Composting is a common, environmentally friendly practice used primarily in gardens. Some people prefer to buy compost, others make their own. The same is true for composters, there will be something for everyone.
What is compost?
Compost is, simply put, an organic fertilizer that is used to fertilize and aerate the soil. Compost is made primarily from plant waste and improves the soil with humus and various nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
Using compost has a positive impact on the environment and is definitely a better choice compared to burning grass – more in our article on the subject. In addition, it helps get rid of food leftovers from the house, among other things.
The composter is usually placed in the garden, but this is not the only option available – you can also keep a composter on the balcony, although then it requires a slightly different approach.
It’s hard to tell exactly how long composting takes, a lot depends on the effort you put into your compost pile and the ingredients that go into it. There are at least a few ways to tell if the compost is ready: it has, among other things, a dark color, an earthy smell, a consistent, brittle texture. You will also not find earthworms in it.
Composting of organic waste
Composting is considered a good practice to support the planet, just like planting trees or sorting trash. Especially since composting is in fact much simpler than it may seem. By creating your own composter, you reduce the amount of waste that is taken to the landfill from your garbage can, and you can use the produced compost for your own purposes, such as in your garden.
What does compost need?
Making compost takes time, and you need to put some work into it. First of all, from time to time you need to flip it over with a pitchfork and add new ingredients. If it’s too dry, you should think about watering it slightly from time to time – it should be moist, but not wet.For decomposition you need the right temperature, so if you notice that your compost is warming up, that’s a good sign.
If your compost pile is to be placed in the garden, it is important that the substrate is in contact with the soil. This will allow worms, ants and decomposition-friendly bacteria to get into the compost. If possible, the composter should stand in an airy place, but still sheltered from the sun.
The layers of compost should be mixed. This can be achieved, among other things, by creating alternating layers of nitrogen and carbon. Don’t compress them too hard either, as this can cut off the lower layers from oxygen. It’s also a good idea to blend dry materials with moist ones, and green ones with woody ones. Remember not to make the layers too thick.
Once in a while, check the situation to make sure nothing is rotting, the smell hasn’t become unpleasant, and the moisture level is right. From time to time you should also move and mix the remains a little to ensure that the whole thing is properly ventilated. Sometimes before working with the compost, it’s a good idea to slightly wet it, if it seems too dry.
The four key ingredients that compost needs:
These can be provided in various ways, such as – water by providing moisture to the compost, oxygen by turning it over regularly, and nitrogen and carbon by adding the right ingredients.
Make your own composter
It is true that you can buy a composter, but you can also make your own. Two options are available: a home composter and a backyard composter.
There are many materials you can use that do not require any additional money. Depending on this choice, the process of making compost may change slightly, such as anaerobic composting may occur.
An interesting option we recommend is a composter made of pallets or planks, although, of course, there are many more options, such as old box or barrel, just remember that your composter should have access to the soil from underneath.
1. You need four pallets, be sure measure them. Start by determining the borders of the composter, it should be square or rectangular in shape. In the selected place, dig a hole, at a maximum of 40 cm – this will make it easier for the organisms living in the soil to access the compost, as well as increase the capacity of the composter.
2. The three pallets should be connected together, for example, with stakes or nails. A drill can help with this task. It is also recommended to take care of the pallets, such as bending the sticking out nails, impregnating or painting them with the right paint. Oiling is also a good option. Your composter must be able to handle moisture.
3. The fourth pallet should be attached on hinges so that the composter can be freely opened. Access to the composter can also be gained in other ways, for example, if the fourth pallet forms a kind of door.
4. Don’t forget that a backyard composter should not have a permanent roof or underside. It must have access to both air and soil. If you decide to go with a roof, bet on something that you can lift whenever needed. Make it airtight, too. The roof will protect the compost from rain, snow and help it maintain the right temperature.
5. Branches and grass can be placed on the bottom.
6. After collecting the compost, it is worth taking care of the pallets. You can impregnate them once again and check their condition. Another way to make them durable is to put a perforated foil inside.
What is anaerobic composting?
A lesser-known composting method is anaerobic composting. It is more time-consuming and more unpredictable than aerobic composting and, as you can easily guess, the results are due to organisms that do not need oxygen to survive. Because of this, the temperature of the compost will be lower and the smell can be unpleasant.
The advantage of this method is that it requires less attention. You don’t have to flip it over every day, and it will take up less space. The process unfortunately produces methane gas, making it less beneficial to the environment than composting with oxygen. Such compost can also attract insects.
Sometimes there is also a need for the finished compost created by the anaerobic process to receive a few treatments that in some way “fix” it. For example, it can be dried and left in a thin layer to enrich it with oxygen and carbon-rich ingredients can be added. Another option is to put a layer of sticks at the very bottom, so that the whole thing won’t stay wet. You can also add some soil or finished compost.
Without a doubt, this method is easier and needs less attention, but it also has its drawbacks. It is worth considering both options before making a decision.
If you want to make your own compost, you need to keep in mind that throwing random products into the compost pile can significantly reduce the quality of the compost itself and change its smell, prolong the composting process or even ruin the whole thing.
Here are examples of products that should not be put in the compost:
- animal feces, diapers, cigarettes,
- diseased and poisonous plants,
- walnuts, their roots and leaves,
- meat and fish leftovers, dairy products, fat, whole eggs,
- citrus peels, acidic food, parts of onions and garlic,
- bread, baked goods and rice,
- colored and coated paper, printed paper,
- fruit labels (stickers),
- sawdust and large branches,
- plastic, cellophane, glass, chemicals,
- cosmetic products.
If you’re not sure if you can put something in the composter and have no way of checking it, it’s better to give up than risk damaging or hindering the whole thing.
The dangers of composting
When creating a composter, it’s a good idea to keep your own safety in mind. When handling compost, it is a wise idea to protect your hands and face, even if the risk of infection may seem small. The elderly and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
One of the main risks is Legionnaires’ disease, in addition to numerous bacterial and fungal infections. Other of the risks include tetanus, histoplasmosis or anthracosis, and that’s not all.
If you want to protect yourself from such problems, a protective mask and a pair of gloves might be a good solution.
Composting of corpses – little known, but eco-friendly
This is definitely one of the more interesting things you’ll come across when searching for some information about composting. It may be a rather abstract thought to many people, but in some states in the US, composting corpses is one of the legal forms of burial – in addition to being more environmentally friendly than cremation or burial in a coffin.
- Burial in a cemetery is definitely not an environmentally friendly option. Cemeteries can be extensive and expensive, in addition to polluting the land on which they are located. The production of the gravestone itself also requires a lot of resources and funds.
- Cremation of the body involves the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, among other things.
- A biodegradable urn for ashes is a more environmentally friendly option, but the process by which the body is cremated further carries many negative factors.
Composting the body is by far the most beneficial form of burial for the planet. The entire process can take up to 10 weeks, the decomposition of the body occurs much faster.
Of course, body composting is controversial due to the cultural, often very deep respect for the dead. However, over time perhaps mankind will begin to convert to this form of burial, after all, in a way, it allows to create new life after death, such as when a tree grows from the body of the deceased.