Composting at home without equipments
Composting is the entryway drug to zero-waste. As you start composting, you start to pay attention to what you are throwing away and you start to look at what you are buying and consuming. Yes, this black gold will make your plants thrive like never before but composting also helps in keeping food waste from hitting the landfills and adding to greenhouse gas emissions.
For many years, just like many people, I thought I needed a specialty bin to compost. For the first couple of years, I did use a terracotta bin. It worked wonders and I was able to grow many vegetables, herbs and ornamental plants with the compost. The bin and I shared many happy moments until it broke beyond repair when I moved houses. For my new composting efforts, I did not want to buy a bin and I realised that as long as there is enough air flowing in and out, any container should work. There’s plenty of ways to compost. The laziest (and my favourite) method is to find two old buckets and drill holes along the sides. If you have a big yard, then you can compost by making piles as well. If unsightly buckets are a no-no for you, you will be able to find some great tutorials to build a ‘less-of-an-eyesore’ compost bin on Instructables or Pinterest.
A balance of greens, browns, air and moisture is essential to create the proper environment for composting to occur. Greens are nitrogen-rich materials that provide nutrition for the microorganisms to continue growing and reproducing. And browns are carbon-rich materials that give the microorganisms energy.
Photo by Chandra Oh on Unsplash
Greens - Even if you are using all the odd ends and peels to make a nutritious vegetable stock, you will still end up with a good amount of organic waste. Green materials could include a mix of -
Peels, scraps and pits from fruits & vegetables
Coffee grounds and filters
While it’s okay to add hair and fur to compost bins, steer clear of adding waste from your furry friends. Not that pet-poo isn’t compostable, it definitely is. It may contain parasites, viruses and bacteria. And to successfully compost it, you may have to tweak the green and brown ratios. So this is, perhaps, a conversation for another time.
Some common carbon-rich brown materials you may have in your homes -
Shredded newspaper, paper and cardboard
Garden trimmings, dead leaves, branches and twigs
Cotton and wool rags
Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
Prepare your buckets by drilling multiple holes in them and place them in a shady spot in your yard or balcony. I find two buckets helpful as this ensures I always have a steady supply of ready compost while another pile is in the process of decomposing. In my experience, a 50/50 mix of greens and browns work perfectly. Balance by volume, NOT weight.
If you are a small family like mine, it might be helpful to store your food scraps (green materials) in the freezer until you have enough to add to the compost bin or pile. Once you are ready, start layering greens and browns in your compost bin. Each layer should be anywhere between 2 to 4 inches. Remember to always end with a brown layer, you don’t want hungry pests raiding your compost for food. Cover the bucket(s) with canvas or cardboard. Use a stick to turn it once every few days to increase air-flow and help speed up decomposition. And keep your pile moist like a wrung-out sponge.
If you notice off-putting ammonia smell from your compost bin, add more brown materials. The first batch may take up to 3 months for the mix to fully decompose but it’s possible to speed up this process by adding a handful of compost while layering.
You will know when your compost is ready to harvest when the materials become unrecognizable, have a dark chocolate brown colour and you are able to smell the petrichor emanating from it. Remember there is no such thing as bad or wrong compost. It may be too wet or too dry or take too long to decompose. Just like bread making, there is no standard recipe. It doesn’t matter what you end up with. All compost is usable compost.
Add compost to the soil to improve its quality and grow nutritious, better tasting and hyperlocal food. If you have any questions or would like to let me know how your composting efforts are working out, you can find me on Instagram or comment below.