Composting 101 – A Guide for Beginners

Composting 101 - A Guide for Beginners

Did you know that it takes 12 years for a tree to start taking the carbon dioxide out of the air in the atmosphere, but adding your own homemade compost to your soil will start taking in carbon dioxide immediately? Not only is composting fantastic for the environment, but it can also make your garden bloom like you’ve never seen before. 

But where to start? How does composting work and how does one get started? This article will teach you all the basics you will need to know to start composting.

What is Compost?

Compost is a pile of organic waste that is biodegradable, meaning it can break down into its more basic form of molecules and nutrients. Organic means that the thing you are breaking down used to be alive or came from a living thing. A compost pile is usually made out of a mixture of “green” organic materials that contain nitrogen or “brown” organic materials that contain carbon. Green materials are things like food and garden trimmings, manure, or coffee grounds, and brown materials are things like wood chips, dry leaves, cardboard, hay, straw, or sawdust. 

These chemicals mixed with water and air make terrific living conditions for organisms such as mould and bacteria as well as bugs and insects who in turn feed on the organic matter and help break it down. 

How Do I Begin Composting?

There are only a few steps you need to know to get started in composting. You can even compost in an apartment or condo!

Step 1: Separate Your Waste

Separate all your organic waste (green and brown) from your inorganic (plastic, metal, glass). The rule for organic is: if it was once alive or came from something alive, it’s organic. If you find your mixture is too wet, simply add extra dry organic material to balance out the mixture. Most expert composters suggest a moisture content of 40% to 60%.  

Step 2: Prepare Your Area

The best place to compost is outside, in a hole or container in the ground. The hole should be at least 50cm deep and as wide as you choose. The container can be on top of the soil or buried any depth you like. Make small holes in the bottom of the container so it can aerate. Cover it to keep pests out. 

If you do not have an outdoor space to compost, don’t worry! If you live in an apartment, you can get a bokashi bin, which sits under your sink. You just add scraps and a fermented grain mix to it, let it ferment, then you just put the compost in your planters or any garden area you choose. 

How Will I Know When My Compost Is Ready?

Your compost will let you know it’s ready because it will look and feel like rich, dark soil instead of food scraps or wood chips. You want it to be dark and crumbly and with a smell of rich earth. If you have the optimal space for composting, it can be ready in as little as 2 weeks, but don’t be surprised if it takes a month or more. Decomposition will happen, just give it time and keep feeding your compost with your good scraps. 

What Is The Difference Between Compost And Fertiliser?

A great way to differentiate the two is that compost feeds the soil and fertiliser feeds the plants. While fertiliser does add to the soil’s nutrient supply, it is intended to meet the needs of the plants, not the soil. If you add compost to soil, you are making a recipe for happy flowers, plants or vegetables. Organic fertiliser is recommended as the chemicals in non-organic can throw off the nutrient balance for the plants. 

Tips For Using Your Compost:

  • Use it as mulch for your flower beds and at the base of shrubs or trees. 
  • Sprinkle on your lawn to help stimulate growth.
  • When planting a new flower or plant, use compost as a soil conditioner and fill hole with half compost, half soil.
  • Steep your compost in water to get “compost tea” for your plants and garden. 
  • Mix with flower bed or plant soil. 

With composting, not only are you helping the environment by reducing waste and taking out the carbon dioxide in the soil, but you are helping feed your plants and garden the best, nutrient rich organic matter that will stimulate growth and yield you quality greenery for years to come. 

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