What can you compost and what can you not?
When you think of the word compost, what comes to your mind? Composting revolves around the idea of recycling and doing your part for a better and healthier planet. Composting is easier than you think… and yes, it can be done at home. However, there are a few questions that will definitely pop up in your mind if you’re willing to take this ecological route.??
In this article, you will learn all you need to know so you can start composting. From what it actually is, to how it can be done, and most importantly, what you can compost and what you can’t. The best part about composting is how straightforward it is, and there are many aspects that you would need to go through.
What is compost?
Compost is decaying organic material that breaks down into organic and inorganic compounds through a method known as composting. It consists of what is thought to be waste material and converts it into rich plant nutrients to give rise to the growth of beneficial organisms.
As it’s rich in plant nutrients, it holds great importance to gardeners, which is why many of them refer to it as “black gold”. When you compost, you help reduce the huge amounts of waste going to landfills. When organic material goes to landfills, it occupies space and releases a potent greenhouse gas called methane, which accelerates global warming.
Compost is an excellent way of cutting down your carbon footprint without doing much. Did you know that yard wastage and kitchen scraps make up 30% of what we generally discard on average?
How does composting work?
Now that you have a good idea of what composting is, let's go over how it works. Composting is a process in which decay in organic material by microorganisms is promoted. Once your compost heap is ready, you can apply it back to nature and help in assisting the nutrient cycle to be completed.
Composting requires some factors and elements in order to be conducted properly. These fundamentally include organic waste. Organic waste should basically be composed of kitchen waste, leaves, twigs, etc. You need to introduce microorganisms in the system, and that is done by using soil. Water and air help in the process of decay, primarily to act as a supplier for oxygen. Once all the features are set in place, composting begins.
Essentially, the mechanism of composting is the decay of carbon-rich material by microorganisms to break it down into smaller and simpler parts. A fiber-rich product derived from your compost heap that is known as humus also has some percentage of inorganic nutrients like Nitrogen and Phosphorus.
The method that the microorganism uses for decay is aerobic respiration which is the breakdown of organic material in the presence of oxygen to obtain energy. Water is brought into the compost bin to create a suitable environment for the rapid multiplication of the decaying agents. Respiration gives out carbon dioxide and heat as by-products that considerably increase the temperature of the compost bin several degrees.
If the compost bin is treated with care and proper management by making sure to provide it with water and turning it regularly, the compost can form the desired product as quickly as in two to three weeks. If not, it can take up several months.
What can you compost at home?
At the beginner’s level, a general rule that should be followed is that anything that is organic is compostable. However, many organic materials require some consideration before being added to the compost heap. There are multiple ingredients that collectively make the pile for your compost, and these are divided into three categories.
- Browns: The brown portion of compost consists of dried leaves, twigs, and branches.
- Greens: The green class of compost has materials like clippings of grass, vegetable and fruit peels and waste fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water: Water is a necessary aspect of your compost pile, because it acts as a medium for all reactions to take place.
An excellent source where you can acquire organic materials for your compost is your kitchen. It is great if all the material is cut into small pieces to help boost the process of decay. An outstanding category is fruits and vegetables.
From their peels to their seeds and even their cores, all their parts are compostable. Some fruits like strawberries come with leaves attached to them. These leaves also fill the criteria to become part of the compost heap, much like the leaves that shed off from trees.
Coffee grounds are part of the green section of the compost. They are an excellent source of nitrogen in your pile of compost. This is because coffee grounds are 2% nitrogen in their composition and have a neutral pH. They help in the growth of acidic plants like blueberries and inhibit the growth of plants like asparagus fern.
Yard waste contributes to the brown sector of the composting bin. A really massive part of yard waste is grass clippings. It’s recommended not to add a lot of grass to the compost as it will make the composting bin smell bad. Of course, there are also twins, pines, and leaves. Sometimes weeds or straws are also found in the yard, which can be added to the compost pile.
Newspaper is entirely safe to be composted as it’s a type of paper that is made from wood pulp. Newspaper is considered to cater to the brown portion of the brown-green balance that compost piles seek. Like all other materials in the compost, too much addition of newspapers will cause the balance to be disturbed.
An important point worth remembering is that colored newspaper and glossy pages in between cannot be composted because they might be composed of heavy metals that are not suitable for the compost. On average, newspapers take about two months to be entirely composed into black soil.
Amongst other materials that can be composted are seaweed and kelp. Believe it or not, if you have access to the ocean and are legally able to extract them, they are a great nutrient addition to your compost. You just need to rinse and soak them to get rid of the excess salt, and then they can be introduced in the compost pile. Sawdust has also proved to have excellent carbon content that can be composted.
What can you not compost in a composting bin?
There are a lot of materials out there that should not be put into a composting bin as they can hinder the decaying process:
- Human waste or pet litter. It’s not a good idea to try and add human waste or your pet’s litter to the compost. Both tend to cause diseases as they have bacteria parasites. Not to mention the unpleasant odor. However, if you are someone that can stand the bad odor, the waste of cattle animals has been proved to be a really good fertilizer.?
- Infected garden plants. They will most likely hinder the respiration process, which will cause problems in the end result. ?
- Invasive weeds. The seeds or even spores of plants like these have mechanisms that allow them to survive the decomposition process. When you apply the compost to your plants, they will grow on them and harm them. ?
- Charcoal ashes. These cannot be used as they are harmful to the decay-causing microorganisms. ?
- Pesticides. They are harmful to the microorganism and may cause changes in the end product of the compost. ?
When is the compost soil ready for your lawn?
Your compost is fully ready when instead of rotting matter, you have a rich, dark brown substance that smells and feels like earth. If you use a compost tumbler, your compost could be ready to go in under three weeks to three months. When your compost has reached the stage where it’s crumbly in texture and fulfills the appearance criteria mentioned above, it’s ready to be applied to your plants.
Benefits of composting for your lawn
Apart from reducing your carbon footprint, compost is super beneficial to your lawn as well.
Once the matured compost is applied to your lawn, the positive results will be visibly apparent. The visual benefits can be seen as your lawn plants grow and portray a lush appearance. It also reduces surface crusting and makes it easier to take care of the lawn overall.
Growth and health
The nutrients added to the lawn are not just for the growth but also for the sustainability of aged plants. The addition of compost is also known as “top dressing”, and this process helps in naturally fertilizing your lawn for healthier grass and plants.
Survival for all seasons
Top dressing also helps strengthen the root system for the uptake of nutrients and water during the laid-back months of winter. A well-nourished plant has the ability to retain water for longer proves beneficial in hot summers when the evaporation rate is higher. The application of compost will definitely upgrade the vibrancy of your landscape and guarantee a healthier lawn.