A simple guide to composting at home

Honor Kennedy Honor Kennedy
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Composting has for years been considered a smart and environmentally friendly way to improve one's household waste, while increasing the level of recycling within a dwelling. But what exactly is compost, and how can it be implemented at home? Firstly, compost is a generic name for different organic and natural materials that are added to soil in order to assist plants to grow. This natural process is a fabulously low-cost solution to domestic fertiliser, and can help avoid the use of chemical-based dressings on domestic gardens. The process involves adding nutrients in the form of food scraps to a bin or container of soil, which then decomposes and creates a mineral and vitamin rich mixture. Once the process of composting is in full-swing, the decomposed food can then be added back into the garden. By adding this nutrient rich soil into the garden, you are creating a thriving eco-system for micro-organisms, in turn improving the overall symbiosis between your garden and its plants. 

Much of the food that we throw away can be composted or recycled. In Singapore, most of the garbage is either incinerated or dumped into landfills. This is a costly and exhaustive process that harms both our health and the health of the environment. By composting at home you will be making a difference to this planet, and contribute to a healthier and more effective reduction in landfill waste. If you have decided to save money, help prevent global warming by reducing methane emissions, and have fun while you become more environmentally friendly, then read on to learn how to start composting today!

The composting process

 Garden  by Mundo Garden
Mundo Garden

Huerta Vertical Mundo Garden

Mundo Garden

The composting process is rather simple, and as stated above simply requires the essential four ingredients of air, warmth, moisture and food. Your compost is a living, breathing eco-system made up of many billions of tiny organisms. Like human, these micro-creatures require water to drink, oxygen to breathe, food to eat, and a warm place to live. 

You should aim for a mixture that is damp (not wet), aerated, and a good mixture of ingredients. The materials within a compost bin should be mixed up every so often with a garden fork, to ensure the pieces that take longer to decompose are situated next to the quickly decomposable items. Focus on the drainage of your bin, the air flow, the insulation, and what you add to the mix. Remember, your compost will probably take around 3 months to become usable depending on the ingredients you added to the bin. 

What are the benefits of composting?

One of the first questions people ask when considering composting is what the actual benefits are of this perceived labour intensive process. There are a number of benefits to both your household and the environment, not limited to the following:

Help prevent global warming:

When buried organic waste decomposes in landfills it produces the greenhouse gas methane. By composting your home waste you will ensure your scraps don't end up in a landfill. 

Produce healthy soil:

Compost is home to all sorts of micro-organisms that contribute to the health and life of your plants. With mineral rich compost you are guaranteed of stronger and more successful plants and a thriving garden.

Improve unhealthy soil:

Unhealthy soil can make it difficult to grow plants. It starts from a lack of nutrients, which can be easily fixed through the use of compost. 

Save money:

Forget about spending your hard earned money on fertiliser for your garden or pot plants, instead your food scraps will produce something easily and for free.

Reduce air pollution:

The volume of pollution produced by trucks picking up garbage from domestic homes is large. By cutting down your volume of waste, you reduce the frequency of trash pick-ups, and therefore the associated air pollution. 

Get the family involved in a wholesome activity:

In the age of technology (tablets, smartphones, computers, and television), it can be difficult getting the family involved in a pursuit that doesn't revolve around a television or a computer. Composting will get everyone in the house working on a project that is active, easy, and undeniably feel-good!

What can I compost?

country Kitchen by Connox
Connox

Skagerak—Teakholz- Schneidebrett auf der Anrichte

Connox

The second most frequently asked question is what can be composted and what cannot. It is important to get the mix right within your compost bin, and to do this you will need four essential ingredients. 

Food, air, warmth, and moisture

Most individuals are interested in what food can and cannot be added to their bin. Food scraps tend to be either carbon or nitrogen based, with some being neutral. It is important to get a good mix of these, and a little research will go a long way. 

Food stuffs such as ash, kitchen rinse water, and most beverages are neutral. These should be limited, and added to keep the pile the right consistency, but not overdone. 

Most fruits and vegetables will be nitrogen based and can be added freely, while meat should definitely be avoided. Additionally, if you are adding manure to the mix, it is best if the animal is a herbivore. 

Simple composting methods

modern Garden by Terra
Terra

Jardin de Flores

Terra

Simple composting methods include:

Trench composting

Trench composting is built into the ground, and you bury your scraps in order to let them decompose. This is an extremely simply way to compost food, and only involves finding a suitable space and digging the hole. 

Disposal composting 

Disposal composting is slightly less simple than trenching your compost, and involves two cylindrical tubes buried within the ground. This is a great DIY project, and can easily be completed at home in the garden.

Indoor composting

If you reside in an apartment (as many Singaporeans do) you will want to know how to compost without a garden. The process basically involves waterproof containers and a balcony space for them. 

Vermicompost

This is compost powered by worms, and is possibly not for the fainthearted. You can do this indoors or out, and can produce compost quickly and easily.

Enclosed compost bins

Enclosed compost bins are made for small-scale outdoor composting, or enclosed exterior spaces (such as the courtyard example above). They are inexpensive, easy to use, and come with a variety of different features. A common feature is the compost tumbler, which allows the individual to turn the pile upside down easily, adding air and prevents clumping. Take a trip to your local garden store, or chat to a professional to obtain some options. 

Further tips for successful composting

Finally, we have a few handy tips to get your started on your composting journey:

- The ground underneath your compost bin is highly fertile, consider moving your compost every year and planting something in the soil. 

- Grass clippings are rich in minerals and will kick-start your compost. Additionally, chicken manure can work well too.

- Keep a lid on it! Avoid pests, flies and other critters by ensuring your compost has a strong and sturdy lid.

- If your compost smells you can try adding calcium or lime to diffuse the smell. 

We hope our Ideabook got you thinking about starting your own compost space! If you would like some more home inspiration and ideas, check out: The path to garden heaven

Do you have any other tips or tricks for our readers? If you would like to start a conversation, leave a comment below!
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