DIY: Your guide to composting at home | homify

DIY: Your guide to composting at home

Izelle du Pisanie Izelle du Pisanie
italiagiardini Mediterranean style garden
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Composting is one of the most important steps to a no-waste, eco friendly lifestyle. 

Compost is a very beneficial material that not only offers a nutrient-rich solution for the growth of in- and outdoor plants, but also provides an easy option for sustainably getting rid of organic waste. Many might think that composting is reserved for farms or big industries but this is simply not the case. Anyone can easily produce compost from their own home’s consumption and then also use this to grow food for their own consumption! It is the ideal example of the circle of life.

The benefits do not end there, though. Making your own compost is free! In fact, you will even be saving money doing it since you will not have to buy fertilisers or plant food. You might even save a bit on waste removal. Then, of course, who doesn't want to decrease their carbon footprint and live a more eco-friendly life? It really is a win-win situation for yourself and the environment.

Today on homify we are going to take you through the DIY compost-making process to help you help yourself and the planet. Let’s take a look!

Benefits of composting

As we have mentioned, composting is an all-round beneficial activity. Primarily, it is a soil conditioner which provides nutrient-rich food for plants, which is conducive to healthy growth. This means that all of your in- and outdoor plants are looked after. During this process beneficial organisms are also introduced to the soil to break down organic material and ward off plant disease. This is a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers, and much kinder to the environment.

Composting is also beneficial when it comes to getting rid of waste. Firstly, it recycles your own kitchen and yard waste, which may constitute up to 30% of your total waste. That’s a lot of waste dealt with! Compost also reduces landfill waste, and helps solve the issue we are facing with over-full and ever-growing landfills.

Lastly, a compost pile is a sure-fire way to attract some wildlife to your garden. Here are more: Easy Ways To Attract Wildlife Into Your Garden.

What can be composted?

As you will find, there is a multitude of different household waste items which can be composted. These items are either broken down into carbon or nitrogen. Compostable items include table scraps, eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, garden weeds, plants, shrub prunings, hay, straw, pine needles, flower cuttings, kelp, seaweed, wood ash, chicken manure, coffee grounds, teal leaves, newspaper (not glossy ones!), shredded paper and cardboard, corn cobs or stalks, dryer lint, sawdust, and wood chips. As you can see, this is quite a wide variation of items!

A great tip is to add garden soil to your compost heap, which will mask odours and accelerate the composting process. Also, do not compost meat, bones or fish, as these will attract pests. Avoid products that may have harmful residues, such as fruit peels and rinds (pesticides), and sawdust which may have had machine oils pattered on it.

Simplest composting methods

Even though the composting process is pretty straight-forward and simple, you might feel like you want to simplify it for yourself even more. The “no-turn” method is the simplest way to go. What you have to do is to mix in enough coarse material initially when building your pile. A good material for this is straw, and the composting process will progress as well as when turning regularly. When using this method, you should add new materials to the top of the pile and harvest compost from the bottom.

Leaves can be composted by themselves, given enough drainage, shade and moisture. Layer the leaves with dirt and do not pack it too tightly. In about 4-6 months, your leave-only compost will be good to go. Just remember to use it as a soil conditioner instead of fertilizer, since it will be low on nutrients.

Enclosed compost bins

If you don’t have your own farm and are looking to compost only your own household waste, an enclosed compost bin is your best bet. Also called a compost digester, this is your most practical way to go. You can easily build one yourself from a heavy-duty garbage can.

Simply drill 1.5cm holes in rows about 15cm apart around the can. Now layer your composting materials as with an open pile, and turn as previously indicated. If you have a secure lid for the bin, you can also lay it on its side and roll it over instead of turning the material by hand. You can also buy an enclosed bins from various eco-designers

How to compost

Composting is an easy process if you follow these steps:

1. Start a pile. You must do this on the bare earth in your garden or back yard as it will allow worms and other friendly organisms to permeate the compost, as well as allow easy transfer from the compost pile to your garden beds.

2. Lay the foundation. Do this with straw and twigs in a layer of a few centimetres deep. It will allow for effective drainage.

3. Add the waste and compostable materials in layers of moist and dry products, which you alternate. Wood ashes and sawdust must be sprinkled thinly, as clumped wood will slow down the composting process.

4. Add the manure, that is, any nitrogen source (clover, grass clippings, buckwheat). This will activate the pile and speed up the break-down process.

5. Water the pile occasionally to keep it moist.

6. Cover it up with what you have (plastic sheeting, wood, old carpet). This will regulate the moisture and heat of the compost pile.

7. Give it a turn every few weeks with a shovel. This simple task allows oxygen to reach all of the materials, which is necessary for the composting process.

Once you built this compost pile in layers, you can add new materials in the mix, without having to layer again. It is important to keep the right balance between nitrogen and carbon, so use one third green materials (nitrogen) and two thirds brown ones (carbon).

Tips for successful composting

So you see, composting is a fairly simple process which you can easily do yourself. Once you get started, there may be some hiccups, though, as with everything in life.

Here are a few handy hints to keep in mind:

- Activate the compost process by adding nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings.

- Discourage flying insects by covering the compost matter.

- Avoid unpleasant odours by adding lime or calcium.

- Don’t worry about a steaming compost pile: it’s natural and healthy.

- Use your nutrient-rich, homemade compost as an additive only when growing your plants.

Have you tried composting at home? Let us know about your experiences!

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