About 30% of what the average person puts in the garbage can be turned into rich, nutritious (for plants) dirt through the process of composting. Composting is how nature breaks down and recycles organic material. If you have any kind of organic matter, you can turn it into some of the best soil and use it over and over again.
But is composting hard? Is it smelly? Will it attract pests? As long as you’ve got a healthy compost heap, it won’t smell all that bad, pests shouldn’t get to it, and it most definitely isn’t hard. Nature does all the work. Here’s how it’s done:
Composting outside is the preferred method. It gives nature an opportunity to play a more direct role in the decomposition process. It also provides a food source for beneficial creatures, like worms and microbes that break down organic matter.
Making a heap isn’t difficult. There are lots of ways to do it. If you have issues with pests in your area, you can purchase or build a compost heap with a lid. Otherwise, the heap itself is as easy as throwing organic matter into a pile and letting it do its thing.
My favorite method is to build a box using heat-treated pallets. The pallets contain the heap, but the slats in the pallets allow for the free flow of air and moisture, two crucial parts of the composting process.
Different types of organic matter play different roles. To have a healthy heap, you’ll need carbon-rich materials, like leaves, straw, or shredded newspaper if you’re in a pinch. You’ll also need nitrogen-rich materials, like grass clippings and any organic kitchen waste, like fruits and vegetables. Adding thin layers of soil will help introduce microbes and bugs to your heap, which will hasten its decomposition.
Outside of that, nature does all the work. You can turn your heap every few months to expose it to air and speed the decomposition process. If it’s especially arid, a small amount of water can also help it along.
But what about composting inside? I don’t have a yard!
Composting indoors is more of a challenge, as you’ll have things like fruit flies and odors to contend with, but it’s not at all impossible. My preferred method of indoor composting is worm composting. Ick, right? It’s actually a clean process. Read on…
My preferred worm type, the red wiggler worm, is able to eat its own body weight in organic matter in a 24 hour period. This makes an indoor worm compost heap incredibly easy to manage. Over the course of a week, measure your daily output of organic material. If your family makes a pound of organic food waste in a day, you’ll need a pound of worms.
Red wigglers are prolific reproducers too, so even if you don’t get enough worms, don’t worry, you’ll have more worms soon enough.
Because these worms make it so easy to manage your compost heap, you can go from stinky apple cores and potato peels to (mostly) odor-free worm castings in just a day. Your worms’ waste can be thrown into indoor plants as extra fertilizer.
Making a worm composting system at home is easy. I use stacking tubs to make a multi-level composting system, but really you only need two levels in order to do it effectively.
Take two tubs that fit into one another. The top level tub will need small drainage holes drilled into it. Your compost will make a liquid, sometimes referred to as compost tea. This tea is usually odorless and full of awesome nutrients. You can pour it directly into your house plants for a boost.
Your worms can drown if too much compost tea builds up, so having a second tub to catch it is important.
The worms are an easy bunch to please. Setting up their living chamber is not difficult. To get started, simply lay down a layer of carbon-rich bedding, like leaves or shredded newspapers, add a little water, and add your worms. From there, you can start throwing in your compost and they’ll get right to work.
So as you can see, composting is a pretty simple process. Nature does just about all the work. Are you up for giving it a try?