Sunday, 11 December 2011


Compost, also referred as 'black gold' by some gardeners as it is very rich in nutrients and is as valuable as gold for gardeners, is something that once you get your hands on to, you can never do without. It is extremely easy to do at home and it doesn't have to cost you a cent!

Here, I will be giving you tips on how to make your organic compost at home easily and without any expense even though it is up to you to decide whether you'd prefer to go buy kits and nice looking compost bins etc. I will be sharing with you the essentials of composting and then you go ahead and work with whatever agrees to your taste and lifestyle.

Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose. 

There are three types of composting: 
  1. Backyard Composting
    • Needs two elements: Greens (grass clippings and food scraps) and browns (fallen leaves, woody branches, straw, shredded newspaper etc) 
  2. Worm Composting
    • Doesn't need much space or a big garden. Food scraps are used.
  3. Grasscycling
    • Achieved by leaving grass clipping on the lawn to decompose. 

Below is a copied list for 'backyard composting' from this website.

Compost Ingredients

Greens = good sources of nitrogen
Grass clippingsmix well so they do not pack down
Coffee groundsinclude filter
Vegetablesall vegetables & peelings
Egg shellsadds calcium
Manure from herbivoresi.e., horse, cow, rabbit. Do not use if animal is sick
Tea bags
Hairhuman or animal, may be slow to degrade
Blood mealextremely rich in nitrogen

Browns = good sources of carbon
Leavesimproved aeration
Strawa good source of bulky material
Sawdustmust be from untreated wood
Yard wastebest cut to sizes 2" or less
Paperboardi.e., cereal boxes, paper plates and napkins, break into small pieces
Dried grassesgood source of carbon
Wood ashmust be from untreated wood

Diseased plantsdisease can spread if pile does not get hot enough
Weeds with seedsor weeds that can sprout from bits of root. Seeds or bits of root may survive and sprout in garden if compost doesn't get hot enough to kill them.
Dog or cat fecesmay carry parasites and diseases that infect humans
Toxic chemicals
(pesticides, etc.)
will harm or kill beneficial soil life
Charcoal (briquettes)will not break down in compost
Fats, oils, greaseattracts animals and keep anything they coat from breaking down
Meat scraps, bones, cheeseslow to break down, smells bad and attracts animals
Treated logscontains high amount of chemicals

There are different methods of Backyard Composting. One method is as simple as digging a hole/trench in the garden and putting the food scraps in it and then covering it up with soil. The other easy method is called 'tumbler'. Add the compost materials in with a little bit of soil and turn it around everyday. If you would like to learn about more methods, by doing some search on the internet, you can access to a wide range of sources or you can visit here

Lets now move onto Worm Composting. A place for the worms (preferably the red wigglers) to live in is a must. You can easily use a bin for this purpose but it shouldn't be too deep as it needs to have some air flow. You could utilise whatever you have in your hands (plastic or wooden container) and if needed, add some holes to it, which is what we have done. However, be mindful that if you are using a treated wooden bin, it may contain some arsenic or other chemicals that may have been used as preservatives. Also, because of the moisture, the wooden bins may not last longer than only a few years. 

There are different ways to do this but let me share with you one way of getting started. 

How you prepare a plastic container (if you haven't bought one that is already ready to go) is that first of all, make sure it is on the ground so that the soil organisms can get in (or I have seen people who would make some holes in the container and then bury it to the ground. There are options and it is upto you to decide what works the best for you). Add a handful of dirt to the bottom of the bin (especially if it isn't on the soil) and fill it with shredded, moist, black&white newspaper. Make sure the paper pieces are not too large or wet as they would interfere with air circulation. Once you have got this bedding ready, add a variety of food scraps from the right range (see the list above). Try to have a good balance of them and if possible put them in a layered manner so none is too thick. Rock dust perhaps a few times a year helps. So does adding a small amount of soil. Also, ground limestone rock, egg shells, or oyster shells are helpful in keeping the bin from becoming too acidic.

Do NOT add the following: Meat or fish scraps or shells of prawn or crab (an option to use them is just digging a deep hole and burying them as they are good for the soil). Do not add dog or cat poo or weeds with seeds (otherwise you will be spreading the seeds around your garden). 

Make sure your bin doesn't become too wet in the rain etc. So, cover it up with a tarp well. Also, turn it over periodically. When fully decomposed, the compost will have a pleasant earthy smell and you will see little or nothing of the original ingredients.

Here is how we make compost as a family at home. We simply cut up the bottom of a bin and made it its lid. We removed the actual lid and that larger side of the bin became totally accessible to the ground. We put that open end (originally the top of the bin) on one of our garden beds (meaning we have already covered the bottom with soil/dirt like recommended above). And then basically, we started adding our greens and browns to it as well as adding some soil at times and turning it over and airing it out at times. Don't forget, if your container is deep, you should make some holes on the body of it since it is essential for air circulation. It works really well for us because we are interested in organic gardening as much as possible and also we have so much food scrap from home cooking and the high consumption levels of fresh produce at home that we are glad to recycle whatever we have got whenever possible. It is good for us, our children (they will hopefully learn it and carry it on), our garden, good for our environment...

I hope this was helpful for many of you out there.

Have a helpful day!

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