Composting – how to

As promised here’s some advice on how to make your own compost with detailed pictures. It is a lot easier than you think and if you’ve got plants or window boxes this will make them really happy. You can do it indoors too or on a balcony if you don’t have a ground floor dwelling. Compost does not have a bad smell. Conversely it has a sweet earthy smell. Remember it is all natural biodegradable materials. It will not attract rats or vermin unless you already have them, in which case you’ve got a bigger problem you need to turn your attention to. Also, keep it wet. So if you are doing this indoors I’d suggest keeping it on a base which collects the leaked out water. This is a great way to advance your efforts to be green as I’m assuming you’ve changed all your old light bulbs to CFLs. You will be sending less materials to landfill and replenishing the earth instead.

  • First, for the compost bin you will need the following: a plastic bin with a lid, like a waste basket you’d use in the kitchen or a drum if you want to go grande and a drill. Use a medium sized drill bit to drill holes all over the basket, spaced about six inches apart, in the lid, the base and the sides. This will allow the compost to breathe. It needs air to decompose.
  • Second, to start off your composting adventure collect about a week’s worth of vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, shredded paper . Break up the egg shells and cut up in to small pieces any big vegetable remains like the base of a cauliflower or a cabbage. This will make the process quicker. Do not add any cooked food as this will attract rats. I wouldn’t add mango seeds as this will not decompose quickly. Do not add any meat products including meat bones, these are not biodegradable.. Do not add lime as the acidity will kill the nice things in compost. And of course, do not add any plastic. I have two small push peddle bins in my kitchen – one for my composting materials and one for plastics. This is also a great way to assess just how much plastic you use/throw in to landfill.

  • Third, you not only need the above vegetable waste which is called green materials but you also require an equal amount of brown materials. These are rich in nitrogen. These include dried leaves, sawdust, hair, cow dung, hay, grass clippings. Cardboard and paper are good sources of carbon which also come under brown materials. Do not add coal ash (ash from your barbeque for instance) only add wood ash (ash from your bonfire is fine). Do not add dog or cat poo. Getting nitrogen rich materials in a city, like dried leaves can be difficult. However, you need nitrogen and carbon rich materials to balance out the green vegetable materials. I would suggest going to a timber mill who always have piles of sawdust, take a few large plastic bin bags and load up – for free. They’ll be happy you took it away. You just need to make the effort once, load up as much as you can. My husband does a lot of carpentry so I have no problem accessing sawdust. Look up the location of some timber mills online and pay them a visit.
  • Fourth, add your green vegetable waste, mixed with your brown nitrogen materials and put it in to your compost bin. Add a lot of water. Some water will run out because you have drilled holes in the base of your compost bin. So add enough to compensate. Keep your compost wet. If after a few days you find ants, flies or wasps it means your compost is too dry. But maggots are good, they add nitrogen to your soil. They have a very short shelf life so don’t worry about them eating up your plants once your compost is ready to add to your plants. And they will not leave your compost to infest other things in your garden/balcony.

  • After a few days of collecting green vegetable waste repeat the process above by adding an equal amount of brown nitrogen materials and then chucking the whole thing in to your first week’s compost. Give it a good stir. You will need a spade or shovel or rake or even a strong stick. Add water. Cover. Repeat in a few days. If you live in a humid city you will find that the decomposition process is very quick. After just the first week of composting I already had a dark sweet smelling moist material.
  • Your compost is ready to use usually after a few months when it has a crumbly soft appearance like potting soil and does not smell unpleasant. It can be dug in to beds or sprinkled on top.

General rules of hygiene apply – wash hands after composting. Cover up any cuts on exposed skin.

I strongly urge you to start composting. It is a foolproof method of being green. And you are bound to feel very very smug.

About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden.
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