What is compost?
Compost is a mixture of natural waste which can be formed almost anywhere. It particularly comprises decayed plant foliage, dead animals, grass clippings, small branches, wood, and kitchen wastes like tea leaves/bags, fruit and vegetable scraps, etc.
These organic materials gradually decompose with the help of micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi and soil creatures like earthworm. The micro-organisms and earthworms, break down the plant matter and change it into nutritious, crumbly, dark-brown, soil-like texture.
This organic waste proves extremely nutritious and beneficial to the soil. It is also the best way of recycling waste and encouraging healthy soil for your plants.
How to prepare compost?
Compost can be easily made at home and used as mulch or mixed with the soil. In fact, you can teach this to your children too! They will enjoy making it and also understand the process of recycling, better.
If you have a garden, you can easily dig a pit in your backyard. Ideally, 5 ft x 3 ft with a depth of 3 ft would be a good size. Well, whatever the length or breadth of the compost pit be, the depth should not be less than 3 ft.
Ingredients needed to make compost at home
The ingredients needed to make compost at home would be:
- Kitchen waste – fruit and vegetable refuse, egg shells, nut shells, coffee/tea bags or leaves.
- Fresh, semi-decayed or decayed leaves
- Old plant waste
- Farmyard manure/cow dung manure
- Soft tissues/shredded paper
- You can also add worms to it as they will aerate the soil, speed up the process of decomposition and their wastes make the soil rich.
Points to take care of while using a compost bin
If you don’t have a garden to dig a pit, then you can use a large covered dustbin as a compost bin. You can choose the size of the bin according to the kitchen waste. A bin made of mud, cement, plastic, wood or copper can be used for the purpose. You can even choose a strong plastic bag for composting.
The bin should have a large surface area for proper air circulation and adequate dumping. Drill ¼ inch drainage holes through the bottom of the bin to allow proper air circulation. This bin should be mounted on bricks or wooden blocks. A tray or plastic sheet should be placed underneath to keep the place tidy.
Bedding for compost
It is essential to make good bedding for the compost as it helps in holding moisture in the box and also provides worms with a place to rest and work. It is recommended to use light, chemical-tree biodegradable material for the bedding.
Non-glossy newspapers are ideal for the bedding. It is better to tear thin strips of the newspaper and then line the bin. Shredded cardboard is also a good option.
Remember not to use pesticide for the compost as this would discourage the growth of worms, thereby prolonging decomposition. You can add some sand to the bedding then pour some water and mix well.
The water should just adequately dampen the bedding. Note that the bedding should not be too wet. Once the bedding is done, you can toss in the waste, only to be reused. (Refer to the box for ingredients that make rich compost.
Materials to avoid in the compost
- Dairy products, oil, meat and bones as they attract rats.
- Seeds as they sprout or may be diseased by fungus and harm your plants.
- Chemically-treated wood o materials with toxins or strong preservatives.
- Diseased or Infected plants.
How to go about using the compost
Once you’ve known the ingredients that you should best avoid, just go ahead and fill the compost bin. Stir, mix or turn your compost oft and on for better aeration. If you turn the pile every week, it should be ready for use in about three-four months but if you don’t mix or turn the pile then it takes about six-12 months for the compost to be ready.
When it’s done, you can simply mix it with the soil in your garden while tilling or turning it. You can place it between plant rows or dig it around the plants; the plants will automatically absorb the nutrients.
The compost can also be used as mulch for the plants, shrubs and trees. This will make your plants look healthy and promote greenery and beauty. You too will feel contented to see how you have helped Mother Nature by assisting her in your little way!