All About Home Composting
All living things, including green plants, have the same basic needs as us! Food, Water, Air and Protection against the elements. In nature, plant food is found in the soils they are growing in, and so it makes sense that if that food is of poor quality, the plant will not thrive.

All About Home Composting

All living things, including green plants, have the same basic needs as us! Food, Water, Air and Protection against the elements. In nature, plant food is found in the soils they are growing in, and so it makes sense that if that food is of poor quality, the plant will not thrive. In nature, the adding of organic matter into the soil to replenish lost minerals and nutrients happens all the time. Autumn leaves add a huge load of organic matter on top of the soil, that slowly break down and get incorporated into the soil and broken down by small insects, fungi and worms in the soil. Fallen branches, decaying animals, floods, animal manure, grasses and weeds, rain, annuals plants, all add the needed elements into the soil on a regular basis.

WHY HOME COMPOST?

Usually though, our gardens design can be hampered by poor soil quality, and often not conducive to healthy plants. The soil in the areas we live in such as Cape Town and Gauteng can be heavily compromised by builder’s rubble and sand, a lack of trees providing leaf litter, poor underground water quality, and imbalanced pH, too sandy or too clayish in texture depending on our surrounding area landscape

In our modern society, we unwittingly erode our soil and diminish its ability to retain water or support life. Home composting helps reduce this soil erosion and prevent water runoff, especially in heavily compacted areas of earth.

It also reduces landfill (because organic matter will not break down when so tightly packed without the right conditions of air and water) and nourishes our land enabling us to get more use from it in the future. “Directly, or indirectly, all food we eat comes from the soil. The quality of our food has suffered and so has our health. All life will be healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil. “ Pat Featherstone, Soil for Life NGO.

And if you grow vegetables at home this is the first place to start improving your health via healthy plants and soil. You can make your own compost at home very easily and here is what you need to do.

HOT/ACTIVE METHOD

In a compost bin or square trench in the ground, use a balance of both “greens” (nitrogen) and “browns” (carbons) to create a pile that will heat to about 130 degrees to create well decayed compost within a few weeks. Greens include garden waste like grass clippings, plant leaf trimmings, fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen or anything that is still juicy and alive. Browns include dry leaves, saw dust, old cardboard and non-glossy papers. Alternate these layers in the pile, along with a layer or two of existing compost and a compost starter like Bokashi to get the system working quickly. The pile need to be kept moist, a bit like a damp sponge in wetness, and should be turned every week to keep the pile hot.

COLD/PASSIVE METHOD?

This is the same process as the steps above, yet you don’t turn the pile very often. This is what most home compost heaps end up as and the decay is slower but the effort is less. You can turn this pile once or twice to get the temperature rising and kill off any bad bacteria or sterilize seeds, but after that it’s best to let nature take over. Because you’re not keeping the pile moving, you are maintaining higher levels of nitrogen within the compost which is great for your plants. With this method you will see more insects as they help to decompose the pile and usually can’t live in the hot temperatures of a hot pile. So if you want to speed things up, turn it more often.

VERMI-COMPOSTING METHOD

Worms chew through the materials you put into it and produce worm castings (poop) which is very high in essential minerals that the soil and plants need. Worm farms have become very popular in the last few years as they too can create valuable home compost and worm “tea” (worm poop liquid) that gives your plants a boost of fertilizing minerals and protects them from other plant diseases.

Worms can be purchased through a plant nursery and even online. Using regular garden worms will not generally work as well as red wrigglers which are better at eating through larger volumes of organic waste. Worm compost is regarded as the “black gold” of fertilizers and compost additives and can also be a fun family project.

The drawback of vermicomposting is in maintaining the worm bin, ensuring proper moisture and temperature, as well as the right levels of food. You also have to be more careful about what you add to the bin, as you can only add safe food matter that won’t harm the worms.

WHAT CAN BE COMPOSTED?

Generally the rule is, if it was once alive it can be composted…with some exceptions. Here is a list of what you can compost: 

  • Leaves
  • Bones (yes but they take a very long time and need a hot pile)
  • Dead flowers
  • Paper and cardboard made from wood
  • Dead plants
  • Cow manure
  • Feathers
  • Sawdust
  • Burnt sticks and wood, ash and soot
  • Fish waste (but be careful as this can attract rats)
  • Fruit and vegetable off cuts
  • Grass weeds (before they seed)
  • Egg Shells
  • Bird/Rabbit etc manure
  • Old leather (same as bones above)
  • Food scraps without meat (but be careful as this can attract rats)
  • Seaweed
  • Hooves and horns

What can’t be composted?

All man-made or synthetic waste materials like:

  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • China
  • Polystyrene
  • Foil
  • Nylon
  • Old shoes
  • Batteries
  • Wire
  • Coal ash
  • Dog poo (it attracts fly maggots) and is not good for you to be using if you grow your own vegetables

Source:

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