Composting is the process that involves converting organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil additive known as compost. Small-scale composting can be done at home, or larger-scale composting can be done in commercial composting facilities. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what composting is, the advantages of using compost, and what to compost & what not to compost.
What is Composting?
Composting is a natural process that occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch that plants can use as nutrients. Organic matter includes things like food leftovers, yard waste, and other biodegradable materials.
When these materials are composted, they are broken down into an earthy-smelling, crumbly, and dark substance that is often called “black gold” because of its high nutrient content.
How Does Composting Work?
The process of composting works by providing the ideal conditions for microorganisms to break down organic matter. These conditions include a balance of nitrogen-rich “green” materials, such as grass clippings and food scraps, with carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as wood chips and dried leaves. The ideal ratio is 2 parts brown materials to 1 part green materials.
In addition to the right mix of materials, composting also requires moisture and oxygen. The compost pile should be kept moist, but not too wet, and turned regularly to ensure proper aeration. This helps the microbes break down the organic matter faster and more efficiently.
Once the composting process is finished, the resulting compost can be used to enrich the soil in gardens, lawns, and flower beds. Compost is a slow-release fertilizer that provides nutrients to plants over time. Additionally, it aids in enhancing soil structure and water retention, which can result in healthier plants and less water consumption.
What is Compost?
The end product of the composting process is compost. It is a dark, crumbly substance that is rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. To enhance the health and fertility of the soil, compost is frequently used as a soil amendment. It can be used in gardens, lawns, and flower beds to provide nutrients to plants and improve soil structure.
Compost is made up of various organic materials that have been broken down by microbes. These materials include food scraps, yard waste, manure, and other biodegradable materials. Additionally, compost may contain traces of micronutrients and minerals that are essential for plant growth.
What Are The Benefits of Composting?
Benefits of Composting
There are several benefits to composting, both for the environment and for gardeners. Some of the main benefits of composting are as follows:
1) Reduces Waste
Composting reduces the amount of organic matter that goes into landfills, where it can result in the production of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas.
2) Improves Soil Health
Compost enhances the structure and fertility of the soil, which makes it easier for plants to develop and thrive. It also helps improve water retention in soil, which can reduce water use.
3) Reduces Chemical Use
Compost can help reduce the requirement for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which are harmful to the environment and human health.
Composting can help you save money on fertilizer and water costs as well as waste disposal expenses.
What To Compost & What Not To Compost?
Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich humus for your garden. It can be done on a small or large scale, depending on your needs, and is an easy way to recycle food scraps, yard waste, and other organic waste.
However, not all materials are appropriate for composting. Some materials can attract pests, create odors, and slow down the composting process. Below here we’ll discuss the things that can be composted and the things that shouldn’t be composted.
What to compost
15 Things that can be composted are as follows:
1) Fruit and Vegetable Wastes
Fruit and vegetable waste, such as banana peels, apple cores, and carrot tops, are excellent composting materials.
2) Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags
These items are excellent for supplying nitrogen to your compost.
Eggshells are a calcium-rich additive to compost that also helps keep the pH levels in check.
4) Grass Clippings and Leaves
These are great composting materials because they are rich in nitrogen.
5) Shredded Newspaper and Cardboard
Newspaper and cardboard that have been shredded are excellent resources for adding carbon to your compost.
6) Hair and Fur
You can add hair and fur to your compost pile to increase the nitrogen content.
7) Wood Chips and Sawdust
Wood chips and sawdust can be used sparingly in your compost pile to increase the carbon content.
Animal manure from cows, horses, and chickens can be excellent composting materials.
9) Dryer Lint
You can add dryer lint to your compost pile to increase the carbon content.
For your compost pile, seaweed can be a great source of nitrogen.
11) Pine Needles
Pine needles are high in acid and can be added sparingly to your compost pile.
This can be a great source of carbon for your compost pile.
13) Stale Bread
Stale bread can be added to your compost pile to add carbon.
14) Nut Shells
You can add nut shells to your compost pile to increase the carbon content.
15) Wine Corks
These can be added to your compost pile to add carbon.
What Not To Compost
16 Things that should not be composted are as follows:
1) Meat and Dairy Products
These items can attract pests and create an unpleasant odor.
2) Fats and Oils
These substances might smell bad and attract pests.
3) Diseased or Insect-Infested Plants
These plants can introduce harmful pests or diseases to your compost pile.
4) Pet Waste
This can contain harmful bacteria and should not be added to your compost pile.
5) Plastic and Synthetic Materials
These materials do not decompose and should not be added to your compost pile.
6) Coal and Coal Ash
Coal and coal ash should not be added to your compost pile as these materials may contain harmful chemicals that can affect the health of your garden.
7) Weeds with Mature Seeds
These plants can continue to grow in your garden and cause problems.
8) Glossy or Colored Paper
Glossy or colored paper shouldn’t be included in your compost pile, as may contain harmful chemicals that are not suitable for composting.
9) Synthetic Fibers
These materials do not break down easily and can introduce harmful chemicals to your compost pile.
10) Inorganic Materials
These materials do not decompose, thus, should not be added to your compost pile.
11) Citrus Peels
These can take a longer time to decompose and can produce odors.
12) Cooked Food
Cooked food can attract pests and produce odors.
13) Sawdust From Pressure-Treated Wood
This may contain harmful chemicals, thus, should not be added to your compost pile.
14) Charcoal Briquettes
These materials can contain harmful chemicals and should not be added to your compost pile.
15) Plants Treated With Pesticides
These plants can contain harmful chemicals that may affect the health of your garden, so shouldn’t be added to your compost pile.
Bones do not decompose and should not be added to your compost pile.
Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. By knowing what to compost and what materials you should not compost, you can ensure that your compost pile is healthy, free of pests, and produces nutrient-rich soil for your plants. To ensure that your compost pile breaks down properly, keep it moist, add a mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, and turn it regularly. By following these guidelines, you can create a healthy and sustainable garden while reducing waste and helping the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I compost eggshells?
Yes, eggshells can be composted and are actually a great addition to your compost pile. Eggshells are high in calcium, which is a mineral that is important for plant growth. Additionally, they help to balance the pH levels in your compost pile, which is important for the survival of the microorganisms that break down the organic matter.
To compost eggshells, simply rinse them thoroughly to remove any remaining egg whites or yolks, then let them dry out for a day or two. Once they are dry, you can crush them into small pieces and add them to your compost pile. It’s best to crush the eggshells into small pieces to speed up their breakdown.
Can you put banana peels in the compost?
Yes, banana peels can be added to your compost pile. They are high in potassium, which is an important nutrient for plant growth. Banana peels also contain other beneficial nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and phosphates.
To compost banana peels, simply cut them into small pieces and add them to your compost pile. It’s best to cut them up into small pieces as this will help them break down faster. You may also bury the banana peels in your yard, which will assist to enrich the soil.
It’s worth noting that banana peels can take longer to decompose than other compostable materials, so it’s best to balance them with other materials that break down more quickly.
How long does it take to make compost?
The time it takes to make compost can vary depending on the size of your compost pile, the mix of materials, and the environmental conditions. Generally, it takes between 2-6 months for compost to be ready for use.
Can I compost paper towels?
Yes, paper towels can be composted as long as they are not contaminated with harmful chemicals or substances. However, it’s important to note that paper towels take longer to decompose than other materials, so you should shred or tear them into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost pile.
Can I compost citrus peels?
Yes, citrus peels can be composted; however, they could take longer than other items to decompose. It’s better to chop them up into smaller pieces and sprinkle them sparingly into your compost pile.
How can I tell when my compost is ready?
When your compost is ready, it will be dark brown, crumbly, and have an earthy smell. You may still see some small bits of uncomposted materials, but they should be small and mostly broken down.
You can also test your compost by placing a handful in a small container of water. It is ready to use in your garden if it sinks and does not float.
Do I need a special bin or container for composting?
A specialized compost bin or container can be helpful, but it is not necessary. You can create a compost pile in a designated area of your yard or garden.
Can I compost coffee grounds and tea bags?
Yes, you can compost coffee grounds and tea bags. They are rich in nitrogen and can help speed up the composting process.
How often should I turn my compost pile?
You should aim to turn your compost pile at least once a week to ensure that the materials are properly aerated and evenly distributed. However, you may need to turn your compost pile more frequently if it is not heating up or breaking down properly.
Can I compost egg cartons?
Yes, egg cartons can be composted. They are made of biodegradable materials such as paper and cardboard and will degrade over time.
Can I compost yard waste like leaves and grass clippings?
Yes, yard waste like leaves and grass clippings can be added to your compost pile. They are rich in carbon and can help balance nitrogen-rich materials like food waste and coffee grounds.
Can I compost paper plates and napkins?
Yes, paper plates and napkins can be composted as long as they are not coated with plastic or other non-biodegradable materials.
Can I compost cooked food?
Yes, cooked food can be composted, but it may attract pests and can take longer to decompose than raw food scraps.
How can I prevent my compost pile from smelling bad?
A compost pile that is properly balanced shouldn’t smell bad. To prevent your compost pile from smelling bad, ensure that you have a good mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, keep the pile moist but not wet, and turn it regularly to ensure proper aeration.
Can I use compost for indoor plants?
Yes, you can use compost as a soil amendment for indoor plants. However, it’s important to ensure that your compost is completely decomposed before using it, as unfinished compost can contain harmful pathogens that can harm your plants.
What Kills Compost?
Compost can die or stop decomposing properly because of three main reasons: too much moisture, poor aeration, or not enough nitrogen-rich materials in the pile.
Can I compost weeds with seeds?
No, it is not recommended to compost weeds with seeds because the seeds may not be destroyed during the composting process and can still sprout in your garden.
Can I compost wood chips and sawdust?
Yes, wood chips and sawdust can be composted, but because they are high in carbon, they need to be balanced out with nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps and grass clippings.
Can I compost eggplant and tomato plants?
Yes, you can compost eggplant and tomato plants, but it’s best to avoid adding plants that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides.
1) 7 Solutions to Common Compost Problems
2) What Can and Can’t I Compost? | Compost Guide
3) Home Composting – Cal Recycle
4) The Do’s and Don’ts of Composting
5) Composting At Home