stream while producing a valuable soil amendment for personal use.

What to compost?

Composting is a great way for a household to reduce their carbon footprint by recycling their organic waste rather than throwing it into a landfill. Let us take a look at the organic waste items which are appropriate for composting-

  • Food and vegetable scraps.

  • Grass clippings and yard trim.

  • Paper filters

  • Coffee grounds

  • Unstapled paper or cloth tea bags.

  • Eggshells

  • Healthy pruned leaves, stems, branches, or twigs.

  • Shredded paper

  • Shredded cardboard (no tape, glue, or wax coating)

  • Untreated wood chips

  • Cooked food (but only in small quantities)

Do not include the following organic wastes-

  • Fats, oils, and greases

  • Glossy paper

  • Treated or painted wood

  • Aggressive weeds or weeds with seeds

  • Pruned trimmings of diseased and pest-infested plants

  • Herbicide treated plants

  • Pet waste and cat litter

  • Cheese and dairy products

  • Meat, fish, and bones.

How to Compost?

Before you start composting, it is important to choose a compost bin based on how you plan to use the compost and how much your garden needs. If you live in an apartment, we recommend getting a kitchen compost bin that is small, streamlined, and odour-free. An outdoor compost bin is recommended for people with a large garden.

Kitchen scraps and gardening waste tend to be high in nitrogen, whereas paper, sawdust, and small branches are rich in carbon. Sought out your waste for compostable items and put them in your compost bin. The ideal ratio of nitrogen and carbon-rich waste is 1:1 in your compost pile.

Add water to the compost pile. Water helps the waste in the compost pile break down. However, make sure that you do not put too much water as it can cause an imbalance between harmful and beneficial bacteria and organisms in the compost pile. Temperature also plays a huge role in breaking down organic matter.

Maintaining heat is important to sterilize the compost and kill the weed seeds or harmful bacteria that may be there. As you continue to add new waste to the pile, it is important to turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork. The pile needs to be turned every two to four weeks. If your pile heats up, is adequately moist, and gets turned regularly, you should have usable compost in one to two months.

Uses of compost

  • Compost can be used as a fertilizer for new or established plantings.

  • Compost is used as a layer of mulch. As a mulch, compost will prevent water evaporation from the soil, keep the soil moist for longer periods, and discourage weed growth.

  • Compost can be brewed into compost tea by making a liquid emulsion that has a higher concentration of nutrients that can quickly reach the plant’s roots.

Advantages of Compost

  • Improves water retention- Adding compost to the soil helps improve its water retention. It helps the soil absorb water properly and even makes the soil healthy enough to survive low water or drought-like conditions. Composting also helps protect the groundwater quality as it lessens the agricultural land’s dependency on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Reduces personal waste- Making your own compost helps you reduce personal food waste, thereby, cutting down the methane emissions from landfills. Composting is a valuable tool in combatting climate change as it helps make the soil more resilient to rising temperatures.

  • Improves overall health of the soil- Compost improves the overall health of the soil as it introduces essential nutrients and beneficial organisms to the soil which improves its chemical and physical structure. It also builds the soil’s resilience to the impacts of climate change while reducing its potential for soil erosion. Over time, healthy soil will improve the quality and increase the yield and size of the crops.

  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides- Using compost to feed the soil attracts beneficial organisms to the soil and even reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

  • Reduces methane production- Composting helps people lower their carbon footprint as it avoids the production of methane in landfills. Organic matter when added to landfills increases methane production.

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