Have you ever wondered if leaves and vegetable scraps can be recycled? The answer is yes, they can. Gardeners have nicknamed it Black Gold but in common parlance you will come across it as composting.
It is a simple way to recycle organic material into a nutrient rich mix to feed your soil and restore its vitality. If you make a habit of using composting every planting season, it will promote soil microbes and help plant growth. There is one distinction though, that should be drawn here between composting and fertilisers. The former fuels soil while the latter feeds plants. The fertiliser’s ingredients are usually being absorbed by needy plants who wish to grow faster.
In essence, compost is organic materials that have been decomposed. That implies a free and environmentally compatible method to satisfy the needs of the complex soil network.
Here's the simple homify guide to recycling your leaves and vegetable scraps!
Composting is a natural soil conditioner. It helps the soil to retain its moisture and plants to grow by napalming your garden and lawn with nutrients. Since you will need kitchen and garden waste to create compost, it can help you repurpose as much as 30% of your garbage.
The composting material breaks down into microscopic organisms that help soil to ventilate and protect your plants from diseases. Your garden and lawn will be thrilled to work their magic with composting rather than chemical compounds. If you don’t compost your household waste it will likely end up in a landfill, with evidence suggesting an over-exaggerated recycling success. Isn’t that a shame?
If you are convinced that composting is the way to go, then let’s see what organic material are best suited for the process. Ingredients that will make a good compost are rich in carbon and nitrogen. For example table, fruit and vegetable scraps are rich in nitrogen while wood ash, straws and newspapers are carbon based. Why, carbon and nitrogen, you may ask?
Well, organisms that decompose organic material use carbon as energy source and nitrogen to build cell structure. But it is important to have a balanced ration between carbon and nitrogen for optimum composting, which translates to 10 carbons for 1 nitrogen.
It is also important not to compost meat, bones or fish scraps as they will attract pests, while banana and peach peals as well as orange grids might contain pesticide residue. There are extensive lists online which can explain in more detail what are the best materials to compost.
To begin the composting process, make a pile with your chosen organic waste on naked earth, allowing worms and organisms to penetrate it. These organisms will ventilate the compost, a process necessary for decomposing, and will transfer it to the flowerbeds.
It will be optimal if you feed the compost in layers, changing between moist and dry organic materials. For example, moist materials can be food scraps and tea bags while dry material can be leaves, straws and wood ashes. Manure is an essential ingredient, so you should add a percentage of green manure that is made out of any nitrogen source. The manure will aid in a faster decomposition, since it will notch up the heat of the pile.
To keep the heat on higher levels while retaining the much needed moisture, cover the pile. Your covering can be anything from wood to carpet scraps. As it is important to keep the compost moist, add water occasionally but avoid drowning it. As oxygen is an essential component for decomposing, by turning your compost pile every week will help oxygenate it. But, you can omit turning the pile if you includes straws in the mix which help in ventilation.
There are two simple composting methods. The first is the no-turning compost. The trick in this process is to add straws in the mixture or any coarse material, as it will keep the compost ventilated. With this process, you should add new ingredients on the top of compost and harvest from the bottom.
The second is composting leaves. As the name indicate, this process will only require leaves for the compost pile. Place your pile of leaves in your garden in a shaded area that is closed to water supply so it is kept moist.
The pile’s dimension should be approximately 4 feet in width and 3 feet in height and a layer of dirt should be incorporated between every foot. This process will take about 5 months and it is not touted for its fertilising qualities as it is low in nutrients. But to rectify their low nutrient diet, you can wrap a small pile of leaves and submerge it in a bucket with water. After three days, take out the wrapping, put the leaves into the compost and use the water from the wrap to water your plants.
If you live in a residential are then probably you are set for a small compost and it will be very practical if you use enclosed compost bins. A simple and cheap way to create an enclosed compost bin is by using a heavy duty garbage cans. Since you will need to oxygenate the compost, make small wholes around the can in horizontal lines, separated with about 15 centimetres.
You can also use compost bins that are open at the bottom so
they have a direct connection with the ground. They are referred to as the
“compost digester” and are suited for residential areas that have smaller bins.
The only tricky part with the
compost digesters is the turning aspect which
adds extra time for the compost to finalise.
For residential areas though, you can use the compost tumbler for more efficiency. These practical containers act as an insulator that can keep the heat on high levels in the compost. Also, they make turning very easy which helps ventilation and decluttering of organic material, speeding up the composting process. Their biggest trait, though, might be that it keeps the compost odour-free.
To speed up the composting process you can add materials that are neatly know as activators, such as Comfrey leaves, grass clipping or your weeds. As you will observe, fruit flies like compost. Thus, to avoid their buzzing, cover any exposed fruit and vegetable material. When you add new ingredients to the compost, cover them with grass clippings and add some lime or calcium. Fruit flies don’t like their calcium.
As for unpleasant odours, avoid putting meat and bones scraps in the compost and cover with dry grass clippings any new organic material you include in the compost. Lime and calcium can also have a beneficial effect in eliminating nasty smells, while if there is a scent of ammonia from your compost throw in carbon reach material!
If there is clattering between leaves and grass clippings in your compost blocking the ventilation process, try to break them apart or add them to the compost mix gradually along with other organic material. If you have a small backyard, you will need to work hard in order to find rich carbon based waste that will balance the already substantial input of nitrogen material that comes from kitchen scraps and fresh materials.
Compost is a great source of organic material that will feed your soil with rich nutrients and keep it healthy. However, you should note that composting is an additive, meaning you will still require additional growing mediums for your soil.